Benjamin Franklin Gets Funny

By Lindsey Last edited 117 months ago
Benjamin Franklin Gets Funny

bencomedy.jpg Famous as a founder of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a noted polymath; scientist, inventor, author, publisher and philosopher but who knew he hosted cute comedy gigs round his gaff too?

Of course, Franklin died in 1790 so it probably wasn't his idea but the current caretakers of his only surviving residence in the world, on Craven Street just off Trafalgar Square, thought why not welcome comedy into this wonderfully historic, higgledy piggledy house and see if it can attract a different kind of punter to its refined green walls.

It was a shame (albeit understandable) that all the museumy bits were closed off after hours, but the house itself is a time warp treat. The three comedians and the self proclaimed gobby compere nodded to the unusual context (although Terry Saunders ignored it and talked about his cat for a full 18 minutes) but if it weren't for the jolly reasonable makeshift bar and the draft coming through the classic floor to ceiling windows, we could have been anywhere, really. That said, during a participative reenactment of the Spanish Civil War, the Director of the Museum suffered visible pangs of concern (diverting for a second from the mantle of Franco which had been thrown over her) that the ceiling might collapse from us all being herded into one corner of the parlour. It was a timely reminder of being present on classic, fragile, heritage property.

Rather wonderfully, the spirit of laughter in an odd place opened up a little known, historic house for a quirky purpose. Places like this can't compete with the big state funded guys on flash Lates and celebrity appearances but punctuating a regular (and really interesting sounding) lecture series with new things to lure different audiences in is a classy, if experimental, tactic.

Benjamin Franklin House is at 36 Craven Street, WC2N 5NF. Visiting information is online. In May there's a candlelit tour replete with bodysnatchers and wine (carefully marked in our diary).

Image of Paul Sinha's set by Paul Cox.

Last Updated 20 February 2009