Synopsis by Mark Deming
In 1976, a member of the office staff at the London offices of Amnesty International, a global human rights watchdog group, discovered they'd received a donation from one "J. Cleese" and discovered he was John Cleese, one of the founding members of the Monty Python comedy troupe. Amnesty representatives approached Cleese and asked if he would be interested in staging a fundraiser for the organization, and Cleese agreed to put together a show to raise both money and awareness for Amnesty. The show, which Cleese dubbed A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick), soon became a summit meeting of some of the most influential acts in British comedy. The cast included Cleese and the other members of the Python group (minus Eric Idle, who had other commitments); Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller from the internationally successful revue Beyond The Fringe; Barry Humphries, better known as Dame Edna Everage; Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor from the television series The Goodies; Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band; John Fortune and Eleanor Bron, and more. A camera crew was on hand to capture comedy history being made, and Pleasure At Her Majesty's documents the rehearsals and preparation for A Poke In The Eye, the often frantic scene backstage, and the show as it was seen by the audience. The title Pleasure At Her Majesty's was a pun based on the show's venue (Her Majesty's Theatre in London) and the phrase "at the pleasure of Her Majesty," a British euphemism for being held by the police. It was the first of many comedy benefits for Amnesty International, several of which were filmed and distributed as part of the Secret Policeman's Ball series.
comedy-troupe, benefit [event], British, comedian, sketch-comedy