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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

Reviews

Upstart Crow

Upstart Crow
© BBC/Colin Hutton
© BBC/Colin Hutton

Gadzooks! After some high-profile flops in both hemispheres, Ben Elton has rediscovered his mojo… and all it took was a return trip to Elizabethan England.

Of course there is more than a touch of Blackadder II in Upstart Crow, in which he throws modern sensibilities over the world of Shakespeare. But although it is impossible not to draw comparisons, this is a comic triumph all of its own, with a scabard-sharp script and A-grade cast on top form.

David Mitchell’s Shakespeare is imagined as that sitcom staple: a status-obsessed middle-class bloke; a self-made man from the Midlands both convinced of his genius and insecure about it, stuck with a family who don’t appreciate him. He’s also diffident to the posh blokes who run the world, both resenting the way their standings are handed to them on a besilvered platter, and wanting so desperately to join their ranks.

The opening scene has his daughter, Susannah, reading out Juliet’s balcony speech with typical teenage indifference. In a typical postmodern gag everyone, including his father (Harry Enfield, criminally underused in this episode) and wife (Lisa Tarbuck) tells him ‘wherefore art thou?’ will DEFINITELY be interpreted as ‘where?’ not ‘why?’, but the proud, pedantic playwright is having none of it.

It’s not the best scene in the show, but does establish the tone. And once this is dispatched with, the farcical plot gets under way, with Elton cleverly interweaving elements of the Romeo and Juliet story into Bill’s comedy predicament. It’s a mechanism that allows the script to work on dual levels, slipping in wry lines the Shakespeare-savvy will smirk at, flattering themselves at getting the joke, while the broader, more slapstick story plays out in the foreground.

In a similar tone, modern-day concerns about the marginalisation of women get an outing – but with ridiculous exaggeration, thanks to ageing drag actor Kempleton (Dominic Coleman) insisting on playing the 13-year-old ingenue, since it’d never do for an actual girl to take such a job. Another particularly brilliant touch is Spencer Jones playing fellow thespian Kempe as a 16th Century Ricky Gervais, another step in Jones’s fast-rising career.

With a surfeit of such sly gags, you’d swear the 30-minute episode was longer, so many jokes and so much plot does Elton cram in.

In the opening episode, Will must harbour the easily lovestruck Florian (Edinburgh favourite Kieran Hodgson) in Shakespeare’s London home, where  Rob Rouse manages to make manservant Bottom just different enough from Baldrick Naturally enough the simple babysitting task turns to broad farce by an old plot-twist, but a dependable one.

 And in this super-heightened environment, excesses are normalised, allowing the scope for plenty of big, bold jokes which Elton gleefully seizes with both hands.

The result is that Upstart Crow might just be funny enough for us all to pretend The Wright Way never happened.

Monday 9th May, '16
Steve Bennett

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