Night Owls

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

In his amazingly amazing book on silent film comedy, The Silent Clowns (1975), critic Walter Kerr observes that when sound came Laurel and Hardy essentially enacted and then repeated (and then repeated) about the exact same jokes that other comedians had always done, back in the silent days. But their distinction, which runs against the grain, seemingly against the very nature of comedy, was to slow those jokes down. They lingered over, detailed each stage or component of the gag assembly.  They paused to look at, consult with, commiserate with the audience as the joke got set up, executed, and then ran its course. Which was usually to do them some degree of physical harm

So, Night Owls. For instance, watch the two of them try to get over that wall, in order to try to rob that house. It takes them forever. The situation is frustrating, but the artists, and in a crazy way even the characters they’re playing, seem somehow to relish the punishing passage of time. As most everyone knows, L&H are artists of frustration, if not quite of anxiety. Do we appreciate that that also makes them artists of duration? And do we appreciate how promising, how portentous that combination is? They sing so beautifully the song of how very long it can take to get the littlest thing done.