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Harry Enfield

Harry Enfield

© BBC/Balloon Entertainment/Colin Hutton

Date Of Birth: 30/05/1961

A former milkman, Harry Enfield started his comedy career as an impressionist on Spitting Image, but shot to fame Channel 4's Saturday Live, first in the guise of Greek kebab-shop owner Stavros, then with the iconic Eighties builder Loadsamoney.

He appeared both as Loadsamoney and his peniless Geordie counterpart Bugger-All-Money at he Nelson Mandela Birthday Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988, before the character was killed off as Enfield felt he was becoming a hero, rather than a parody,.

He landed his own BBC show in 1990, first with Harry Enfield's Television Programme, and then Harry Enfield and Chums, the change in title acknowledging the contribution of co-stars Paul Whitehouse and Kathy Burke. Characters included Tim, nice but dim, Smashie and Nicey, Wayne and Waynetta Slob, Mr Cholmondley-Warner and Kevin the Teenager - who would star in his own film, 2000's Ibiza-set Kevin & Perry Go Large.

Many of Enfield's characters have gone on to front advertising campaigns, and he created a spoof life coach for a series of TV commercials for Burger King in 2005.

In 1992, he played Dermot in the first series of Men Behaving Badly on ITV. But it was not considered a success and the commercial broadcaster did not recomission it. When the BBC picked it up, Enfield was replaced by Neil Morrissey.

He has also made a number of one-offs, including Sir Norbet Smith - A Life for Channel 4 in 1993, and Norman Ormal– A Very Political Turtle for BBC one in 1998. He also presented a guide to opera, one of his passions, for Channel 4 in 1993.

Enfield's successful partnership with Whitehouse ended in the mid-Nineties, with his partner going on to create The Fast Show. In 2000, Enfield signed a lucrative deal with Sky One to create a new batch of characters for Harry Enfield's Spanking New Show - but it failed to replicate the success of his BBC shows.

In 2002 Enfield returned to the BBC with Celeb, based on the Private Eye comic strip about ageing rockstar Gary Bloke, but it only lasted one series.

Enfield's awards haul includes the 1998 British Comedy Award for top BBC1 Comedy Personality and Silver Roses of Montreux in 1990 (for Norbert Smith), 1995 (Smashie And Nicey - End Of An Era) and 1998 (Harry Enfield and Chums).

Harry Enfield Videos


Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse: Legends

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse: Legends

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s tour is a tug-of-war between nostalgia and relevance. Do they simply go through the old hits, of which there are an impressive number, or do they try to do something new?

In the end they’ve stuck to the tried-and-tested, but attempted to give them a twist – although some characters take an update better than others. Their creations are often been so bang on the zeitgeist that they can sum up the national mood in a catchphrase, but that makes them harder to adapt for different times.

Loadsamoney, that child of Thatcherism, has probably fared the worst: a working man waving his wad is nothing in the world of the oligarchs and hedge-fund managers that now own London. The other creation who made Enfield’s name, Stavros, hasn’t fared much better, still a simple national stereotype, despite a very heavy-handed attempt to use him to satirise the Greek financial crisis.

The Yewtree fate of Smashy & Nicey is predictable, too, and beyond the initial knowing references is reduced to a batch of puns on mostly dead DJ’s names: ‘Jimmy Young Girls’ or ‘John Feel’

Yet Wayne Slob is timeless (though sad to report Waynetta has come to a sticky end to explain Kathy Burke’s absence), and Tim Nice-But-Dim is out on the Tory campaign trial, as in a previous TV sketch, but now unwittingly spilling the beans on David Cameron’s Oxford past; especially relevant in the City of Dreaming Spires itself tonight.

Mr Cholmondley-Warner’s ‘Women Know Your Limits’ public information film was already mocking outdated attitudes when it aired, and is here fired at a female stand-up … as if they hadn’t already faced enough ‘women aren’t funny’ jibes. Poor Catherine Shepherd, their token female in more than one sketch, is game, though.

However, the audience reaction is strangely muted. Old chums you might expect to be greeted with a rousing cheer come on to almost nothing. This is not the roaring nostalgia-fest of the Monty Python shows, though it’s a warm delight being in Harry and Paul’s company.

There are lots of knowing references to an assumed rivalry between the pair. The joke with the Old Gits, the opening skit, is that Enfield and Whitehouse are of that vintage themselves now, and the pointed bickering between them blurs the line between character and performer. And with the Self Righteous Brothers (‘Oi, Enfield, No!’) they get to twist the knife into each other even more viciously.

To reinforce the question of age, a nicely crude Kevin The Teenager sketch is introduced with an interview in which Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Ross discussing how tragic it was if the Harry Potter star was to still be playing teenage schoolboys in 40 years’ time.

As well as themselves, they also mock contemporary celebs, with sideways jibes at Bad Education, Russell Brand ‘is he a queer?' the large-eared old duffers ask, and a brilliant John Bishop done by – of course – the ‘calm down’ Scousers. Plus they are scurrilously libellous about Jeremy Clarkson. For although most of the appeal of Legends resides in the familiar, they can, on occasion, produce a real curveball of brutal hilarity.

Joy, too, lies in the looseness of some of the missed cues and forgotten lines, although they don’t quite seem confident enough in the material on this early date to know how to play with this consistently. And their admirably over-ambitious attempt to recreate their brilliant Dragon’s Den sketch live deploys audience participation pretty clumsily, the precision of the caricatures lost under the chaos.

They do keep the audience guessing and sometimes play quite confrontationally with the atmosphere - evoking the death of Rik Mayall for a laugh, for example. It shows a laudable willingness to challenge the audience even if it doesn’t quite come off (see also their recent BBC Two An Evening With… retrospective). Similarly, Wayne’s offspring Frogmella now wears a full burka. It would be easy to play things very safe with a trot out of old catchphrases, so kudos for not doing that.

Not that hearing the old lines doesn’t bring its own pleasure. The audience mouth along with sozzled, rambling barrister, Rowley Birkin muttering ‘we were very, very, drunk’, one of a trio of Fast Show characters Whitehouse performs in quick succession (nosy neighbour Michael Paine and a solo Suit You tailor being the others) requiring the fastest costume changes in a night full of them. For the one outstanding memory from the show is just how many classic characters the pair have been responsible for.

Yes, they depend on smut and stereotypes in some of their work, and are sometimes a bit reactionary, but that’s part of the broad strokes with which they start. They’re aware of the criticism, and there’s more subtlety close up. Even lesser-known creations (by their standards) are a skilled blend of observation and silliness. Who else could make a catchphrase out of ’40, 45 minutes’ as their posh medical consultants do, while their creepy confectioner perfectly both encapsulates weird British film noir, while coining the exquisite phrase ‘Tuppenny Butterquims’.

Monday 26th Oct, '15
Steve Bennett



Harry Enfield Dates

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