'The emergence of true, unvarnished talent' | Charles Booth chooses his comedy favourites © Steve Ullathorne

'The emergence of true, unvarnished talent'

Charles Booth chooses his comedy favourites

Monty Python and The Holy Grail

There are comedy films that I have grown to love more - Addams Family, Birdcage, Spinal Tap - and there is a better Python film in Life of Brian, but Holy Grail represents a moment of awakening for me.

A friend at primary school called Micky Anderson snuck the VHS of this surreal odyssey out of a drawer one day and we sat down to watch it. I had only heard vague mentions of whatever a Monty Python was before that afternoon. Sure, everybody can quote the lines and do the voices, but it's the tactile weight of all the mud and smoke and fire that pulsates in my memory.

That and the fact that the scene with the killer bunny rabbit was the first time I can remember laughing until I couldn't breathe!

Not The Nine O' Clock News

Another milestone in the comedy landscape of my childhood. I first experienced the series on BBC compilation cassette tapes rather than TV. Receiving just the voices of Atkinson, Stephenson, Smith & Jones directly into my ears was a very intimate experience.

Unlike a lot of shows today, I don't think a single premise for a sketch is ever repeated and yet each one is as invigorating as it is hilarious.


So many beloved sitcoms to choose from - The Good Life is a close contender - but this is the one for me. I may not laugh in hysterics at every single episode, but like all great American sitcoms it creates a world I never want to leave and a family I want to be part of.

I watched every single episode with my brother Oliver back when we used to share a room together and we sat down with the last episode just before I moved away to Toronto. The farewell between Niles and Frasier was everything I wanted to say to Olly. The moments of the show were the moments of our lives together.

Wicked by Tina Fey & Rachel Dratch at The Second City

The Second City has been the wellspring of North American comedy for more than 50 years. When I studied at The Toronto training centre the walls were filled with pictures of comedy legends just starting out in live shows: John Candy, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Steve Carrell.

This particular sketch was performed on the Chicago MainStage as part of the revue Paradigm Lost in 1997. Watching the sketch isn't just gawking at a celebrity 'before they got famous'; it's a chance to watch the emergence of true, unvarnished talent.

Eddie Murphy: Delirious

If the likes of Tina Fey took years honing her craft, Eddie Murphy seems to have simply jumped on the stage fully formed. Clad from neck to toe in leather, every muscle in his body seems primed to astound everyone in its wake. He was only 23.

You have to take some of the material with a handful of salt, especially if you're not a fan of the word 'fag', but the sheer force of his personality can churn every fibre of your being into laughter.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

I had to include a Christmas movie! I'm a total Noël nerd!

It seems almost all the things on this list got their spot because they made me asphyxiate from laughter or dehydrate from tears. The soundtrack of The Muppet Christmas Carol alone has the power to pummel me into a blubbery mess, usually when I'm in a public place like wedged in between disgruntled December commuters on the Underground.

As all great comedy should be, this film is my happy place.

Charles Booth: Deer In The Spotlights is on at Just The Tonic At The Mash House at 17:20

Published: 24 Aug 2015

What do you think?

Today's comedy-on demand picks


Plebs and Pls Like star Jon Pointing has been shooting this online sitcom while volunteering for a local food bank. He plays Bradley from Bromley, a twentysomething lifted from his inertia by a newfound purpose in life.

The series has been produced by Baby Cow Productions, whose creative director Steve Coogan called it 'warm, funny and beautifully observed.'

Click for more suggestions

... including Lovebirds,a new Netflix comedymovie starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, and Jen Brister headlining a charity comedy gig.

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