'There really isn’t any anarchy in TV comedy these days'

Steve Oram picks his comedy favourites

John Shuttleworth: 500 Bus Stops

I’ve loved John Shuttleworth since I was a teenager. I think his creator, Graham Fellows, is an underrated, understated genius and one of the best character comedians ever. A master of the mundane.

John Shuttleworth is a beautifully observed character: subtle, good-natured, real but surreal, has pathos, with amazing material and brilliant songs on a Casio keyboard. His songs seem so simple but they are really clever and detailed. I just love ‘Unaccompanied Lady’ which is a tale of unrequited love at a conference for security personnel. He never even speaks to the lady, just sees her across the bar. It’s heartbreaking!

He also has a song called Dandelion and Burdock which goes’At the Crich Tram Museum, disaster befell poor Ian. A vicious jasper made him drop, his Dandelion and Burdock’. Brilliant…

500 Bus Stops’ was a TV series he did in the Nineties about a fictional UK tour that goes wrong when his Austin Ambassador breaks down and he has to carry on on public transport. He ends up playing ‘gigs’ in places like supermarkets, filmed by his squeaky-voiced, less than helpful mate ‘Ken’. Songs such as ‘Eggs and gammon/ poor Rhiannon/ Ken had wind…’

The whole show was a joy, it’s just so funny how upbeat he remains in the face of disaster, stranded in bleak or mundane places still living the dream. It’s brilliantly bittersweet.

The Young Ones

The first comedy that really made me laugh so much I was rolling around on the floor unable to control myself. I was about eight years old and it was the bit where Ade Edmondson smashes through the wall and lands on the table when the others are eating breakfast. And there was the bit when their hamster SPG does a fart and flies across the room. That was my level of humour then, and still is now.

But I loved the anarchy of Rick and Ade especially. They were brilliant doing the Dangerous Brothers and in Bottom too, some of the best slapstick you’ll ever see. Genuinely exciting to watch and really funny. There really isn’t any anarchy in TV comedy these days and there needs to be. Bring back Rick and Ade and get em to smash some shit up!

 Matt Lucas as Sir Bernard Chumley

I saw Matt Lucas do Sir Bernard Chumley’s Gang Show at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh in 1997 and to this day it’s the live show that made me laugh the most. My friend Kath and I were pissing ourselves laughing for the entire hour without taking breath, it was almost embarrassing.

Matt Lucas really hit that sweet spot of surrealism where the audience almost didn’t know why they were laughing so hard, they were just carried along on waves and waves of hilarity. The genius you also get with Vic and Bob, it was euphoric. It was an amazing show about an ageing gay thesp recounting tales of 50 years on the Edinburgh Fringe. With David Walliams playing his sidekick helping out ‘as part of my parole’.

Matt Lucas can make you laugh without appearing to do anything. Like Tommy Cooper, Oliver Hardy, Nick Frost. An amazing thing to watch. It is the show that inspired me to do comedy.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too

One of my favourite comedy films ever, with an amazing script by Andrea Dunbar and brilliant performances all round. I remember watching it when I was about 15 and it being unlike anything I had ever seen. The characters are all just brilliant, right down to the more minor ones like the pissed, abusive dad. It’s funny, truthful and sad and has some amazing lines: ‘We haven't got eggs inside us. We're not ducks, you know!’

The comedy never tries too hard and the situations all have truth which is one of the things that makes it so great. I love the scenes on the moors when the three of them go up for a ‘jump’, they are just hilarious. ‘Jesus, it looks like a frozen sausage!’. Andrea Dunbar was a gem of a writer and I wish she was around today.

Vivian Stanshall: Sir Henry at Rawlinson’s End

I got into Viv Stanshall’s stuff just as I was doing my first gigs on the open mic scene and would wish I could write as well as him. He was a master of words and surreal ramblings as well as a brilliant musician.

Sir Henry is my favourite, it’s just great to put a pair of headphones on and immerse yourself in the world. There are so many amazing lines in it: ‘If I had all the money I’d spent on booze, I’d spend it all on booze.’ And I love all the different characters he plays – Mrs E, Aunt Florrie, Scrotum ‘the wrinkled retainer’, it’s just a masterpiece.

The Two Ronnies

I was addicted to this as a kid. I remember re-enacting their sketches in the school playground. Ronnie Barker was just the best comic actor. I love the rook restaurant sketch where he’s a waiter in a restaurant that only has rook on the menu. He’s so downbeat and put-upon, pouring himself a glass of beer and sitting down with them while he waits for them to order.

I love him as Fletch in Porridge too, a character nothing like him as a person, just shows how good he was. But the Two Ronnies has a special place in my affections. My mum even took me and my brother to see them at the London Palladium when I was a kid, which I loved. ‘It’s good night from me. And it’s good night from him.’


  • Sightseers, co-written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today. Click here to order.

Published: 26 Mar 2013

Live comedy picks

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