Bright Lights Film Journal

The Inspector’s Speech

Featuring Andrea and Steve Martin. Comic geniuses.

If the scene in which Steve Martin as Inspector Clousseau attempts to learn English pronunciation (bottom) bears more than a passing resemblance to the SCTV “English for Beginners” sketch with Andrea Martin as Pirini Scleroso (top), don’t look at it as a rip-off. Consider it an homage. You might even consider it an homage-within-an-homage, since Martin (Steve) is playing his own version of a character  originally portrayed by Peter Sellers in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther films. If you have a problem with that, do you have a problem with Jeff Bridges playing a character originally created by John Wayne?  (True Grit.)

In intellectual property law, ideas are not copyrightable, only the execution of those ideas. The point is that I find both of these sketches funny, and it gives me great pleasure to see one talented comedian putting his or her own spin on an idea originally performed by another. It would have given me even greater pleasure if Martin (Steve) had hired Catherine O’Hara, the comic actress who played the speech therapist in the Martin (Andrea) sketch to play the speech therapist in his sketch. Too bad Hans Conreid — who brilliantly played a frustrated vocal coach in Jerry Lewis’s The Patsy — wasn’t around to play the speech instructor in both of the Martin sketches.

And speaking of homages, consider this post my homage to tomorrow night’s Oscars and the film considered most likely to scoop up the lion’s share of awards, The King’s Speech.