Originally published on Reaction.
The Fast Show: More Blooming Catchphrases, Gold
Last Saturday, my partner and I celebrated 25 years together. What better way to spend the evening than to watch a two hour Fast Show documentary and retrospective? Who said romance is dead?
It seems incredible that it’s 26 years since the first episode aired in 1994, full of sketches, some of which were only ten seconds long, and others which would last for three minutes. It was an instant hit. The comedy sketch show has died a death in recent years, but watching this look back over the Fast Show’s success, it’s difficult to fathom why. It was genuinely laugh out loud funny, mainly because the characters, largely created by Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson, were so relatable and memorable.
It is often the case that retrospectives are cringe-makingly awful, full of trite self congratulation and unable to shed any new light. This was different, largely because of the innovative format. They brought all the old characters to life (minus those played by the sadly deceased Caroline ‘Scorchio’ Aherne) and they became the gobs on sticks who analysed their own characters. It worked brilliantly. Which was nice.
Ron Manager (Isn’t it?), Ken and Kenneth, the tailors (Suit you, Sir), Jesse (This week I am mostly…), Bob ‘Phlegm’ Fleming, Brilliant Kid (Brilliant!), Rowley Birkin who was always “very, very drunk”, Insecure Woman (Does my bum look big in this?), South African Make-up Lady (No offence!), Ed Winchester (I’m Ed Winchester), Competitive Dad and the brilliant working class character played by Mark Williams who desperately tried to fit in with his wife’s middle class friends and always ended the sketch by saying: “I’ll get my coat” – they were all back, and as funny as ever.
But not all the sketches tried to be laugh out loud funny. The series involving Ted & Ralph is an example of something which wasn’t funny at all, but was deeply moving, with Ralph, the landowner, who was deeply in love with his farmhand, Ted. The love was unrequited by Ted, but he didn’t want to hurt the man who paid his wages.
Sketch shows often date. Little Britain has, but The Fast Show has not. In these days of unbridled wokeness, many of the most laugh out loud Little Britain sketches just could not be shown. In the show on Saturday Paul Whitehouse and Mark Williams reckoned the “Suit You, Sir” sketches might have to be dropped if the show were made in 2020, but that was the only one. That is quite an achievement.
At the end of the show John Thompson made very clear he’d be up for bringing The Fast Show back for a new run, but in the end that can only happen if Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson play ball. If they did I think it would be one of the most popular shows on TV all over again, as new generations of comedy connoisseurs get to enjoy the same characters we did all those years ago, and hopefully some new ones too. One can but hope.
Archive episodes of The Fast Show are available on Youtube.
Acting Prime Minister podcast with Paul Brand, ITN
When this podcast series started I mentally kicked myself. Why didn’t I think of it first? It is a brilliant idea, interviewing politicians about what they would do if they became Prime Minister. Desert Island Discs format are very popular in the podcast world and this is one of the ever-burgeoning genre.
The great thing about this format is that the interviewee comes prepared to bare their souls in a way they would never do in a normal political interview. Brand eases his subjects in gently with questions about the thing they could not do without in Downing Street. His latest subject, Jeremy Hunt, who kicks off the current series, talks about his inability to live without his iPhone and the kind of beer he prefers. Not ground-breaking stuff, perhaps, but it leads into a lovely anecdote about showing his parents around Downing Street, just a year before his father died.
Although not overly long, at around 30 minutes, Brand’s interviews, like Nick Robinson’s on Political Thinking, demonstrate the power of the long form, more conversational interview. The politician avoids telling the same, tired old stories and knows that coming out with party political soundbites is totally inappropriate. And therefore, they tend to say something more interesting than they ever would in a normal shorter news programme interview.
Paul Brand is from a new generation of political correspondents and this podcast is certainly enhancing his reputation. It shows he has more strings to his bow than just being a News at Ten political correspondent. He is able to attract good names to his podcast and his back catalogue of 36 episodes is well worth diving into on a long train journey.