Why I Like Alan Bennett
March 31, 2001
Alan Bennett's The Clothes They Stood Up In
I have been a fan of Mr. Bennett's since I first heard him on recordings of the old sixties British comedy troupe, Beyond The Fringe. Some of those skills for comedic expression are discernible in the extraordinary body of work that he has produced over the past thirty years, including the outstanding television play An Englishman Abroad, and his first volume of autobiography.
It's an odd trait in a comedian, but what distinguishes Mr. Bennett in many ways is his sense of humanity. He is one of the players in an old Beyond The Fringe routine in which he plays a man with one leg -- "unidexter" was then the official term -- who auditions to play Tarzan in a film. The directors are quietly horrified. "But. . . well. . . we had not envisioned a unidexter in this role." "Well," says Alan Bennett, "I don't see what that should have to do with anything." This clear-eyed view of what is critical in life -- and what is utterly not so -- is part of his humane sanity.
The most shattering line in his new book, The Clothes They Stood Up In, is when a wife discovers her husband dying in embarrassing circumstances. "Oh, don't worry dear," she says. "All of that is unimportant."
Hear the interview from Weekend Edition Saturday.