sjhstrangetales

MY A-Z OF COMEDY

Posted on: May 11, 2018

One thing that used to irritate me a bit, when I was still knocking about Twitter, was how some of the TV nostalgia buffs would try and make out how British comedy of recent years has been nothing but rubbish, of how there has been no genuinely funny comedy since the days of Fawlty Towers. This is completely untrue. If anything, I would argue that the past 20 years has seen some of the best comedy we’ve ever produced in these isles. This should be reassuring news for those who fear that political correctness has stifled humour. I don’t think it can ever really stifle humour, you probably just might have to look more outside the primetime mainstream for it, that’s all.

What follows is a straightforward list of my favourite sitcoms and comedy performers of the past 40-50 years. I haven’t added any commentary as otherwise it would be just me going “oh I love this!” over and over again. The list is heavily weighted towards British and Irish comedy, and perhaps not much in the way of American stuff. This isn’t because I have anything against it, but simply because much of it – such as Friends or Frazier for instance – I just never really got into. It didn’t happen. Although, for the record, I do think the US remake of The Office was every bit as good as the Brit version, and it has to be said that the Americans are outdoing us when it comes to political satire at the moment.

I have a penchant for anarchic or surreal comedy, or anything that pokes fun at the absurdities of life. I am really not interested in sentimental schmaltz [Miranda’s love life for instance], or worthy, naggy sitcoms which are Making A Social Point, like something Carla Lane had written on a bad day. I almost lost the plot with one fairly recent Channel 4 sitcom (the name of which escapes me, thank God) which included the words “if you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme” and a Samaritans number right at the end of the closing credits!! Please don’t email me about the importance of Raising Issues in a TV programme. I ask only one thing of comedy, and that is that It Makes Me Laugh. If I can laugh I don’t need a Samaritans number.

Compiling a list like is very much a personal choice, and as such can be a bit of a potential minefield. All I can say is this, if you violently object to any of my choices, or exclusions, then MAKE UP YOUR OWN LIST!! Anyway, here goes:

  • Absolutely Fabulous
  • Alan Partridge
  • Benny Hill
  • Big School
  • Big Train
  • Bill Hicks
  • Blackadder
  • Black Books
  • Bottom
  • The Carry Ons
  • Catherine Tate
  • Chris Rock
  • Count Arthur Strong
  • Dad’s Army
  • Dave Allen At Large
  • Dave Lamb (narrator of Come Dine With Me)
  • Derek
  • Detectorists
  • Father Ted
  • Fawlty Towers
  • Frankie Howerd
  • The Good Life
  • The Grumbleweeds (radio show)
  • Human Remains
  • Kathy Burke
  • Katy Brand
  • Lee Evans
  • Man About The House
  • Monty Python
  • MysteryScienceTheater3000
  • The New Statesman
  • Nighty Night
  • The Office
  • Open All Hours
  • Peep Show
  • Phoenix Nights
  • Plebs*
  • Sean Lock
  • Smack The Pony
  • Spike Milligan
  • Steptoe & Son
  • Sykes
  • That Mitchell & Webb Look
  • Toast Of London
  • To The Manor Born
  • The Trip … with Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden
  • The Two Ronnies
  • Vids … with Nigel Buckland and Stef Gardiner**
  • The Windsors
  • Yes Minister

*Plebs is rapidly going down as one of my favourite comedies of all time. I love everything about it, and its largely young cast fill me with hope for the future, that it won’t be the humourless, dried-up earnest nonsense some of us have feared at times.

**Vids was a late-night video review show, made on a shoestring budget, which ran on Channel 4 in the late 1990s. It built up a small but devoted following, due to its totally anarchic nature, and the lovable antics of its two presenters. It was totally messed around by Channel 4, who never gave it a set time, so it often got relegated to the depths of the night. Finding some episodes on YouTube in recent months has felt like meeting up with old friends. I have no idea what Channel 4 show late at night anymore – I’ve got Netflix – but as the late Paula Yates would no doubt have put it, it’s probably some right load of old poo instead.

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