High Winds Actor
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
I have been a fan of absurdist British Comedy since I first watched Monty Python's Flying Circus as a young adult. I think there are two types of people in America, (or maybe even the United Kingdom and/or the world), those that love Python and those that do not. For those of us that love Python, we all probably have our favorite lines, skits, or scenes from their television show and subsequent movies or specials. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, but I would say that from the show my favorite skits are in no particular order: World Forum, The Philosopher's Football Match, The Architect's Sketch, The Cheese Shoppe, The Pet Shop, The Lumberjack Song, Silly Walks, The Argument Sketch and Blackmail! I don't think I could pick a favorite scene from any of their movies. I think that the meaning of Life is probably the weakest one of the bunch, but it's chock full of absurd goodness, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian constantly compete in my head for my favorite movie of theirs.
My lifelong love of British Comedy brought me to admire the British Comedic Actor Matt Berry. I remember first seeing him as the character of Douglas Reynholm in the British Comedy, The IT Crowd. American readers will be familiar with him as playing the role of the Vampire, Lazlo Cravensworth, on the FX show: "What we do in the Shadows", based roughly upon the film of the same name. Matt was also on the last season of Community in a guest slot, playing Roger DeSalvo, in the episode "Grifting 101". However, my favorite character of Matt Berry's is his portrayal of Steven Toast in the British Sit-Com, "Toast of London".
Matt Berry as Steven Toast
Used under Fair Use for Educational Purposes, clip courtesy: Toast of London
The show's main character, Steven Toast, played by Matt Berry, is an actor on the decline of his career. He will do absolutely anything to get an acting gig as he is basically relegated to contentious voice-over work for two hipsters, Danny Bear, the sound engineer, and Clem Fandango, who is interning in the studio, or appearing in a play so bad that no one says the plays name; and he gets pelted by rubbish thrown by those protesting the play every time he enters the theater. Toast is a lovable loser, and upon my first watch-through of the series a few years ago, I recall wondering in the first season (series) if Steven was a Freemason.
It was with much delight that I remember watching episode 4 of Series 2 (season), High Winds Actor, that my question would be answered. Upon the death of his friend, Axel Jacklin, who is Britain's best actor capable of performing in high winds, Steven Toast, who is Britain's second finest actor capable of this feat, finds himself in high demand. He is cast in a television adaptation of the Movie: "Master and Commander." There is however a problem. The director will only work with actors "on the square" or who are Freemasons. Steven begs his flatmate, Ed Howzer-Black, who is a Freemason and actor to help him join the local lodge for twenty-seven pounds fifty. (roughly Thirty-Nine dollars as of today's exchange rate). Of course, Steven is not well-liked by other members of the lodge, including his brother and his nemesis, Ray Purchase. Ray informs the director that Steven was not a Mason when he joined the production and ends up getting Toast fired.
This is an oversimplification of the plot, and I'd urge you to watch the entire series to get an understanding of the character. If you want to just watch this episode for the Masonic stuff, I would say that the highlight of the episode is the musical number, "Keep it on the Square". It shows the Masons singing and dancing to a song whose lyrics are: "Keep it on the Square, It's a clandestine affair, Be Silent or Beware!, Beware!" You can find the musical number here:
I have no idea if Mr. Berry or the other writer of the show, Arthur Matthews, are Freemasons. Arthur was involved with the very popular Brit-Com, Father Ted. I will say that one might find the depictions of the initiation ceremony that they do show as an unflattering representation of Freemasonry, but please remember that it is a comedy and that the English view Freemasonry much differently than it is viewed here in America. I personally challenge you to watch the song above at the very least and not find it slightly entertaining, or develop an earworm from it. Toast of London is currently airing on Netflix, however, I believe that you might be able to find this episode or clips of it on Youtube with a quick search for those of you who do not subscribe to that service.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at email@example.com.