Friday, 24 March 2017

75 Pints, 1 Song, No Laughter: People Who Died On Their Arse For Comic Relief

HAPPY RED NOSE DAY! Whatever your opinion on the charity, the programme or its inspiration to make members of the public to do tedious things invariably involving beans for cash, it does a lot of good work both abroad and at home. And occasionally something funny happens!!! Maybe it was Victor Meldrew in the bath, French and Saunders being rude, Catherine Tate saying "bothered" to someone you wouldn't normally expect or Mr Bean falling down a well that made you giggle like a goon when you were younger. But what about the times where the audience don't - or won't - join in with the chuckles? Maybe they fail to get it or they're tired but occasionally the laughs don't come for some acts on stage and live television actually feels live for once.



Ably assisted by Mr Tim Worthington from the always excellent Newsround blog, here are a few acts who suffered that fate on the big night...

Adam And Joe

In a bit of a limbo since their self titled Channel 4 programme ended and awaiting the broadcast of their "Go Tokyo" series by BBC Three that May, Adam and Joe were still an exceptionally cult act for anyone not in the habit of watching late night sketch shows on C4 (their last series had aired on E4 before it was watched by anyone and given a horrible Wednesday night 11pm timeslot after being a staple of Friday nights when people might actually stay up to watch telly.) When I saw them listed as presenters for this, I hoped it would be a triumph but you know the premise of this article already, right? Already given the poison chalice of having to host the very last segment of Comic Relief 2003, the programme overran as ever meaning the 12:30pm slot given for "Comic Relief's Classic Comedy Masterclass" (a cheap clip section featuring old comedy bits) ended up closer to 2am and a very tired studio audience were in no mood for two people they'd never heard of in silly outfits and looking more like kids TV presenters. Add that to the fact that neither Buxton or Cornish had done much work in front of a live audience and it lead to a rather downbeat ending to the night's proceedings. The same would happen to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in 2007 who ended up starting past 3am but smartly were pre-taped as if they were good or something.


Eddie Izzard



Believe it or not, there was a time when Eddie Izzard was known as the comedian who 'didn't do TV'. At his own insistence. His initial rise was entirely down to the popularity of his live act, and although I'd seen this written about in glowing terms, the only time that I'd really actually encountered it was through his really rather good appearance on Radio 5's Club Class. Then in 1993, as part of Comic Relief's pleasingly ad-hoc and ramshackle-looking revival of Saturday Live, he finally made his first major television appearance to some considerable fanfare. Which may have sounded exciting, but the performance itself most certainly was not. Looking and sounding uncomfortable, he hesitantly made his way through a string of arcane and audience-baffling jokes to very few laughs at all. So exactly like the 'new' acts on the original Saturday Live, then.

- Tim Worthington

Father Ted and Dougal



Sadly the full segment - listed in the Radio Times as "Father Ted and His Faithful Friends" - isnt online but I remember the sense of utter bafflement from the studio as Lenny Henry hands over the next half an hour apparently to two random Irish priests in spangly golden jackets arriving on the back of a (lovely) horse. Of course, to faithful Channel 4 viewers this is Fathers Ted and Dougal, fourteen episodes and a Christmas special into their run but not quite a nationally known series from years of repeats. As Ted says "I thought that hosting Comic Relief was mainly reserved for famous comedians rather than two completely unknown priests from the west of Ireland.” The material, all written by series creators Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, is generally of a very high quality with a particularly memorable section featuring Dougal copying Vic and Bob's big saucepan fights but with a real pan, breaking Ted's nose. See it for yourself on the fairly recent Ted boxset. Who will they have next as a Comic Relief presenter? Father Noel Furlong????

That Blankety Blank sketch



A contribution from Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, creators of the wonderful but hugely obscure BBC2 fake science comedy "Look Around You" purporting to be an unaired archive episode of "Blankety Blank" which went out around 1am in 2003 and I first saw without sound waiting for a takeaway. I recognised pretty much everyone involved and chuckled to myself as I saw Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Sarah Alexander and Martin Freeman frustrating Serafinowicz' usually calm and controlled Wogan, even if I couldn't work out who everyone was meant to be. (Freddie Starr, an embarrassing and frankly shameful "ha ha a bit like a Wookie" Willy Rushton, Su Pollard, Ruth Madoc, Liza Goddard and Johnny Rotten - which sadly breaks the 'reality' of the sketch for less clued up folks - retrospectively it turned out) Everything goes wrong with Pollard stealing all the "Hi De Hi" thunder from Madoc, Starr being an attention-seeking git, a Greenham Common protester and finally a gun toting contestant (played by Kevin Eldon) losing the plot leading to a celebrity massacre. The audience applauds but laughter is thin on the ground as both the premise and the jokes fly over many collective heads. They should chill out and get some yellow reggae on.


Paul Daniels

One of the first big catastrophes of the TV shows came from Red Nose Day 1989 where a milk jug trick went horribly wrong on live TV for Paul Daniels who only slightly lost his cool. Its place in Comic Relief history was cemented by cutaways to a weeping Griff Rhys Jones and Lenny Henry in their seats convulsing at how rubbish the segment was, the latter later saying that if people pledged more money, they'd show how the trick actually ended. The clip would also crop up on the next few telethons too as incentive for people phoning in.


The League of Gentlemen



Trailed excitedly all night with clips from their popular BBC2 sitcom, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton turned up after midnight in 2001 to do a sketch from their live show starting its run at Drury Lane the following week. Unfortunately for Royston Vasey fans though it featured none of the popular TV characters. Instead, a very slow "Scott of the Antarctic" piece was performed which devolves into argument about wanking and features a rare F word for the time. Reaction picks up as the piece gets ruder but its fair to say that Alan Q Publicnormal in his seat at TV Centre was not especially impressed. Wait until they see series three...

Norman Lovett

Comic Asides, BBC2's unusually successful series of prospective comedy pilots from 1989, included I, Lovett, a charmingly offbeat bit of nonsense written by and starring Norman Lovett as an eccentric inventor who lived with a Geoffrey Hughes-voiced talking dog named Dirk. The pilot caused a great deal of excitement, partly on the back of Lovett's Red Dwarf association but mainly because it was refreshingly different and ridiculous for ridiculousness' sake; however it would take four years for a full series to appear, which never quite managed to recapture that initial promise. With the series due to arrive just over a week later, Norman and his canine puppet friend were ushered on to 1993 Comic Relief to do a spot of pre-launch promotion in the unenviable middle-of-proceedings slot. Quiet whimsy from two unfamiliar characters was not really what the hysteric-prone studio audience were looking for, and the to say the least 'muted' reception does leave you wondering if any of them were actually inspired to tune in.

- Tim Worthington

Mitchell and Webb

For fans of the double act, seeing them performing their big hit sketches - Numberwang and Ted and Peter, the snooker commentators - was a big treat. Sadly, this was 2007 and with just one series of "That Mitchell and Webb Look" aired at the time, very few people knowing "Peep Show" and Mitchell not yet having appeared on every panel show ever made, the predictable mutter of "who are they and what is going on?" rose from the crowd. The former convoluted game show spoof was boosted by appearances by mathematical marvels Carol Vorderman and Johnny Ball but later in the night, a rendition of their live tour closer featuring Ted and Peter singing the "secret Snooker lyrics" to "Lady In Red" - now "Table Of Reds" - seemed to baffle the audience into near silence. Chris De Burgh and Hazel Irvine dressed as a snooker table coming on helped matters little. The pair returned the following show in 2009 with a slightly higher profile and a bunch of sketches with fellow sketch stars Armstrong and Miller who Mitchell & Webb were head writers for in the nineties. Although none of that came close to the impact of this in 2011...



Vic and Bob

The ultimate example of the sort of comedy act that delight some and leave others not just cold but positively chattering the teeth in the Arctic tundra. There's no disguising what a brilliant and as Jonathan Ross says in this first clip "once in a lifetime" duo Vic and Bob were when they first arrived on TV with "Vic Reeves' Big Night Out" in May 1990. They could also be two of the laziest "that'll do" buggers to ever appear on live television. Sometimes it works, other times...

Come the following year and despite the Radio Times promising that "Vic Reeves stages a Red Nose Novelty Island", Reeves and Mortimer actually did a piece all about getting rid of their unwanted red noses. Despite being stashed long after midnight and featuring all their big catchphrases, Lenny points out after how some of the audience may not have quite gone for it...




Although that's nothing to "75 pints, 1 song", a 1995 sketch that should have been hilarious with Vic and Bob, now BBC signings although still fairly cult (the breakthrough Shooting Stars wouldn't be until later that year), getting increasingly drunk whilst trying to sing Nilsson's "Without You". Despite them being trick pints with much less in each glass, the two quickly lose what they're meant to be doing (blamed on screen by a few snifters taken due to the show again running late) and basically just shout while Mel Smith looks suitably unimpressed.



This year they're back live after a pause to do The Stotts interviewing a guest live, which has the potential to be brilliant, especially on the back of their recent great anniversary tour. Lets hope they stick to halves...

So here's wishing all of tonight's performers the best of luck. Even Miranda Hart, Noel Fielding and Romesh Ranganathan who are very very funny indeed. *looks into distance* Thanks to Tim for his much appreciated help and go look at his brilliant blog. And give to Comic Relief or any charity you think deserves your money today. As Wednesday's horrible scenes showed, we are a nation of passionate brilliant people and we have a real power to make things better.

Enjoy your comedies and remember, it could always be worse...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Rating The Comic Relief Singles For No Particular Reason

# Co-o-o-o-mic Relief / Send! Send! Send! / them some beef...

Thus went the classic original theme for the much loved charity which sadly never was padded out to become a worldwide smash for Richard Curtis and The Stonkers. When that first live Comic Relief telethon took place, I was only seven years old but my memories are of it being the most unspeakably exciting day - even the year my school were sent too few red noses for each kid and I had to wear a pinkish cardboard egg carton segment on my fizzog for the rest of the day. Even better, that night on telly was going to be all comedy, which I was already becoming obsessive over.



I didn't know that Lenny Henry, Jonathan Ross and Griff Rhys Jones were considered the "alternative" in 1988. I doubt I even know what "alternative" meant. It just meant a very silly day at school plus lots of funny stuff on telly, a feeling that stuck with me for many years right through to middle school. I bought the noses, I bought the comic and of course, I bought the singles...right up until 1995. Whether it was becoming the inevitable awkward teen I cant say but come the big event that year I remember the feeling that something wasn't quite as fun anymore. The TV show was slicker, it was more part of the establishment and, worst of all, the official single was rubbish. Love may have built a bridge that year but it was a bridge with a lot of grey sensible cars on it.

Still, it raised money for good causes and the single releases were still a huge part of getting advance excitement going for the event with lots of fun from watching the hip comedy people of the time making cameos in the videos, like Adam and Joe with Boyzone, even if you weren't interested in the song. Things changed in 2015 when the official single wasn't announced until several days before the event. And this year...is this it? (Those of nervous disposition please look away now...)


Two things I struggle to understand the appeal of there as Ed Sheeran joins the cast of BBC Three's fairly obscure pirate radio comedy "People Just Do Nothing" to a song. The sketch they collaborated on has been on iPlayer for a fortnight but I'm not sure if there's been a release or not and considering right now two thirds of the UK Top 20 is Sheeran anyway, it may have slipped down a boring ginger crack in the charts. I hope it does really well for the charity and its good to see them incorporate a comedy act for the first times since the Kumars and Gareth Gates became the most "alright I suppose for 2003" double bill. I also hope it makes lots of money for great things. As long as I don't have to listen to it...

In the spirit of fun and wild eyed nostalgia, I've gone though all the official Comic Relief single releases (stand down "Glasses" by Chris Jarvis) and ranked them in nothing more than personal preference. And we start with...

22. Sam Smith and John Legend - "Lay Me Down", 2015
Chart Position: No.1  

A ballad as you'd much expect that combination to provide but not even anything approaching a new song either - being Smith's first release from his multi million selling album way back in...um, 2013. But of course this is a different version because its got John Legend on it and as such sounds...pretty much exactly the same. But this time there are some African children in the video.

21. The Wanted - "Gold Forever", 2011
Chart Position: No. 3

I don't hate this song, I want to be quite clear. I'd have to have absolutely any memory of it for that to happen.

20. One Direction - "One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks)", 2013
Chart Position: No. 1

Ignoring for the second the stomping over two pop masterpieces from the back end of the 1970's, the reason this single truly made my stomach churn was its overly cosy David Cameron cameo in the accompanying music video. One of the most important parts of Comic Relief despite how little we might appreciate them bringing us down are the appeal films. And whilst its African projects that get remembered most, it was always the reports from home that got me most - helping the homeless, those in drug rehabilitation, runaway kids, people in desperate circumstances - putting money towards worthy community projects. All things put under risk by Cameron and his legacy of post-Brexit piss. Still, he pulled a funny face in the video so that's alright then.

19. Cher, Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton - "Love Can Build a Bridge" , 1995
Chart Position: No. 1

Initially an American country hit for mother-daughter duo The Judds in 1990, before several people who should know better (and Eric Clapton) got the dubious honour of recording the charity’s first non-comedy single in 1995. It lasted just one week at the top before being usurped by the equally austere ballad "Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)" by The Outhere Brothers.


18. Westlife - "Uptown Girl", 2001
Chart Position: No. 1

The Irish unpleasantness’ ninth single and fourth cover version by that point, this managed just one week at the top of the charts - four less than Billy Joel’s original - although that was still enough to become Westlife’s biggest selling single of this decade and the 23rd most successful UK single of the 2000s. It is, of course, shit and the "posho bullies" that the Westlifes teach a lesson seem awfully similar to some Bullingdon club members of recent past...

17. Boyzone - "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going", 1999
Chart Position: No. 1

Boring, obvious and recorded by a band three seconds away from imploding but we should be grateful it wasn't a ballad. Notable that their only other half-decent single was also not a ballad - the jolly "Picture Of You" from 1997, taken from the soundtrack to the film "Bean" co-written by...oh, Richard Curtis. How coincidental. Bonus points for featuring Harry Hill (with badgers!), Adam and Joe and the much missed Mel Smith (and equally sadly gone Stephen Gately) in the video.




16. The Saturdays - "Just Can't Get Enough", 2009
Chart Position: No. 2

I'm fond of Depeche Mode but what a baffling choice of record for a modern pop act to cover (perfectly fine as it goes.) Did they literally just pick up a copy of Now Thats What I Call Some Eighties, Mam and throw a dart? Could they not at least have picked "Shake The Disease"? I like that one.
 
15. Geraldine McQueen and Susan Boyle - "I Know Him So Well", 2011
Chart Position: No. 11

When Kay created the sex-change pop wannabe Geraldine for his 2008 "Peter Kay's Britain's Got the Pop Factor... and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice" special on Channel Four, it just about managed to cling on and work as a pastiche of the talent show output, despite not being nearly as savage as it could've been. Two reasonable top five singles as Geraldine (both co-written by tax cheat Gary Barlow) later and the joke was thankfully put to bed before it got too tiresome. Except for this cover which fell out of that bed gasping, bloated and screaming "I CAN DO AN EIGHTIES TOO, MAM!" You also know exactly what to expect from this duet with real reality show success story Boyle and the video which premiered on Red Nose Day 2011 is more or less a shot for shot pastiche of the 1984 original and seemed to exist more for Kay's fun than any real charitable or musical reasons, which probably explains its relatively poor chart showing. Still, "Car Share" was good at least, eh?


14. Gareth Gates and the Kumars - "Spirit in the Sky", 2003
Chart Position: No. 1

After all my harping about "bring back the comedy element!", I should sit in my Kumars bath and suffer it. Its not like I especially liked or disliked Sanjeev Bhaskar's fake family chat show, it was just standard, average telly, with additional celebrity obsession. Spirit In The Sky is an oft covered song and almost always finds itself stripped of the swirling psychedelia which made the original so interesting. A few extra sitars aside, that's pretty much the case here as already floundering Pop Idol runner-up Gareth "Gaz" "GG" Gates took main vocal duties as the Kumar family said their catchphrases such as "what time is the Grimleys' on?", "I hope its chips for tea" and "when's Kulvinder Ghir coming back?"



13. Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud - "Walk This Way", 2007
Chart Position: No.1

If I could walk that way I'd...sorry. A pretty weak cover all in all that gets a moderate pass due to both acts being pretty damn great throughout the years. Happily for Comic Relief, it would be knocked off the top spot by this next song, which would also outsell it by over double the amount...

12. The Proclaimers featuring Brian Potter & Andy Pipkin - "(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles", 2007
Chart Position: No. 1

Another one that premiered on the night itself and with a famous video featuring a host of nearly-forgotten celebrities, this is yet more Peter Kay in the pop charts although its probably safe to assume that Proclaimers superfan Matt Lucas was probably more instrumental in its choosing. It sounds bloody awful in audio-only form but its hard not to grin as the assembled guests go mad, including the ace, fantastic and top Frank Sidebottom.




11. Vanessa Jenkins and Bryn West featuring Sir Tom Jones and Robin Gibb - "(Barry) Islands in the Stream", 2009
Chart Position: No. 1

One that hinges rather distinctly on whether you liked "Gavin and Stacey" or not. I thought it was bloody wonderful even if the wheels do slightly come off in the third series. The video is fun as the in-character Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon go on a trip to Vegas for the "World Karaoke Championship". The production on the song is fairly average (sorry, the late Robin Gibb) but both actors can sing and there's a real charm to it all.

10. Smear Campaign (Bruce Dickinson, Rowan Atkinson, Angus Deayton) - "(I Want to Be) Elected", 1992
Chart Position: No. 9

Released during one of its “off years” to coincide with the General Election, this caught the Mr Bean zeitgeist at its peak (Indeed, several months earlier a peak of 18 million had tuned in for the character’s fifth TV outing "The Trouble With Mr. Bean"). The electoral theme even extended to the B-side entitled “The Manifesto” in which Mr Bean lists a number of things that will change under the Bean Party banner.



It goes without saying that this isn't a patch on the original, which feels like someone had decided to take The Stooges and make them commercial. Whereas this is just a baffling colour-by-numbers version with a character who's funny because he doesn't talk, erm, talking.

9. Absolutely Fabulous (Pet Shop Boys, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley) - "Absolutely Fabulous", 1994
Chart Position: No. 6

Another off-charity year record which seems to have just been done as a bit of fannying around in the studio as Tennant repeatedly sings the show and record's title over a bunch of clips from the series, all taken from episode one of series one. The original CD single featured a rare chance to get a copy of the series' theme tune "This Wheel's On Fire" as covered by Julie Driscoll and Adrian Edmondson on the B-side although this was quickly removed due to copyright issues and replaced with the PSB's own "Dull Soulless Dance Music Mix" of the song.

8. Right Said Fred And Friends - "Stick It Out", 1993
Chart Position: No. 4

Not a particularly great song and the one which ultimately killed the comedian-fronted singles but look past the awful early 90s production and there's still a lot of pleasure to be garnered from the genuinely eclectic line-up which is listed on the cover officially as...


...or Laurie, Cook, Freeman, Holland, Coogan, Anderson, Robson, Quirke, Fairbrass, Manzoli, Brush and Cribbins to you squire. If people do remember this, its Hugh Laurie shouting "Building! Building!" which is legitimately funny the first time you hear it. Likewise, a pleasure to see Peter Cook front and centre if heartbreaking to realise he'd be dead before the next Red Nose Day rolled round. 




7. McFly - "All About You", 2005
Chart Position: No.1

AKA Their only good one.



Whilst Busted always managed to sneak into my earbuds after a few listens, I never really got McFly outside this record which is probably the last really good original Comic Relief single. Quite a fun video too with brief glimpses of a still-on-Popworld Simon Amstell and Harry Hill as a security guard. Plus Kate Thornton for no reason than for my friend Tim. The other side was a cover of "You've Got a Friend" which returned us to dull but worthy territory.

6. Tony Christie NOT featuring Peter Kay - "Is This the Way to Amarillo", 2005
Chart Position: No. 1

Yes, its 'im again but although he's in the iconic (if now unshowable post-Yewtree) video which helped propel this 1971 hit back into the charts where it became the 3rd best seller of the entire 2000s (after Will Young and Gareth Gates' post Pop Idol hits "Evergreen" and "Unchained Melody") its the original recording which Kay has thankfully bugger all to do with. And its still bloody great.

5. Mel & Kim (Mel Smith and Kim Wilde) - "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", 1987
Chart Position:  No. 3 

Because I miss Mel and this still sounds wonderful nearly thirty years on. Plus the Griff cameo joke about "pricks" that nearly made me choke when a Christmas CD compilation we had at my old work came on every day to the cheerful oblivion of the old ladies in the building.




4. Hale and Pace / Victoria Wood - "The Stonk" / "The Smile Song", 1991
Chart Position: No. 1 

Of all the comedy singles people remember, this one seems to be remembered extremely negatively. It could be because Hale and Pace long outstayed their welcome on Sunday nights with sketch shows that were increasingly more and more bland. Perhaps its down to it featuring SERIOUS ROCK superstars David Gilmour and Brian May playing along to the lyrics "stick a red nose on your conk" or could be the fact that the other A-side was the ignored yet absolutely wonderful "The Smile Song" featuring the peerless Victoria Wood's original song, featuring spoofs of Janet Jackson, Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys, Snap!, heavy metal and various other genres.



I have a very soft spot for The Stonk though as it was on my very first Now compilation (Now 19, disc 1 - just between Kylie and 2 In A Room). And its got Funny Ert Newman from The Mary Whitehouse Experience team looking mortified in the video. READ MY LIPS I'M A STONKER.




























3.  Spice Girls - "Who Do You Think You Are", 1997
Chart Position: No. 1

All out brilliant proper pop and one of the most successful Comic Relief records ever released, which is all the more impressive for the fact that it had been available on the “Spice” album since November the previous year. (Yes yes...you can still piss off though, Sam Smith...) And the UK video comes with an ace free French and Saunders sketch! More on them in a minute...



2. Cliff Richard and The Young Ones - "Living Doll", 1986
Chart Position: No. 1

The one that started it all and still an incredibly funny song despite Cliff apparently being a miserable bastard about it from start to finish. An utter phenomenon then and something that still seems exciting, a little dangerous and hilariously awkward all these years on. GET DOWN!


And of course there's the B-side...




1. Bananarama & Lananeeneenoonoo (French and Saunders with Kathy Burke) - "Help!", 1989
Chart Position: No. 3



Back in "the day" (the mid to late eighties to be more precise), my Dad would tape any decent music performances that cropped up on the box - invariably Top Of The Pops, The Chart Show and the random old shite ITV used to put out as lunchtime filler when Neil Buchanan or Gaz Top had buggered off home on a Saturday afternoon - "America's Top 100 Greatest Music Top 40 20 10" or "Lovely Hot Europe Chart Sponsored By Maxell". It was on one of these VHS tapes that I first heard 1989's Comic Relief single, "Help" courtesy of the second-wind Bananarama and Lananeeneenoonoo or Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and an almost-mute Kathy Burke who had debuted the girl group (complete with superb "Jimmy Mack" reworking) in a mock documentary sketch during the second run of French and Saunders' BBC2 series.



Not knowing who these "Beetles" were who'd done it originally, I was immediately taken with this brand new song and chuckled away in my nine year old's world at the video when they'd fall off the scooters. So, you can imagine my excitement come several days later when the headmistress started playing it in assembly to get us excited for the second Red Nose Day the following Friday. (She also once played us "Caravan Of Love" by The Housemartins and to this day I've absolutely no recollection why.) Its funny, its great pop music and its unlikely to ever be beaten as the greatest Comic Relief single of all time. And that is all of the Comic Relief singles ever. Goodn-



-bollocks.

And if you enjoyed this, contribute to Comic Relief.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Stonk If You're Corny: Remembering Comic Relief Comic

If you told a typical pop culture nerd that a comic was once released that was written by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, The Sandman, Coraline) Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, 2000AD, Lots of DC Comics) and Richard Curtis (Blackadder, The Vicar of Dibley, Four Weddings And A Funeral) with contributions from DC Thomson, Shaky Kane, Garth Ennis, the Viz Comics team, Mark Millar, Jamie Hewlett, Lenny Henry, Hunt Emerson, Simon Bisley, Alan Martin, Dave Gibbons and many more, they'd probably say "Oh yes Comic Relief Comic, 1991, very limited run, printed by Fleetway". Stupid over-knowledgable pop culture nerds.

They would be right though. "Comic Relief Comic" was a full colour coming together of all the great comics talent in the UK, much like the TV show (which was about to launch its third telethon on March 15th 1991)  would bring together the top comedy folk at the time.

 

Much like the programme, its funny with a serious message. But first, the beautiful cover...


Phwoar, eh? And I dont just mean sexy Len! All your comics favourites from kiddies characters up to more adult adventures - Dredd! Dennis! Dare! Donatello! Dark Knight! Dan! erm...Dr Bruce Banner! - all under one roof. And for the very reasonable price of £1.50. As mentioned briefly in my Richard Curtis piece, I was so excited to get my hands on this (equaled only by the Round The Bend TV Special but that's a story for another day) and I proudly have my extremely well-read copy upstairs (with my age and name on so no bugger nicked it at school.) although I hadn't thought about it much until the wonderful comics blog Two Headed Thingies run by my good friend Ryan posted the entire thing from start to finish, reminding me just what an exciting, funny and slightly naughty experience it was.

So, if its so good, why has it never been reprinted with all that talent involved? Well, the boring answer is DC Comics being pricks over copyright which is a huge shame as there's so much going on in these pages that deserves to be seen. So, with the opening proviso that if you read this you'll contribute to Comic Relief in lieu of being able to buy the comic sadly, here's some of my favourite highlights from 1991's "Comic Relief Comic"...

1. Its opened by a mildly tamed Roger Mellie (even though the word "bollocks" appears several places elsewhere in the otherwise child-aimed publication) who was then probably the most famous character from the just past its ridiculous 1 million plus circulation era Viz. Mellie would appear in a segment on the TV Comic Relief that year voiced by Harry Enfield (a later animated adaptation being handled much more impressively by Peter Cook.) No comment on that third panel. Ahem.


Ahem, moving on from that last line, here's a slightly more sweary Roger presenting the suitably filthy "Mellie At Midnight" which if memory serves ran at about 1am because everything was over-running so much. Its missing a joke they did at the start where, as memory serves, it seemed like it was just a still drawing, panicking the hosts before Roger complained the feed wasnt working...



2. This entire page. Edd the Duck! The USS Enterprise! Vyvyan! Hitchock! A sausage! And oh those slanted BBCs! And in case you're confused why Roger is covered in pie, one was slammed in his face by Lenny on the previous page before he could say the word "piss". This is a children's comic after all! 


3. A page of Lenny testing the boundaries of being in a comic book leading to this ever so wonderfully meta bit of business between him and his original co-hosts Griff Rhys-Jones and Jonathan Ross


4. The next page is devoted to a pre-show visit to the people responsible for the gunk tank - an essential part of early Comic Relief programmes. Check out that "none more 1991" list of 'celebrity packages'...


5. ...along with the equally time-stamped Canned Carrott, a pre-respect revival Bob Monkhouse photo and the body of Twin Peaks' tragic central murder victim Laura Palmer. Also: BBC tea gags. Always a winner!


6. Also stuck firmly in its own era is this bizarre array of classic 'Madchester' phrases, although I'm not sure if "E" stuck past the radar through luck, guile or sheer ignorance in the pre-Leah Betts era. I'm fairly sure I didn't understand it as a 10 year old anyway (or "DRAW!" for that matter.) We all said "BEZ!" though. Deffo. 


7. So, you pop culture nerd types! What do Judge Dredd, Griff Rhys Jones, Captain Britain, Desperate Dan and Jonathan Ross have in common? Well... 


8. Lenny and Jonathan have the same argument which had happened in many a playground around the time following the BBC's decision to switch the word "Ninja" to "Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles". Obviously, it had such an effect as we all grew up to be murderous assassins. BUT HEROICALLY. 


Excellently the panel beneath was titled "Teenage Mutant SOMETHING Turtles" as a compromise. 

9. One of the strangest bits of an incredibly bonkers comic already was a forced double act between Ben Elton and Dawn French who get a bit too near to the Dangerous Matter Transmutor. No, REALLY.


10. Elton and French then become superhuman based on fairly flimsy character traits. I can't tell if its playful or a savage attack - particularly on Elton's brand of obvious domestic observations. Being as its from Tank Girl creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, probably a bit of both...


11. The world is in chaos due to the rampaging duo, the world calls for action, which comes from Lenny as Theophilous P Wildebeeste's hitherto unseen alter ego Love Man who is such a thrusting rush (kids comic...) he doesn't have time to stop and have a bit away with The Queen (then only a MILF-tastic 65) and...erm...Princess Diana. Ah well, its what she would've wanted. *sniff* 


12. Next up is a visit to space with Dan Dare unsuccessfully trying to get the Mekon and several ever familiar monsters to buy a red nose. Luckily help is at hand...


13. Who were you expecting? Batman? With the series off-air for just over a year by this point, Who fans weren't to know the true wait they were about to be in for. Incidentally, the panel after this has McCoy's Doctor answering "no - its a WHO-tenanny". Frobisher to sue. And sick.


14. A bizarre cameo from The Rovers Return - the entire building itself (supposedly there to 'man' the phones) - which judging by this panel is staffed by Larry David, Sharon Stone and Paul Shane's character from You Rang M'Lord. Also: "BET"?!?  


15. Also on the phones are this array of people including an appearance by Harry Enfield's reasonably new character Mr-You-Don't-Wanna-Do-It-Like-That. As for the following frame, I'm not entirely sure who it was aimed at, or for that matter whether Warren Beatty was still the go-to name for 'prominent lady shagger' reference easy laffs for 1991. But hey, they didn't call him 'Penis Tracy' for nothin' you know!!!11 


16. The Dandy and Beano "All Stars" next (although only Desperate Dan appears from the former) with a few celebrity cameos from Esther Rantzen and this more Colin Farrell-esque Noel Tidybeard (yes I'm overlooking the needless apostrophe there) getting their cars washed. So, people who whinge that the comics never used to be obsessed with celebrities in the past can shut their face. Especially Noel


17. This entire Viz spread which felt awfully naughty and exciting to have in my possession as a kid, knowing all about the million selling adult comic by that point.  Click here to see it bigger.



18. Two pages (drawn by the wonderful Hunt Emerson) are devoted to the appearance of various comedy characters from TV and film, starting with The Young Ones (the first series of Bottom still over six months away...) Note the plank Viv is picking up in the second frame, you'll never guess what he does with it next. Oh um yeah, he does hit Rick with it actually. Well guessed. 


19. The only real concession to then-new comedy came with this tiny but wonderful Vic Reeves and The Man With The Stick cameo. Vic and Bob would make their first appearance on that year's telethon largely dying on their arse in front of an audience who didn't seem to have a clue who they were. 


And here is that first appearance by the recalcitrant duo...


20. Although not covered here, there are two running storylines throughout the comic - one involves a modern day descendant of Blackadder being taught the true meaning of charity by a disabled girl, which is as miserable as it is unfunny. The second finds Griff Rhys-Jones being kidnapped and replaced by "house-heads" who will take over the world if one single person fails to donate to Comic Relief. And that one remaining person? Blackadder of course. Naturally he ends up obliging and so the real Griff gets to escape only to be asked...


21. Plot all wrapped up, Ross gets bored and after referencing his alright but short-lived teatime series "Tonight With Jonathan Ross" pushes the red button leading to this wonderful but terrifying Shaky Kane (coloured but possibly not drawn - anyone know for definite?) tableau. It scared the crap out of me as a kid and still unnerves me a bit now if I'm honest. 


22.  All hell having broke loose in BBC TV Centre (remember that, kids?), two as yet unsuspecting chaps (looking rather like WC Fields and Buster Keaton) enjoy a quick drink in front of a pinboard featuring Judge Anderson, Alias The Jester, Inspector Gadget and what looks to be Danger Mouse's ears. Slightly random until you realize this entire page is the work of the terrific Arthur Ranson who drew all of those characters at one time or another in 2000AD and Look-In respectively and thus quite a nice little self-tribute. 


23. And finally, these credits. Just look at all those names. Beautiful.

So that was the edited highlights of Comic Relief Comic, a wonderful item sadly lost to time and legal copyright bollocks. Even if you're not watching this year's programme on Friday, do give generously as it helps not just people but charities all over the world do brilliant things in the face of ever-depressing government cutbacks. More Comic Relief stuff later in the week but its time for bed. Good stonk...

 

To see what you can do for Comic Relief click the following address:
https://www.rednoseday.com/

And as a special bonus, the two fabulous original songs made for Comic Relief's 1991 programming. See how many puppets of yesteryear you remember here...



Forever missed. No Kylie, no Jason, no toothpaste round the basin.... 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Confidentially Speaking: Jasper Carrott's Walks To Work (Part 3)

Whats that? Third part of an incredibly niche subject? Lets do this thing!

Carrott Confidential started its third and final series on February 4th 1989 at 10:25pm, between American drama series "Midnight Caller" and still-not-yet-stolen-by-Murdoch football fun in "Match Of The Day". Punt and Dennis get more to do this series which may be a big influence on being tuning in for a obscure radio comedy series they're doing on Radio 1 at the same time. But who ever heard of The Mary Whitehouse Experience? (Answer: most people, it is a rhetorical question.)

Episode 1 - February 4th 1989

Radio Times Synopsis: "Jasper Carrott returns for another series of shows from BBC Television Centre. As usual, the humour is fast and furious. Steve and Hugh are his regular guests, and there are some surprise visits too."


Series 3 kicks off with not a knock on a dressing room door but a trunction on a jail door which proves THE BBC KNEW EVERYTHING!!!! ILLUMINATI 9/11 LIZARD PEOPLE!!!! ALAN WAS THE REAL THIRD MAN!!! And...wait, is that Elvis? Better play "Jailhouse Rock" then!


On release to "slop out for 35 minutes" Jasper encounters a chocolate cake scoffing Fergie on skis because fuck it its 1989 then is measured up by a surgeon in front of a butcher and what appears to be Zoltar from the movie "Big" before being saved by two NYC Guardian Angels and led to Studio 8.


And for continuity, here's the set for series 3. Better if massively generic.


Episode 2 - February 11th 1989

RT: "The man who put 'ella' into 'salmon'. The programme that's Clive James (E 605) free. No canned laughter, genuine live organic carrott."



The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City", a Dulux dog and some lovely blooms greet Jasper from his dressing room this week. Then its past a "Bring and Di Sale", Elvis again pushing a trolley, a BT (at the height of their useless yet unopposed reign) engineer cutting off customers with a big pair of shears and people meet the "Commons Select Committee"...to egg what I assume is meant to be Edwina Currie over her part in the salmonella scares over eating eggs upsetting farmers and suppliers hugely. Wouldn't it be strange if she was vindicated many years later? Oh.

Episode 3 - February 18th 1989

RT: "People, events, issues, arts, the media, a pound of mushrooms, 20 Woodbines, a Pot of taramasalata and three Pints today, please, milkman."



Ah, now there's a topical gag that needs no introduction as a post-Brit Awards shambles Sam Fox lookalike struggles to read the idiot boards introducing the show in front of a beaming Mick Fleetwood lookalike (bet there's not much money in that job..) "Rock Around The Clock" starts up just in time for Jasp to avoid some nuclear French cheese (presumably referencing that country's decision to start resume nuclear testing), break up the Queen and Elvis having a boogie and see the Ayatollah get hit by a penguin days after he sentenced Salman Rushdie to death for writing "The Satanic Verses" (published in the UK by...Penguin.)


Episode 4 - February 25th 1989

RT: "Not featuring the rock and roll years. 1842: due to a lack of newsreel footage.... please complain to the research department."


More superhero shenanigans as an even more aged Batman is waiting for Jasper outside his dressing room door to celebrate his 50th anniversary. As the classic Bat theme plays, Jasper passes an unfortunate family covered in sewage heading back from the beach and a coffin tastefully plastered with "HIROHITO" followed by one celebrating the death of another powerful world leader...



And another preparing for the (correct) result for the Mike Tyson fight happening that evening in Las Vegas (which gets a huge grumble from the audience)...


Episode 5 - March 5th 1989

RT: "The Chronicles of Barmia: The Hamster, the Dinner Lady and the MFI Corner Unit.
1: Why the BBC needs a bigger licence fee to make decent children's drama. Starring Jasper Carrott as Aslef the lion who's General Secretary of the Train Drivers' Union and Steve and Hugh as a couple of irritating kids who were weaned on E102 and monosodium glutamate."


A double whammy of late 80s advertising references to kick off with as new neighbour "Madonna" pops round for a spare "cola" which Jasper "prematurely" spills on her. Meanwhile, "Like A Prayer" plays in the background as if the programme has suddenly remembered the decade its being made in after just 21 weeks. Elsewhere, a Thatcher steps out of a fridge (nope) with a baby (son Mark had recently become a father) and an ill looking Humpty Dumpty seemingly bats for Salmonella. The journey to the studio is finished with a booth for signed Scandal programmes (featuring a suitably posed Joanne Whalley / Christine Keeler), the film of the Profumo affair that has been released in the UK the day before.


Episode 6 - March 11th 1989

RT: "After every meal or drink acids attack your teeth for up to 35 minutes. Jasper Carrott, along with Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis and Vicky Ogden knows this, but all of them are still prepared to spend the next 35 minutes letting you watch their teeth rot live, on air, just so you can have a good laugh."


More Prince Charles funnies as the sunburnt prince knocks our star up then we're back to the favourite driving hits as "Smoke On The Water" backs a series of events including a smoking tea lady walking past a "No Smoking" sign, some protesting furries (including a mole who Jasper is enraged by, evoking an old routine of his) and some very unfortunate football coaches, following a 2-0 loss to England by Albania that week.

Now about this mole...



Episode 7 - March 18th 1989

RT: "Linguini, tagliatelli, ravioli, tortellini ... what's the next pasta in the sequence?
Solve this simple puzzle and you could be eligible for membership of MENSA - which is the Latin word for 'smug clever dick'. Didn't you know that? Sorry then, chum ... we don't want thickoes like you in our club. Better stay in and watch Jasper Carrott instead - you might learn something."


Budget week then I take it. As Jasper gets a big red case shoved in his kisser, our second repeat song kicks in as his old pals ELO's "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" from the second episode of series one plays, could this be a sign the show is winding up? (Yes.) Next the red case spills out money for a nearby Fergie and Andrew who get rid of the baby in order to fit more cash in the pram. Because Royals and 1989. He then passes have-to-blink-to-double-check-it-wasnt-the-real-one milk fan Bob Geldof lookalike awaiting Peaches who was born on March 13th (and depressingly has been dead for nearly three years), some extortionate water prices (this was the year of water privatisation) and some saucy ladies of the night (one of whom grabs Jasper's arse, seemingly unplanned) hanging about outside the House of Commons. Because Politicans and 1989.




Episode 8 - March 25th 1989

RT: "Cliffhanger Ending. In the final episode of the series, Jasper discovers the true identity of his parents, fakes his own death and begins a new life of complete anonymity by changing his name to Samuel Rushdie. Just your normal final episode, then."


And its back to the song from the very first episode, "Rockin' All Over The World" as Carrott Confidential bows out with one final corridor walk and some pissed up naval types at the door. Princess Diana returns to hand out johnnies from the Mates machine in a sequence designed for both winding up the public and taking delight in knowing its your final episode. John Hurt punches through a door, a tortoise carries a letter from former Conservative MP Paul Channon and various booze frontmen appear whilst everything around them is sold off, including Rutger Hauer for Guinness, George the Hofmeister Bear, Fosters' Paul Hogan and the Oblivion Boys (who were both in the cast of Jasper's previous show Carrott's Lib) in 'naked at the laundrette' Carling Black Label mode. Its not the real ones though (sadly?)


Its a very strange ending to a series that was quite by chance ended up airing through some big historical events. The whole run is much tamer than "Carrott's Lib" thanks to a more traditional writing team including Barry Cryer, Dick Hills, Spike Mullins, Neil Shand and Ian Davidson. Carrott's natural gift as a storyteller fits the format well as he weaves in and out of topical bits with more straightforward stand up, often for up to ten minutes a time in the opening monologue. A strange sort of act that was alternative yet thoroughly mainstream. I'm struggling to think of any comedian in the current climate who could host a similar sort of programme, which is a shame because TV needs more lighthearted satire for the masses that isn't Have I Got News For You or, indeed, any bleedin' panel show.

Its hard not to get sad too for the loss of TV Centre and its many corridors and studios we only got a little peek at as the home audience. Yes, it might have been out of date technologically and archaic in design but it was (and remains) bloody iconic and as far as the UK was concerned, the de facto home of British television. Not to mention absolutely a character of its very own. Remember it this way...


NEXT TIME: Not Jasper Carrott honest. Probably.