In the 70’s there was of Monty Python, Dave Allen and a smattering of the Goons, Morecombe and Wise and the Two Ronnies.
But on the telly there was also Dick Emery, Benny Hill, The Comedians,the likes of Frank Carson, Bernard Manning and Freddie Starr.
Unattractive men telling mother in law jokes and making cracks about Paki’s.
To be honest it wasn’t in my world, I was too busy with O levels and boys and going to gigs.
Happily in the early 80’s the antidote in the form of Alternative Comedy, to combat all that sexism and racism. And we were all over it.
On Friday and Saturday nights, at 11.30, we would climb the stairs above Raymond’s Revue Bar (snigger), and immerse ourselves in something new and hilarious, the Comic Strip
Usually hosted by Alexei Sayle.
In tight mohair suit and a porkpie hat, calling mime artistes bip and snot and singing Hello john have you go a new motor, he introduced such acts as:
20th Century Coyote (the late wonderful and beautiful Rik Mayall and his crazy partner now successful cook show contestant Ade Edmonson). Dangerous.
The Outer Limits made up of Peter Richardson now an esteemed Director and Soho good egg, and respected actor Nigel Planer, Doing impersonations of space invaders and singing about Rakusens the Kosher Coitus Toast.
And French and Saunders testing the waters for sketches we will know and love for decades.
There was also Arnold Brown a full time Hampstead accountant doing stand up at the weekends
“I’m Scottish and I’m Jewish,two racial stereotypes for the price of one.”
Other acts came and went, notably Chris Langham with the world’s best impersonation of an owl, Andy de La Tour Ben Elton.
One extraordinary night Robin Williams skipped on stage.
It was his Mork and Mindy period and he was a much more raw and dark version of the kooky movie star he was to become. He bounced into the crowd, borrowed an audience members “purse” and on stage proceeded to share the contents with us.
“Oh look, Cocaine. God’s way of telling you that you earn too much money”.
He took a fiver out of her purse (which at the time was equivalent to I don’t know, £25), put it in his back pocket and then returned the handbag. Never gave the cash back. Amazing.
All the acts (apart from the number cruncher) were SOOOO young. Fresh, vibrant, energetic and above all new.
We had enormous crushes on the prettiest of them, Rik and Peter, telling ourselves it was because of their wit and personality and not necessarily their cheekbones.
Not soon after we stopped being obsessive regulars, I was working with the then super sexy star of Hazell, Nicholas Ball.
It was a party period for him, so he often turned up for voice-overs and lay on the floor gathering himself.
One time, prostrate, he told us that he had just done a TV recording with Rik, Ade, Nigel and Alexei.
He played a professor and there was a joke about a tampon and a Christmas tree.
And thus the Young Ones exploded grubbily and surreally on our screens.
Hard to imagine. in these days of 8 out of 10 Cats and Mock the Week, but back in the day it was unheard to think that guys you saw at a seedy club would one day come into your living rooms.
There were more comedy nights at various venues, and we keep going, watching guys we just saw in dingy clubs suddenly TV regulars, running quiz shows, doing Blankety Blank.
One notable night in 1979 we went to a benefit to raise money for Paul Merton, who sadly had fallen and broken his leg and needed cash while he wasn’t working. Have I got old news for you!
Then came Channel 4 who on their first night broadcast Five Go Mad in Dorset.
More sophisticated fare from the Comic Strip team and the first of a long running If sporadic series of brilliant and hilarious specials. Always bringing in great comic talent – Daniel Peacock, Robbie Coltrane, Lenny Henry, Kathy Burke, and David Hunter from Crossroads.
Each lampooning a genre. Each full of classic lines.
Fistful of Travellers Cheques “I spit on your punk rock”, and from the Beat Generation (a look at a louche weekend retreat for artistes and musicians) “I’m just tired of this endless knobbing”
So begins 34 years and something like fifty perfect pieces of wit and satire, in groups or as one off specials, with Peter Richardson at the helm.
There was Gino which in my opinion is the best thing Keith Allen ever did except have a daughter who was talented for a while.
The Strike, the Yob, GLH, Jealousy. The Feature film Churchill the Hollywood years.
And lately The Hunt for Tony Blair and Five Go to Rehab.
And now, bang up to date, Comic Strip Presents Red Top.
Set inexplicably in the 70s, starring Maxine Peake as Rebekah Brooks with turns from Johnny Vegas, Stephen Mangan -reprising his role as Tony Blair, this time a rock star – and a mean Russell Tovey.
It also features Comic Strip Stalwarts, – Richardson coming out from the Director’s chair as Bob Harris, Harry Enfield, Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle.
Biting and silly, which I think sums up the whole Comic Strip Presents oeuvre, it romped through ghastly Guardian employees, simpering Cameron, Murdoch and his ruthless Kill Bill Bride, and Ross “Listen Slag” Kemp.
It is funny and clever and both familiar and completely original.
May there be 50 more.