Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Doctor In The House - Nice Bodywork, Lovely Finish (1 May 1970)



 A quaint episode this week in which Garden and Oddie experiment with seeing how far they can pull Doctor In The House in the direction of black comedy.

 Even by thrown-together seventies ITV sitcom standards, the mechanisms by which this episode sets things up are irritatingly implausible. Collier is still prepared to buy an old banger that he was told about from a man in a pub for £30 once he discovers that its a hearse, which he then just happens to absent-mindedly park outside the hospital mortuary. He then picks up his friends at the hospital to drive to a rugby match in Cambridge. Its easy enough to accept that a corpse would then get mistakenly loaded onto the hearse, but bewildering that when Upton and Waring notice that there's a coffin on board they deliberately decide not to tell Collier.

 Once the students get on the road things perk up considerably over a long stretch of 16mm location filming of country b roads and deserted woodlands. Once he realises there's a corpse on board, Collier starts speeding back to the mortuary. The police give chase and Upton and Wearing take the coffin away and hide in the woods.

 Being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead body is a scenario of doubtful comic potential, but its certainly dramatically interesting. The filmed environment lives up to the strangeness of the situation. Serendipitously, there's still winter snow on the ground and there's the most unsitcommy overhead shot of the two young men carrying the coffin, filmed through the gap at the top of an iron church gate. If you started the episode a third of the way in and got rid of the laugh track, for a few minutes it could be a The Frighteners story.

Monday, 29 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Hark At Barker (30 April 1969)



 Something about Lord Rustless struck me as strangely familiar on this viewing. His condescending treatment of underlings? His verbal hum-hawing equivocation? His unkempt white hair? Oh God, now that I've formed this association of him with our recent Foreign Secretary its never going to go away...

 A curious writing team on this; Alan Ayckborn, Ronnie Barker, Graeme Garden & Bill Oddie, and Eric Idle. Working out who was responsible for each bit helps to pass the time. The linking sequences at Chrome Hall are known to be Ayckbourn, and some of the theatrical games with adopted identity share the hallmarks of some of the early plays. I'm guessing that the long silent filmed routine about Barker attempting to crack open an unbreakable egg is Garden & Oddie. It has a proto-Goodies feel, and is also the most enjoyable section to my mind.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Hancock's Half Hour - The East Cheam Centenary (29 April 1960)


  Galton and Simpson are in satirical mode this week, with Hancock an East Cheam borough councillor. Even by local government standards, East Cheam are an extraordinarily corrupt authority. Their centenary celebrations are marked by a grand pageant of historical characters and scenes to which exclusive rights are sold simultaneously to the ITA and the BBC (whose coverage comes from an Outside Broadcast Unit based in Hancock's flat).

 Despite including a rare location filmed insert, this story doesn't particularly play to Hancock's strengths on television, with little domestic interaction and Sid not having nearly enough to do. Such escalating flights of fancy tended to work rather better in the radio episodes.

A Comedy On This Day: Outside Edge (28 April 1994)


 This is a series that I own by accident, because I only bought the disc to get the 1982 LWT version of Richard Harris' original play. Watching this episode (in which the team spend the night at a lavish seaside hotel on the eve of a match) I'm very much struck by how of its time it is televisually.

 Taxonomically, it’s really a lot more of a comedy-drama than an actual comedy programme, and if it were an hour rather than 30 minutes, it would probably have got classified as one. It has the classy trappings of quality television drama of his time - film, location rather than sets (so no audience laughter), incidental music. What it doesn't really have is anything much in the way of actual scenes, but rather little character vignettes which build towards a larger plot. The most interesting aspects of it seem to come from the player's wives, their interactions with each other and insights into how their marriages work (or don't).

Friday, 26 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Spitting Image (27 April 1986)



 First lines after the opening credits are: Casper Weinberger: "Mr President, what are we doing about Syria?" Ronald Reagan: "We're going in, Larry!"...

 Its 12 days after the US bombing raids on Libya, launched from RAF air bases in Britain. The note of genuine - rather than synthetic - outrage (at both Reagan's hawkishness and Britain's complicity) in the skits that refer to the event gives them a rare sense of urgency when viewed 32 years later. The highlight is a love scene at an airport between Reagan and Thatcher, with the president handing the Prime Minister a ticking bomb just before she boards her plane.

 The sketch that I remember being talked about at the time in our second form, however, is Russell Harty interviewing Samantha Fox's disembodied breasts, each of which is given a separate personality and a pert little red mouth in place of a nipple. Watched now, I'm struck by how surreally grotesque the image is, and by how it treads a fine line between satirising the commercial exploitation of a young woman and just mocking her. Unfortunately, it falls horribly on the wrong side of this line in the punch line about Fox's brain forming a double act with the breasts called Little and Large... and you realise just what a disagreeable boy's club this enterprise is sometimes.

 No new song this week, just a reprise of 'The Chicken Song' over the end credits. They've created a monster there...

Thursday, 25 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Home To Roost - Bad Apples (26 April 1985)



 Perhaps the most undistinguished series that Eric Chappell wrote and yet his own personal favourite. I suppose that might be because (IIRC) it’s the only one that really deals with parents and children (something almost entirely absent from Rising Damp, The Bounder, Only When I Laugh, Duty Free, etc.). The first half of this second episode is exactly as you remember it being, with John Thaw's father nagging Reece Dinsdale's feckless son in unsurprising exchanges to little comic result.

 Things perk up considerably after the break when Henry takes Matthew to his old grammar school in the hope of enrolling him, and they encounter one of his old teachers, now the cane-wielding headmaster - a unique (surviving) sitcom appearance for Alfred Burke. He would have been about 65 when he recorded this, and his voice is just starting to get hoarser, bringing an interesting doomy cadence to lines such as, "I take it you have no objections to corporal punishment? I cane for swearing, smoking, spitting, horseplay, slack work, bullying and slovenliness. Apart from that, we're a fairly liberal regime."

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Rising Damp - Pink Carnations (25 April 1978)


 From the fourth series, so regrettably no Richard Beckinsdale. A Rising Damp story told through a trio rather than a quartet is unfortunately lopsided. Rigsby and Miss Jones have both got proper things to do, placing a lonely-hearts advertisement and replying to it in a comedy of mistaken identity through letters that could, with minimal alteration, have been performed 400 years earlier. But poor Don Warrington only appears in the first scene, acting as confidante and advisor to Rigsby, then Miss Jones. Apart from underusing one of the leads, the episode fails to follow up on the interesting possibility of Miss Jones discovering that Philip knew the true identity of her ("early 40s, company director, interested in culture") blind date. She'd certainly have had good cause to be cross with him!

 Rigsby has acquired a set of approximate 'fine living' clothes by the time that he turns up at the country pub for his assignation. It would be interesting to learn how he came by them. A newly married couple turn up, both wearing pink carnations and enjoyable but not-terribly-surprising misunderstandings ensue. Things perk up with the appearance of the groom's gorgon mother in law, ideal casting for Joan Sanderson. She's not nearly given enough funny stuff to do, but no actress was ever better able to exclaim, “You vulgar little man! How dare you? I’ve never been so insulted in my life.” with conviction and ringing diction.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Good Life - Our Speaker Today (24 April 1977)


MARGO: I just came round to apologise. I'm so sorry, Lady Truscott. I really am desperately sorry.

LADY TRUSCOTT: What for?

MARGO: This is my husband Jeremy.

 Several different interesting strands plait together well in this episode. Barbara befriends an aristocrat, Lady ("Call me George") Truscott (Angela Thorne), who coerces her into doing a lot of public speaking for good causes. Margo is upset to see the natural order of things upset by such a highborn woman befriending the Goods and not her. Tom's construction of a new chicken shed is disrupted by Lady Truscott's calls upon Barbara's time.

 The script does a good job of keeping everyone sympathetic. Tom is (thankfully) entirely supportive of his wife's unexpected aptitude for public speaking. Despite Margo's unreasonable expectations, the two couples' friendship isn't placed under any stress - There's one very useful line when Barbara says to Margo, Well why don't you just invite Lady Truscott over? It doesn't get a laugh, but it does direct the audience how to most constructively find the situation funny.

 The scenes with Tom and the chickens are light visual relief from the main storylines, but create maybe the funniest moment in the whole of The Good Life involving beast or fowl, when the rooster escapes and hops onto a bus to Kingston. The episode's initial shot of a coop of new chicks ("those canaries" according to Margo) also engenders a good mood on the part of the viewer from the outset.

Monday, 22 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Wodehouse Playhouse - Feet Of Clay (23 April 1976)


 An Upstairs, Downstairs reunion in this episode, with Simon Williams joining Alderton and Collins in one of Wodehouse's golfing stories. As usual in Wodehouse adaptations you lose much of the prose style but keep the plot, making the experience pleasant to watch rather than harmonious to read. Along with some enjoyable star performances (especially Pauline Collins' dim aristocrat), this story's highlights come through atmospheric coastal location filming, and an ambitious attempt to show progress of the climactic golf match through cinematic montage and dissolves.

 Its very slightly jarring having a studio audience in a literary adaptation, even of a sunny-natured comic tale, as it doesn't share quite the same structure as sitcoms or sketches. Without conventional jokes or reversals of situations it feels like the laughter is a bit randomly distributed. Although it does create a cherishable moment when a Pekingese dog arrives and fetches the golf ball at the final hole, causing one excited audience member to exclaim, "How sweet!"

Sunday, 21 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Are You Being Served? - Forward, Mr Grainger (22 April 1976)



MR LUCAS: In two minutes I won't be free.

CAPTAIN PEACOCK: Why not, Mr Lucas?

LUCAS: Cos it's my coffee break.

PEACOCK: It will not be anybody's coffee break until I say so.

LUCAS: It must be frightening to have so much power, mustn't it, Mr Humphries?

MR HUMPHRIES: Let's hope he uses it for good.

 There's more recognisable workplace politics dramatized in this edition of Are You Being Served? than I'm accustomed to, and it does the comedy a power of good. Mr Rumbold is sent away to Swansea for a month's sales seminar (A month? That's quite some executive jolly. No wonder Grace Bros is struggling...) and appoints Mr Grainger in his place, over the head of a peeved Captain Peacock.

 In a highly enjoyable reversal of expectations, the power turns the mild-mannered Mr Grainger into a monster. Much of the pleasure of the episode is in watching hitherto unused performance skills from Arthur Brough, particularly a guttural snarl and an absolute confidence in behaving nastily.

 Having set up this situation, the episode does good work in reversing and rectifying it within half an hour. When Mr Rumbold unexpectedly returns, in one brief - but highly effective - scene Mr Grainger gets sent to Coventry when the entire staff refuse to pass the sugar to him in the canteen. Mr Rumbold's conference then gets relocated to Edinburgh, but Mr Grainger has learnt his lesson and become a considerate boss in the final scene. Its a model of classic three part thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Benny Hill Show (21 April 1976)



 Are breasts really particularly funny? I suppose that there's comic potential in how the thought of breasts has the capacity to reduce some man to an infantilised drooling state. But with a lot of these gags it just seems that the viewer is supposed to find women having breasts inherently funny in itself. There are two jokes about them within the first two minutes (one verbal and one visual), which primed me to notice the astonishing regularity with which they pop up... Breasts poking between two holes in a fence, women standing behind pairs of melons, etc., etc. It’s a peculiar fixation.

 Paul Eddington joins the team in this edition, but doesn't really have much to do.

 I'm often surprised by just how little film there is in these, as those are the sections that come to mind first whenever I think of The Benny Hill Show. There's only the one sequence in this one, and that's over within the first ten minutes. There's a curious moment of audience response in this sequence when a bowler hatted Hill is in a room with a nubile girl in her underwear. The girl leaves the room and is substituted by a man with long hair and a handbag over his shoulder who approaches Hill. "OHH GAWD!" one member of the audience exclaims, unable to restrain himself at the hilarity of this humiliating reversal.

 Best thing by a country mile in this edition is a parody of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? with Hill as both George/ Burton and Martha/ Taylor. As well as the inflections it does a good job of catching some of the tone of the piece as well. I wonder if Edward Albee ever saw it? I really do hope so.

Friday, 19 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: I Didn't Know You Cared - The Way My Wife Looks At Me (20 April 1976)


 Ee bah gum, this comedy is grim in its implications. Young Carter and his bride Pat return back home from honeymoon. The older womenfolk continually quiz Pat for full details of the honeymoon with a prurient fascination, while Carter escapes to the pub with the other men at the earliest opportunity, leaving his wife to burn the dinner and turn up in a fury, which the other men see as a rite of passage.

 I've always found this battle-of-the-sexes worldview much more dispiriting than funny. What does amuse me is watching men and women trying to get along, however haplessly. I find the later Uncle Mort radio series much more enjoyable, maybe because they're on the road and more narrated.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

A Comedy on This Day: The Morecambe & Wise Show (19 April 1976)



 The last of their regular BBC shows presents the duo at the pinnacle of their popularity. Their innate likability does a lot of work in getting the duffer patches of some sketches over the line. I think that because so many people associated them with happiness, there was a collective willingness on the part of audiences to go along with them, making their shows a kind of communal celebration of good cheer.

 The best bit is the most-repeated moment - the famous breakfast dance which mimes 'The Stripper' to various actions with eggs, pancakes, sausages, grapefruit, etc. The section when Eric tosses the eggs to Eric, who then breaks and beats them in time must have taken a bit of rehearsal. I'd forgotten that there are a couple of minutes before the dancing, mostly of the pair dropping things. You'd wonder where this sketch was going if you were watching for the first time.

 Its something of a surprise that the BBC's top comedy talents at the height of their powers didn't find more impressive musical guests this week. Diane Solomon, who did at least have minor hit albums at this time, sings a song of undying devotion ('Whistle Me') from the perspective of a dog. Her performance of the song is wholly upstaged by the large grey Afghan hound sat on her lap - "His name's Kafka. Isn't he lovely?"

 Top recording artistes Champagne don't even have pets to hide behind. They are a 3M 2F group, but one of the men is a drummer, perched behind his kit of a dais at the back of the set. The remaining quartet are lined at the front in a Brotherhood of Man-type formation, but unfortunately the two men (one of whom sports an impressive afro and beard that reminds me of George Berry) are encumbered by guitars, so interaction between the sexes is minimal. The women try to make the best of things by walking back and forth and raising their arms in trousered outfits formed out of six tiers of fringed pink material that flaps about in unison a bit. Their song, 'Love for All Seasons' ("The flowers that we picked in June/ would die too! soon!", etc.) is unfamiliar and a bit confused.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Good Life - The Weaker Sex? (18 April 1975)



(Margo is trying to give Barbara a new dress as a present)

Barbara: That's nice.

Margo: Yes, well, that's what I thought when I bought it. But I'm afraid it was a terrible mistake.

Barbara: Oooh - Leclerc. Jolly expensive mistake.

Margo: Well, that's not important. The point is, Barbara, I got it home, I put it on and I said to myself, 'Margo, that simply looks cheap and nasty'. So I wondered if you'd like it? 

 That dress is a good example of how everything can come together very well in a BBC sitcom in this period. The costume department have come up with a really good prop. The dress itself is a striking garment of scarlet chiffon, decorated in a rainbow of coloured spots. Its outlandish enough to look like a bad purchase, but designed enough to still look plausible as a high fashion purchase. Our never actually seeing either woman wear the dress helps this suitability. The viewer can only imagine what each might look like with it on, an appealing invitation to our imaginations. We do get the pleasure of Margo in several other costumes this episode, all of which feel dressy and eccentrically designed, but are also clearly well-made, helping to sell the authenticity of the dress to the viewer.

 Even from a distance of 43 years the other piece of information that we're given about the dress, that it cost £55 (£453.22 in 2018 money), feels comically just right. It certainly amuses Jerry, until he learns that Margo bought it with the joint account. This is the first series so we see rather less of Margo and Jerry than we do later on, but Penelope Keith's performance is already extraordinarily well judged and funny in every line. She makes every permutation of the situation - how Margo is oblivious to her condescension towards Barbara and certain of her convictions with Jerry - register to the viewer.

 And then there's another appealing payoff to the dress, when we finally do get to see it being worn - by Tom's new scarecrow.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Prince Of Denmark - Flaps & Light Ale (17 April 1974)



 It is quite extraordinary how appalling a man the Ronnie Corbett character is in this, and how little in the way of redeeming qualities he is given. Peevish, squirming and not keen for others to take the credit, it’s the type of role that Ricky Gervais would create a generation later.

 This viewer's sympathies where wholly with his wife, a very underwritten character in an attractive scarlet dress with a flat white collar, despite her not being called upon to do much other than discourage Ronnie from getting into scrapes and clear up his confusions with other people in the publican trade. A lot of what the viewer gets from the wife - appreciating her constant balance between matrimonial loyalty and running a tight ship - is much more the creation of Rosemary Leach, realised through responses, looks and vocal tone than the script itself.

 Thinking about the joint authorship of Graham Chapman and Barry Cryer causes me to speculate as to which bits come from which writer. There are a two sections in particular which one can imagine in Monty Python, and feel more like Chapman. There's a running joke with a customer preoccupied with a cryptic crossword, whose clues Ronnie takes literally, culminating in a cross-purposes dialogue in which Ronnie misinterprets the man's reading aloud of clues as a confession to the barman of his wife's promiscuity (spectacular and with multiple partners). The other moment is when Ronnie's failure to operate an electricity fuse box causes a bombardment of every sound and lighting device to go off simultaneously, soundtracked by the first bars of Status Quo's 'Caroline' from the jukebox repeating again and again.

Monday, 15 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Love Thy Neighbour - The Lift (16 April 1973)



 A relative truce between Eddie and Bill this week, as the main concentration of prejudice this edition is against wives and their unendurable feminine ways. When Joan invites the Reynolds round for drinks, Eddie's displeasure at the invitation ("I don't socialise with sambos") is overridden by Joan and Barbie's unendurable feminine conversation about needlework, dressmaking and cooking. So the two husbands come up with a ruse to escape to the club for the evening. In the club, Arthur complains about his wife - "I'll 'ave to get blind drunk before I can face 'er". The evening ends with all of the men trapped in a lift together.

 By far the most interesting moment is between Joan and Barbie, left alone together for the evening and watching a romantic weepie on television together. This is partly interesting because its the only moment of grace experienced by anybody in the episode, but mostly because a soundtrack for the made-up film on television has had to be devised, consisting of some clipped "I love you darling"s and sound effects of steam trains leaving stations. I wonder who the voices were.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Seven Of One - Spanner's Eleven (15 April 1973)


  Roy Clarke's other script for this anthology series (alongside of Open All Hours) is pretty hard to get a handle on. Sometimes Ronnie Barker's football coach-cum-taxi driver character seems besotted by soccer, and on other occasions using his position to further his own way. Everyone seems rather sketchily drawn and it’s hard to tell what's supposed to be funny.

 I do notice the same thing that I always do whenever I chance upon something by Roy Clarke, and that's the inevitable mention of knickers and ladies' underclothes - it even happens in his episode of Manhunt! There's a kind of feeble lechery that seems to run through his writing.

 I'm intrigued by where this is set, especially the dilapidated football ground. The characters speak with West Country accents, but it looks more like West London to me. I think the football ground is the old Edgware Towns White Lion Ground... (some derelict pictures about half way down this page).

Saturday, 13 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Liver Birds - Birds In The Club (14 April 1972)



 Another one of the handful of non-Carla Lane episodes by David Pursall and Jack Seddon, unique to series three. There's something a bit askew about it tonally, with both girls rather more airheaded and disengaged from the rest of the world than usual. Its very much a caper storyline about Sandra being entered into a rugby club Miss Hotpants 1972 competition, and her attempts to lose weight in order to be in with a chance of winning it. This lightweight tale is not helped by its hotpant-splitting climax being a very poorly-realised moment, where Sandra's ruse of padding herself up with a towel is exposed in a movement that fails to hide that the towel can't physically fit inside the hotpants...

 Sandra's boyfriend this week is David (Gan from Blake's 7) Jackson as a rugby player, and the most interesting part of the script is the initial scene in the club bar, in which the male authors use the two girls to investigate codes of masculinity. The episode starts with the striking image of the rugby players around the piano bellowing a sexist song, while all the bar tables are occupied by their ignored womenfolk. As Beryl says, the players talk about women, sing about women, tell jokes about women, but they never actually spend any time with women. Beryl and Sandra try to pass the time by joining in the manly pursuit of beer drinking, with some physical comedy created by the idea of women handling pints. Although as they're drinking from the old-fashioned heavy dimpled glasses with handles they have my sympathy in finding them difficult to pick up.

 (The greatest excitement that I derived from this episode was watching Nerys Hughes use an old Cadbury's chocolate vending machine with the drawers. Although it was always maddening on the frequent occasions when they took your money and then wouldn't give you chocolate, these are definitely one thing from the past that I'd love to come back. Especially because of the dainty special vending-size bars, with their eight little squares in foil and paper and the exciting options of otherwise unavailable varieties like peppermint and tiffin.)

A Comedy On This Day: Up Pompeii - The Senator & The Asp (13 April 1970)



 "Not you, you dirty beasts! Step back! This isn't The Wednesday Play".
 Although one's primary focus is always on his face and what he's saying, Frankie Howerd's hands are interesting once you start to notice them notice them in this. He almost always holds them up at elbow height to gesticulate with them when he talks to us, while also using them to keep the world away whenever he gets asked to do anything - especially anything that he can construe as being lecherous. Once I started to notice this posture, Frankie Howerd began to remind me of a dog on his hind legs holding out his paws, which fits Howerd's hangdog persona quite well.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Not In Front Of The Children - Change Of Policy (12 April 1968)



 Both Not In Front Of The Children and Marriage Lines do turn up occasional intriguing insights into middle class life of the 1960s as ordinary people might have experienced it.

 This week one of the daughter’s school friend’s parents gets divorced, and the Corner family make a point of inviting her to dinner with them (some other families are ostracizing the girl). The Corner children end up envious of the new freedoms that their friend is now experiencing, relieved from the threat of "Wait until your father gets home". This makes the parents self-conscious of how they might be restricting their children, so they allow them more autonomy and less structure... I'm sure that Richard Waring wasn't setting out to create a work of social history when he wrote these, but he did indirectly achieve it.

 These some good costume work this week when the Corner parents dress themselves for a school concert. Jennifer chooses a quaint hat with no brim and a wobbly bow on the crown, while Henry ties a large 19th century-style bow around his neck. Then the children are appalled by these old-fashioned items, and ask their parents to change them. Their response was exactly what this viewer had been thinking when he watched the parents getting dressed, which demonstrates - fifty years on from the details of 1968 clothing - that the BBC costume designers knew what would register as looking a bit wrong.

 It's nice to see John Scott Martin holding a door open for Wendy Craig at the school concert.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Two Of A Kind (11 April 1964)



 Even though you never quite get the killer lines and ideas that Eddie Braben could come up with, and Sid and Dick never do anything much other than stand around, I generally find sixties Morecambe & Wise more fun to watch than the later series. Half an hour is probably enough and they have notably more energy. In particular, you sometimes get a vigorous dance routine, always a pleasure that never outstays its welcome like some other routines. This week, the duo performs a medley of twentieth century dances with two women. The tango is done straight, but Eric disrupts the Charleston by dressing as a flapper and - best of all - dances the soft shoe shuffle in hobnail boots.

 This week's special guest Janie Marden has been dealt a poor hand by posterity, with not even a Wikipedia page to explain why her credits stopped in 1969. Her performance of 'Happy Days Are Here Again' is quite something, rendering it as an expressive ballad, rather than the blaring jazz age choon that I'm familiar with (I now realise that the recording is indebted to the 1962 Barbra Streisand recording, though with none of the star power). Her expressive facial and bodily interpretation of the number is performed to camera, but it might have been less quaint if recorded by a camera that was further away. It’s like watching a West End musical performance that's signalling to the back of the gallery from the front of the stalls. Janie Marden then gets a sketch with the two leads, asking Eric "Why do you never do anything with the girl singers?" and letting the two jostle each other for the chance to mime actions for 'Just The Touch Of Your Lips' with her. Janie is a striking lass, notably taller than the funny men (especially with her lacquered blonde hair), and her physical mismatch to them makes their routine jolly to watch.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Vic Reeves Big Night Out (10 April 1991)



 This is one series that does seriously benefit from being watched sequentially. Much of what I found funny about it at the time was the pleasure of close viewing, recognising an idea or character from a previous show, and seeing how it gets inverted or developed. Its something that gets a bit lost when you watch an edition cold.

 Watching this again in middle age, it’s exhausting just how shouty they were at this stage, something I had a higher tolerance for when I was young.

 This week's opening song is 'The Grand Old Duke Of York', performed with a mini brass band. I'd forgotten how grim the travails of the Man with the Stick become in the second series, once he loans out his children to Reeves. This week he gets momentary access, when a cage containing three children in miniature paper helmets is wheeled out, before Reeves sends them back for "shark testing".

 I've always liked cockney Labrador Greg Mitchell, who this week appears three times, sharing his enthusiasm for Mike Harding, Max Boyce and Barbara Dickson, before each time regretting his confidence. You can also see him behind the desk, dancing to 'Oh Mr Songwriter' at the end, a counterpoint of puppet canine fragile cheerfulness against the monster egotism of Britain's top light entertainer and singer.