This year is really taking the piss. I swear the death of Victoria Wood has upset me almost as much as Bowie did. She was one of the greatest comedy talents Britain has ever produced, but on a personal level she means a lot to me because my mother loved her and I have many happy memories of watching her TV shows with her. My mother could quote Victoria Wood lines the way I could with Monty Python in my teens, so I’m sad for more than just the loss of a great comedy writer and performer.
Though Wood made her name in the 1980s she existed outside of the London-centric, politically-edgy “Alternative” comedy crowd and created her own brilliant comedy universe. She was never as fashionable as them and, even though her humour could be cruelly accurate and cutting, she had a Northern working class warmth that made her less hip, but she was funnier and for longer.
She was also an influence on Morrissey, especially this song she wrote in 1978 which inspired parts of Rusholme Ruffians, and her “they didn’t know what drugs were” line in the intro may also sound familiar.
This was a UK hit in 1968 and I thought it was very funny as a kid. I still think it’s funny but now I love it’s big beat even more, it must be the funkiest novelty record ever made. It also makes me wonder if Pigmeat Markham invented Rap.
If you’re like me you could do with a laugh. I had this sketch on a Monty Python album so I know every word (I was one of those annoying kids who would recite Python sketches) but it’s still bloody hilarious.
At my school you wore a badge of honour if you were able to recite “Lip smacking thirst quenching ace tasting motivating good buzzing cool talking high walking fast living ever giving cool fizzing PEPSI!”
I don’t think I’ve seen this ad since it was on the telly in 1976 but I could still remember every word of it — especially “Come back, Chuck” which became a playground catchphrase for a while. That says something about how brilliant it was.
One night in the early 1980s I was having dinner in a restaurant with my Dad when the actor Brian Glover walked in and, being a friend of my old man’s (he played God in the National Theatre production The Mysteries) he joined us at our table.
Glover had recently played a small part in An American Werewolf in London with the late, great Rik Mayall and the conversation turned to The Young Ones which was on TV at the time. Brian asked me, as the official spokesperson for young people I suppose, what I thought of it. Trying to convey just how popular and important the show was to us “kids” I compared it to Top of The Pops because the day after it was on everybody was talking about it at school or in the pub with the same sort of “Did you see THAT?” excitement. Having just started art school I knew real-life versions of Rick, Neil, Mike, and Vyvyan.
br> The Young Ones was the television equivalent of The Ramones’ first album — an anarchic, out-of-control cartoon — and Mayall was a key part of the British “alternative” comedy generation that did to the bland, golf-playing, Tory-voting comedians on TV what punk had done to dinosaur rock bands: made them look irrelevant, dull, and reactionary. Because of that he will always be cherished by people my age, he gave us comedy that belonged to us.
But he won’t just be remembered for Rick, but also for characters like Kevin Turvey, Jeremy the Beatnik, and of course Lord Flashheart. It takes some genius to completely steal an episode of Blackadder from Rowan Atkinson. This still makes me wet myself.