The Perfect Mix of Comedy and History: Blackadder

2 Sep

Black Adder
This is the show I wish I wrote, but Richard Curtis and Ben Elton beat me to it. It combines comedy and history, the two greatest loves of my life, and it does it so perfectly. Most people will know Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean, but to me he’ll always be Edmund Blackadder. Besides Atkinson (and Tony Robinson, who plays Blackadder’s erstwhile sidekick Baldrick, who always has “a cunning plan”), the cast is a who’s who of British comedy in the 1980s, including already-living legend Peter Cook (sadly departed in 1995 – you might know him as the priest in The Princess Bride), renowned double act Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, esteemed comedian and actress Miranda Richardson, and film and stage actor Tim McInnerny (who might be better known to American audiences from his appearance in Notting Hill or for his season 6 appearance in Game of Thrones). That’s not even counting the numerous guest stars and cameos – the two episodes that feature the character Flashheart are my favorites, mostly because Flashheart himself is played by Rik Mayall, who blows everyone else out of the water.

My obsession with British comedy aside, what I’ve always appreciated about Blackadder is that it makes history accessible and funny, even as it takes liberties now and again for the sake of comedy or the plot. A lot of people think my field is quite boring – a bunch of names and dates and nothing much more. Blackadder is proof that you can take historical material and make it mind-blowingly hilarious, and I deeply admire the writing on the show for that. I also won’t spoil it, but it has one of the most beautiful endings to anything I’ve ever seen. If you even remotely enjoy history – or even if you don’t – I cannot recommend the series enough.  Stay tuned for our upcoming September 16 post for more staff favorite TV shows!

Written by:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian

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