You couldn't call viewers 'benders' today

Lloyd Langford on his comedy favourties

Round The Bend

This was a kids’ TV show that was a sort of mixture of Spitting Image and Viz. I’m not sure you’d be able to get away with it now, calling the viewers ‘benders’. I remember watching it as an eight-year-old and thinking it was the pinnacle of comedy. It was a winning combination of puppets, slapstick violence and numerous fart jokes.

Though it was often crude, it was also underpinned by an intelligence apparent in both its influences (not many other children’s shows did B-movie parodies) and love of wordplay (Roger Prentice The Apprentice Dentist). I’m still laughing now at the Wikipedia page: ‘Tommy's Magic Time Trousers - an animation about a boy who can travel through time whenever he drops his trousers.’ It was rude, clever anarchic and bloody funny.

Sort of like Bottom but broadcast just for children at 4 in the afternoon. It really deserves a DVD release. I’d be happy to chip in for it.

Why Bother?

I don’t know if it is just my brain getting clouded by nostalgia but Loaded magazine used to be quite good. I used to buy it as an impressionable teenager for both the tits and the writing. I found out about Bill Hicks, Phillip Roth, Hunter S. Thompson, Luke Rhinehart and The 24 Carat Black from Loaded articles.

One issue came with a cassette (ask your parents) featuring snippets of comedy shows from contributors such as Ali G and Peter Cook & Chris Morris. Why Bother? was recorded for BBC Radio 3 and consists of five ten-minute interviews between interviewer Morris and Cook’s eccentric alter ego Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling. It’s just brilliantly surreal stuff featuring two of British comedy’s heavyweights mentally sparring with each other. It’s some of the best ad-libbing you’ll ever hear. A particular personal highlight is Streeb-Greebling’s account of his involvement in cloning Christ.

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

This is a novel about a young man who is addicted to wanking. It’s incredibly funny and presented as a continuous monologue by the titular character (Alexander Portnoy) to his therapist. It’s won various accolades and was banned in Australia.

You’re kind of dragged along with Portnoy and his terrible impulses but it’s an incredibly funny ride. I remember finding it on my Dad’s bookshelf and it opened me up to a whole new world of American humourists such as Kurt Vonnegut Jr., James Thurber and Richard Brautigan. It’s also the only novel I’ve read with a proper Punch line.

Craig Campbell

I saw my first live stand up gig at university (Chris Addison supported by Francesca Martinez on the now almost defunct Avalon Comedy Network) and was lucky enough to see some fantastic acts. But a particular standout was Craig Campbell. As he walked onto the stage I thought he had the air of a man who knew what he was doing.

I wasn’t wrong. It was an extraordinary performance. Campbell’s hilarious tales of his international travels were delivered in a relaxed, understated almost conversational style. It was a seemingly effortless approach. Here was a guy who didn’t need to jump around or shout to grab your attention. He just needed to talk.

I think it’s something you see in a lot of Canadian comedians. Not cockiness but self-assurance. I guess if you started out having to drive for a couple of days to get to a gig, when you eventually got there, you needed to be fucking funny.

Soupy Norman

Silky first showed me this in a Narberth B&B. I think our howling laughter drew complaints from the other residents. Soupy Norman is an Irish TV programme broadcast on RTE and created by Mark Doherty and Barry Murphy. It’s basically Irish comedians re-dubbing a genuine Polish soap opera.

The (very loose) plot centres on the culture shock encountered by a country girl as she moves to Dublin. It’s a true cult gem. The original slightly dull soap opera is transformed into a mix of off-kilter characters, bizarre scenarios (I particularly like the dog theft episode) and an appearance in each episode of the exact same scene featuring the title character, Soupy Norman.

That’s right. Soupy Norman turns up at the house eight times over the series, his bizarre behaviour explained in a totally different way each time by the brilliant team of voice-over artists. We’ve all mucked about by turning the volume down on the TV and pretended to be the actors. This is the gold standard.

The Best Meal I Ever Had/What’s New Pussycat?

I found this on YouTube. I think I might have been directed to it by the AV Club (an excellent source of writing on pop culture) or possibly by Steve Hall, who is a sort of Rain Man of international comedy.

It doesn’t matter. It’s just a joyful bit of stand-up, a masterclass in both storytelling and repetition. I’ve never seen John Mulaney live but I’ll hopefully rectify that soon. I have a story about inappropriate use of Tom Jones’ music in my show this year, so I kind of feel we’d get on well together.

Published: 16 Aug 2012

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