Tuesday, 21 August 2012


I'm just watching a repeat (well, it has to be) of one of the Steptoe & son episodes/ It must be 40 to 50 years old, but it's a classic. There's no nastiness, no toilet humour, no swearing, just a good storyline and very cleverly written scripts acted by seasoned comedians.

So what happened?

First of all we had Fawlty Towers, the ultimate in SitComs with John Cleese.. Only 12 episodes were made and even though they're shown repeatedly on BBC2 and Dave they remain incredible funny and timeless. All the characters are superbly realistic and entirely 3D with all the jokes being against the hapless Basil Fawlty and to a lesser extent Manuel the waiter.

We also had Morecombe and Wise, where normally very serious celebrities queued to be join in the fun and to be ridiculed to some extent. The Two Ronnies with Corbett and Barker did much the same and both TV shows had half the nation watching them with the Christmas specials being almost compulsory. Even Ronnie Barker's SitComs, Open All Hours and Porridge were good clean humour with millions following them. It's amazing to thin the last one was first shown 35 years ago.

After that we moved on to The Young Ones which had the odd redeeming feature and then to Bottom, which speaks for itself. After that it was up to America to provide comedy we felt comfortable with in the shape of Cheers, Friends and Frazier, though I have to admit I never really thought them that funny. When you see the list of ten to twenty script writers involved with each programme who agonised over every gag fr days on end it makes you realise how clever people like Galton & Simpson really were.

Humour now seems to depend on someone being the focus of nastiness based on sex (usually their inadequacy), lack of limbs, an accent which for some reason is funny, or their colour. Stand-up comedians especially go out of their way to shock audiences and people often laugh out of embarrassment rather than enjoyment. What's more they pay to have themselves and their intelligence insulted.

Think back then, and I'm probably speaking to the older generation and Dave watchers here, to those TV and radio comedy shows that we harken back to with nostalgia because the humour was clean, clever and we all liked the characters. Let's list them:-

 - The Navy Lark
 - Hancock's Half Hour (Amazingly people say that after Sid James left, Hancock wasn't the same and yet his most famous episodes were "The Bllod Donor" and "The Radio Ham" to name but two."
 - The Goon Show
 - Round the Horne and Beyond Our Ken
 - Dad's Army
 - It Ain't Half Hot Mum.
 - Yes Minister
 - Hi Di Hi
 - You Rang My Lord
 - Are You Being Served
 - The Brittas Empire.
 - Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Then there's quiz shows-
 - Have I got News For You
 - Just a Minute
 - The News Quiz
 - I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue
 - QI

I still laugh, but then I'm listening to all the Goons and Hancock CDs, while watching the last bit of Syeptoe & Son. Thank God for Dave or there'd be nothing to laugh at!

What makes you laugh?

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