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A benefit to raise money to pay for the production of a 4 CD box set of the complete works of the Eighties cult comedian Ted Chippington, whose vaudeville surrealism predated Vic Reeves and whose ultra deadpan delivery and contempt for the very idea of jokes influenced a generation of comics without any of them even knowing who Ted was. This took place at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, on February 5,2007
Original Review:When you hear of a benefit gig for a comedian who’s long slipped into obscurity, you fear the worst. Thankfully, however, Ted Chippington is in rude health, and the gig in his honour at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre was merely to raise the cash for a four-CD retrospective. More importantly, perhaps, it also raised his profile, prompting a raft of newspaper articles recalling this pioneer of alternative comedy who jacked it all in to become a truck driver in the States.
Chippington’s chief cheerleader has been Stewart Lee, who credits his fellow West Midlander as inspiring him to take up comedy in the Eighties, and the spirit of the night he put together in his name was to evoke those distant times. Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1985.
Then, alternative comedy had little foothold outside central London, and the rules – and audience expectations – had yet to solidify. There mightn’t have been the venues back then, but the church of comedy was a broader one.
So for Tedstock, the young acts of the time who’ve grown into elder statesmen, dusted down their old routines. What other chance do you get to see material written in the Eighties?
Well Jongleurs, obviously.
The difference here is that these artists have moved on and are rather uncomfortable about dusting down this old material. See Phill Jupitus’s embarrassment as he retells one of his Porky The Poet verses about Beano characters growing up, hugely successful at the time, now cringingly bad. Or Richard Herring painfully deconstruction of the ‘Jamaica? No she went of her own accord gag’ from a hundred different angles, none of them particularly funny.
It was a catalogue of bad jokes, ill remembered and clunkily performed. Yet it was absolutely hilarious as the artifice of stand-up is stripped away and we can simply enjoy a night of people having a laugh together at stupid stuff.
Benign nutjob Josie Long – one of the new generation of comics alternating with the old guard – nailed it with stupid, mundane fantasies about dating hip-hop star Nelly. Then, a dreadful succession of non-jokes about celebrities starting businesses appropriate to their surname. This was truly in the spirit of Chippington, the self-confessed ‘anti-comedian’, but received the warmest of welcomes, giving lie to the heckler who once devastated young Long with the simple but brutal putdown: ‘You are doing it wrong.’
The material of Simon Munnery, who appeared in two guises as The Security Guard and Alan Parker, Urban Warrior, has best withstood the test of time. As the humourless guard, he deadpans dry one-liners much smarter than they seem; as the aimless, angry anarchist he angrily paces the stage, hectoring the system and subtly subverting adolescent rebellion with every empty agit-prop slogan. The only problem is he’s just too good, his expert rhetoric holding the audience in rapt attention at every turn.
Elsewhere Bridget Christie, Lee’s wife, appeared as novelist Dan Brown, retelling old jokes in overdramatic purple prose – a satire which has its great lines but always seems more suited to the printed page, like a Craig Brown parody, than performance. Wry Scotsman Stephen Carlin entertained with his crackpot theories and snooker obsession, the audience’s patience with his off-kilter viewpoints rewarded with some strikingly original thoughts. And Simon Amstell, said to have been brought in because none of the other acts were popular enough to shift tickets, mixed his ever-reliable set with a nostalgic attempt at recreating his naive first attempt at drama-school stand-up, complaining about Cilla Black’s Surprise, Surprise.
Then came the act most people had been waiting for – and it wasn’t Chippington, who hadn’t initially been scheduled to appear. Besides, few of the surprisingly young audience would have remembered him. It was the reunion after seven years – though it seems like longer – of Lee and Herring, promising a repackaged trot through their greatest hits.
Actually they started – after a rapturous welcome – with something bang up-to-date, mocking this week’s ubiquitous Mitchell and Webb Apple adverts, Herring pitifully and angrily whining that it should have been them enjoying such commercial, Lee’s implacable indifference only making his partner even wilder and juvenile.
It was all knockabout fun, playing with the fact that both they, and their audience, knew the material so well. Punchlines were pre-empted, the comics mercilessly teased each other and the passage of time since this was first performed rather brutally, but hilariously, exposed. It might have only been a bit of self-aware mucking about, but it served as a great reminder of how much we’ve missed them together.
Then, by way of an anticlimax, the man who this whole night had been about. Despite the press coverage, it was still a surprise to see just how unwilling Chippington is to deliver anything like a joke. The profiles have concentrated on some of his more structured ‘I was walking down the road…’ jokes, but here he just twitters on, pretty much apropos of nothing. Even this savvy crowd were left bewildered as the anti-comedian struck. This was supposed to be a comedy legend?
I guess he’s just too willfully different to care much about gags and punchlines. John Peel was a big fan, and you can see parallels with some of the more extreme music he used to love – without much in the way of tune, melody or lyrics. Likewise, Chippington seems as if he’ll always too inaccessible, too hardcore, for many.
Still, I bought the CDs. I’ll give this cult another go. After all, anyone who inspired the impressive line-up that made tonight such a laugh has to be worth some effort.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
The CD set will be available from Big Print records, priced £15. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
What a brilliant and sometimes sureal night! It was great to see those early acts I was too young to see first time (something alluded to by Lee throughout the night). A great mix of old and new. Seeing Rich and Stu on stage together again was the highlight of my night for sure.
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How To Write An Opera About Jerry Springer
Richard Herring: Someone Likes Yoghurt
Simon Amstell: The Last Minute Alternative
Simon Munnery's AGM
Stewart Lee: 90s Comedian
Simon Amstell 2008 tour
Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle
Bridget Christie: The Cheese Roll
Dirty Book Club
Josie Long: Kindness and Exuberance
Richard Herring: Menage A Un
Simon Munnery's Annual General Meeting
Stephen Carlin: Fantastic Voyage
The Book Club
Big Value Comedy Show Late
Exploding Head Comedy
Richard Herring: The 12 Tasks Of Hercules Terrace
Simon Munnery's AGM
Simon Munnery: Buckethead
Simon Munnery: Trilogy
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Richard Herring: Talking Cock
Simon Munnery: Noble Thoughts Of A Noble Mind
Stewart Lee: Pea Green Boat
The Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers
Hegley's Journals and Playlet With Simon Munnery
Richard Herring: Christ On A Bike!
The Comedy Clone
Stewart Lee's Badly Mapped World
A Seriously Funny Attempt To Get The SFO in The Dock
At Last! The 1981 Show
Book Club At The British Library
Brighton Comedy Festival: Best Of The Fest
Comedy Store's 30th Anniversary Charity Gala
Funny Women Final 2004
Ha Ha Hammersmith II
Laughter In Odd Places
Malcolm Hardee Charity Cabaret 2007
Malcolm Hardee tribute show
Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People
Robin Ince's Christmas Book Club 2006
School For Gifted Children
Stand Up Get Down
Stewart Lee: What Would Judas Do?
Teenage Cancer Trust Benefit 2007
Ten Best Stand-ups In The World Ever. Gig 1
Jerry Springer The Opera, Cambridge Theatre
Jerry Springer: The Opera, National Theatre
Bridget Christie: The Court Of King Charles II
Johnson and Boswell: Late But Live
Josie Long: Trying Is Good
Phill Jupitus and Andre Vincent: Waiting For Alice
Phill Jupitus Reads Dickens
Richard Herring: Oh Fuck, I'm 40
Simon Amstell: No Self
Simon Munnery: Annual General Meeting 2007
Stand Up For Animals
Stephen Carlin: Armchair Renaissance Man
Stewart Lee: 41st Best Stand-Up Ever
Bridget Christie: The Court Of King Charles II The Second
Elizabeth And Raleigh: Late But Live
Josie Long And Special Guests Mucking About
Josie Long: All Of The Planet’s Wonders (Shown In Detail)
Richard Herring: The Headmaster's Son
Simon Munnery: Annual General Meeting 2008
Stewart Lee: Scrambled Egg
This Show Belongs To Lionel Richie No 3: Up Arthurs Seat
Aaaaaaaaaarrghh! It's Bollock Relief
Andrew Collins And Richard Herring: Collings and Herrin Podcast Live!
Bridget Christie: My Daily Mail Hell
Purple Ronnie's Stand Up Poetry Club
Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache
Simon Amstell: Do Nothing
Simon Munnery's AGM09
Stand Up For Freedom 
Stephen Carlin Blows The Lid Off The Whole Filthy Business
Stewart Lee: If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One
Simon Amstell: Montreal 2009
Bridget Christie: A Ant
Chortle Presents Fast Fringe [Edinburgh 2010]
Collins And Herring Podcast Live
Josie Long's Monsters Of Whimsy
Josie Long: Be Honourable!
Richard Herring: As It Occurs To Me
Richard Herring: Christ on a Bike – The Second Coming
Simon Munnery: Self-employed
Stephen Carlin: The Podium of Unconditional Surrender
Stewart Lee: Silver Stewbilee
Stewart Lee: Vegetable Stew
Bridget Christie: Housewife Surrealist
Josie Long: The Future Is Another Place
Phill Jupitus' Quartet 'Made Up'
Phill Jupitus: Stand Down
Richard Herring: What Is Love Anyway?
Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe Podcast
Simon Munnery: Hats Off For The 101ers, And Other Material
Stephen Carlin: Guilty Bystander
Stewart Lee: Flickwerk 2011. Work In Progress
Bridget Christie: War Donkey
Josie Long and Sam Schäfer's Awkward Romance
Josie Long: Romance and Adventure
Phill Jupitus is Porky the Poet in 27 Years On
Phill Jupitus: You're Probably Wondering Why I've Asked You Here
Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast 2012
Richard Herring: Talking Cock: The Second Coming
Simon Amstell: Numb
Simon Munnery's La Concepta
Simon Munnery: Fylm-Makker
Stephen Carlin: Pandas VS Penguins
Stewart Lee: Carpet Remnant World
This Arthur's Seat Gala Belongs To Lionel Richie
Bridget Christie: A Bic for Her
Comedy Gala In Aid Of Waverley Care 2013
Phill Jupitus and Deborah Frances-White: Voices in Your Head: The Phill Jupitus Experiment
Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast 2013
Richard Herring: We’re All Going to Die!
Simon Munnery: Fylm
Stephen Carlin: Gambling Man
Stewart Lee: Much A-Stew About Nothing