Awful and beautiful... my stand-up of choice

Hebburn creator Jason Cook chooses his comedy favourites

Bad News By The Comic Strip Presents

My favourite ever Comic Strip creation. They did two ‘episodes’ of the story of the worst Heavy Metal band in the world. The characters are great and each time they seem to be winning they manage to muck things up for themselves.

They even did a tour of Bad News playing live and putting on a full rock concert. I was lucky enough to go and I remember standing slack-jawed at the back with my Mam (I was about 13) as they brought true chaos to the stage.

Ad-libs, fights in the band, and at one point a proper fight with the audience as Rik Mayall was dragged in to the audience and they pulled his wig off while the punches flew. But, such was their commitment to it, that Mayall got back on stage and stayed completely in character, even with blood running down his face.

The next day they also did an album signing as the characters. And they came up with it all before Spinal Tap even existed.

Rowan Atkinson: Not Just a Pretty Face

The first comedy show I ever saw at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle. It was the tour he did with Angus Deayton that had the very first Mr Bean silent sketch in it. Atkinson has gone on to play some of the defining characters on the comedy landscape, but this was just a tour de force of all his comic abilities.

And they are many. The Scottish headmaster who beats the schoolboy to death, the indian waiter, the award acceptance speech from a bitter actor. Each perfectly observed and nuanced, it’s an outstanding piece of work.

For me though, the stand out part is Toby the Devil's orientation seminar to hell. Or is it the teacher reading out the names from the register? Bugger, can we just put both clips up?

Louis CK

Every comedian should and MUST put Louis on a list like this. People talk about his prolific turnover of material, or his mastery at marketing himself online with downloadable specials, but they miss out the biggest thing, which is his talent.

I’m addicted to Louis’ stand-up and probably listen to any one of the dozens of recordings that I have at least once a week to both entertain and depress myself at just how good he is. There is passion without having to scream like a maniac, utter filth sits next to some amazingly witty quips. And all while wearing crappy trainers and a scruffy T-shirt. No sharp suits or big backdrops, just banging stand-up by a bloke that looks like everybody’s dad.

The Xanderpuss piece on the Beacon theatre special about how Louis hates a child in his daughter’s school so much that he will turn himself gay to confuse the child’s father is at the same time awful and beautiful. Which is my stand-up of choice.

The Dish

Probably my favourite comedy film of all time. Quite gentle when compared to some of the other stuff I’ve listed, but there are some incredibly deft performances and writing in it, and the end never fails to put a lump in my throat.

For those who haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a tiny town in Australia that has a radio reception dish that’s going to be used to cover the moon landings when the reception dishes in America are on the other side of the world so are blocked by the Earth.

But their role as a backup dish changes and the story of not only the men who work at the Dish, but also the town where they live and how this affects the characters there is incredible. It shows how ambition, pride in your hometown, and being swept away in a moment can all be conveyed on screen at the same time. Perfect.

Billy Connolly: Incontinence trousers

Probably one of the most played clips of stand up ever. From An Audience With Billy Connolly this was a huge moment in stand up history in the UK. Before we had Live at The Apollo or Michael McIntrye’s Roadshow, Stand Up For The Week or any of the vast choice of stand up shows on TV right now, there wasn’t really any way to watch stand ups apart from the odd chat show appearance, or, if they were very lucky, their own shows (Jasper Carrot, Jimmy Cricket).

Connolly has had such an influence on my life it is indescribable how I couldn’t put him in the list. My dad would work away for six months at a time and when he came home, one of the things we would do together was watch Billy Connolly videos. He would make my father laugh so much I always wanted to be just like him, to make me dad laugh.

So, when it comes to stand up, he really is The Daddy.


What a wanker eh? Putting his own show? Self publicising tosser! But, I do have an excuse. It is a comedy (I hope you agree) and it’s the one I have seen the most, through writing, filming, editing, sound dubbing, I have seen each episode hundreds, if not thousands of times.

And I’m not watching it because it’s funny (it is, hopefully), but because in every shot, every time star Chris Ramsey touches his hair, every time I look out of place, I could tell you at least a dozen stories about that exact moment that happened somewhere along the journey to getting it on screen.

And I’ll watch when I’m old and grey and setting up the karaoke equipment (that is my inevitable future) in the Dog and Bastard on a Saturday night, and I’ll be able to hear the regulars whispering: 'He’s watching his telly show again, he’s never let it go.'

  • Jason Cook's sitcom Hebburn starts on BBC Two at 10pm tomorrow.

Published: 17 Oct 2012

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