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I only caught the odd episode of this show on it's initial run (and I
was a little disappointed by what I saw), but years later a friend
showed me the episode, "Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door" featuring Rik Mayall
and Ade Edmondson as a couple of seedy alcoholic losers. About 8 years
on from that first viewing I still rate it as one of the funniest
things I've ever seen... TV show or movie. Although it's a fairly close
comedic relative of this particular episode, I've never been a fan of
Bottom. The characters are sleazy but too far removed from reality to
be anything more than cartoonish, but in 'Mr. Jolly' their frightening
alcohol consumption and heroically antisocial behaviour make for
brilliant entertainment. Granted, they may not appeal to everyone. You
could say it's a one-joke show but it works for me.
The story revolves around these two losers mistakenly accepting a job intended for the eponymous Jolly (Peter Cooke), a hit-man charged with 'taking out' Nicholas Parsons. Misunderstanding, they take Parsons (playing himself) out for the night. I don't want to bang on about it endlessly, I'm only writing this in the hope of bringing it to the attention of someone, hopefully spreading the word on it's originality and brilliance, even just a little!
Any fans of Rik Mayall, The Young Ones, Bottom etc. simply must track this priceless gem down (I eventually found an official VHS so it has been released at some point). Like I say I'm not even a particular fan of their previous work so anyone who is must go nuts for this.
Trust me, you have to love it!
"The comic strip presents" team is made up of numerous hero's of British comedy, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmundson, French + Saunders, Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer to name just a few. Starting in The "Comic strip night club" in the early 80's they turned many a famous head. Getting their break with channel 4 was in my opinion, the best choice the channel has ever made. Ranging from famous five re-makes to posing as heavy metal super-stars, the comic strip team have excelled in over 30 TV films and a number of feature movies. Building a base for Mayall and Edmondson to leap foward, they have gone on to become household names appearing in such favourites as "Bottom" and "The young ones" (also with Nigel Planer.) All in all the comic strip team have achieved comic greatness at the very highest level. A shining example to young and old comedians.
The first 'Comic Strip Presents ...' production came to our screens on
the opening night of Channel 4 (I think) with one of the best editions,
'Five Go Mad In Dorset' (Peter Richardson as Julian, Ade Edmondson as
Dick, Jennifer Saunders as Anne, Dawn French as George, and Ronald
Allen aka David from Crossroads as Uncle Quentin. Also featured Daniel
Peacock, now there's a blast from the past, as Toby).
Future editions were a bit hit and miss but I'm glad to have been around when these were new: 'The Bad News Tour' (including Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer as well as Ade from The Young Ones); 'Gino' (with Keith Allen and Robbie Coltrane); 'The Bullshitters' (the Professionals spoof with Keith Allen as Bonehead and Peter Richardson as Foyle; Scum's Julian Firth; Esther Freud as a backstage floozy, and Elvis Costello as an A&R man); 'The Strike' (following the miners' strike, this appeared - three Allens (Keith, Kevin, Ronald) and the loud Scouser Alexei Sayle); the wonderful 'Mr Jolly Lives Next Door' (Peter Cook, Nicholas Parsons, and I seem to remember Rowland Rivron in this?); and 'The Yob' (Keith Allen again; Julian Firth as a coke addict; Warren Clarke; Gary Olsen; and Derrick Branche).
By the mid-1990s though the series was looking tired - a new generation of comedians was starting to appear and the Comic Strip gang were all heading into their 40s and beyond. Some went on to greater things, some disappeared. I doubt a series like this would survive for nearly twenty years if it started now, with largely the same core cast. 'The Comic Strip Presents ...' was groundbreaking and largely a lot of fun.
Many episodes of 'The Comic Strip Presents' were parodies of specific
or TV shows, or parodies of film/TV genres. The episode transmitted 3
November 1984 was titled 'The Bullsh**ters', and it's an hilarious parody
the ITV action series 'The Professionals' in particular and thick-ear
action shows in general.
The crime-fighting partners in 'The Professionals' were named Bodie and Doyle, so here in 'The Bullsh**ters' we have Keith Allen and Peter Richardson (both of whom also wrote the script) as Bonehead and Foyle, taking orders from their commanding officer, hilariously played by Robbie Coltrane. Bodie and Doyle, of course, had an expensive car with all sorts of gizmos ... but Bonehead and Foyle have to make do with bus passes as they rush from headquarters to their deadly missions.
Coltrane has one very funny set-piece routine, in which he shows Bonehead and Foyle the proper way for a TV action hero to get into a car. Elvis Costello is also funny in a brief turn as a deaf man. Alana Pellay and Jimmy Fagg (don't ask) play themselves.
unique, hilarious parodies of cliche-ridden entertainment by a semiregular group of brits. I particularly remember their spoofs of spaghetti westerns ('a fistful of travelers checks') and post-apocalyptic flicks ('the slags'), as well as shots at kids shows, Rebecca, back-to-the-wilderness retreats, and a pre-Spinal Tap metal band's misfortunes. the Slags featured a young Anthony Stewart Head (Giles on Buffy tVS) as the leader of a gang called the Hawaiians ('that's not...nice!'). my personal favorite is the 'Travelers Checks' episode; the music and scenery and camera work would have made a perfectly good movie of the genre (especially the guitar-and-whistle music); and who could forget 'Billy Balfour, the Man with No Name'?! some of the regulars (Ade Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer) played in the bizzare 'Young Ones' series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You what? You what you what you what? Keith Allen is the master of yob
culture telly. The Yob! is like my favourite all time classic Comic
Strip Presents episode. A yobbo Arsenal fan racist thug swaps brains
with a yuppie pop video director. Only a genius like Keith Allen could
have come up with an idea like this. Especially like the scene where he
physically transforms into the yob and his frontal lobes protrudes
outwardly. Brilliant. Then the scene where he goes out of the pub
shouting "You're gonna get you're f*ing head kicked!" in true yob like
"The Comic Strip presents . . ." introduced a new crowd of "'varsity comics" (Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ade Edondson, Rick Mayall, Robbie Coltrane) to British commercial television, and a fresh approach to the half-hour comedy format. Led (as performer, writer, and director) by Peter Richardson, the Channel 4 series broke away from the crazy-sketch format which had dominated the years since the debut of Monty Python, instead focusing each episode on a playful exploration of a particular film or TV genre, some quintessentially British ("Five Go Mad in Dorset," with its deadpan tweaking of Enid Blyton's wartime children's adventure books) to presciently contemporary ("Bad News Tour," which beat "Spinal Tap" to the screen by almost two years). Richardson's penchant for genre critique above all sometimes led to stylishly inert outings like "Beat Generation," but also to wildly idiosyncratic and memorable excursions like "Summer School," "Bullsh*tters," and "A Fistful of Traveler's Cheques." Unfortunately only available on DVD as a nine-count'em nine disc set in PAL format, The Comic Strip deserves a two or three disc compilation of its most marvelous episodes: After 25 years, many play better than most contemporary comedy today.
9 discs of the entire cast of The Young Ones and French and Saunders
before they hit their stride. From the opening night of Channel 4 in
1982, to mid-nineties burnout. "Hit 'n miss" is the best description
for this collection, but you will have to sit through every episode to
find the few you agree with (keep in mind they are over an hour long
each, with some at feature length). Each (with the exception of the
Famous Five, Bad News and Bullshitters reprises) is completely
different, and range from bold and original, to unfunny, or unbearable.
Personal favourites include:
Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door - resides somewhere between Rick and Viv, Bottom and the movie Guest House Paradiso. No-brow humor that will only appeal to those born with a penis. And depends on whether you find Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson screaming "Nicholas, Bloody, Parsons! You BASTARD!" funny. Most will.
Bad News / More Bad News - Predated Spinal Tap. As this is made by actual Brits, it gets right a lot of what Tap got wrong.
The Strike / GLC - Brilliant send-up of pretty much everything, the real highlight of the collection and espoused by all. You will never view a British film in quite the same way after seeing this.
Four Men in a Car/Plane - One-offs independent of the series, and the comedians at the height of their maturity. The best each has to offer.
Spaghetti Hoops - Not laugh-out-loud funny, but not meant to be. Toward the end they were finally able to make the art house short they were aiming for.
Private Enterprise and Gino don't have belly laughs, but they do have an enjoyable forward momentum. Whilst others will make you ask "what the hell were they thinking?" The entire series was timely and topical, which means that all the short films are incredibly dated. And most will no doubt play better in the mind's eye than actually watching them again. Making the first few discs write-offs on repeat viewing. Even at their worst, you have to admire their originality.
I remember catching The Comic Strip back when it was first aired stateside. I waited with anticipation every week to see what the next show would conjure up. My favorite of the series was definitely "Bad News Tour", "More Bad News", and "The Supregrass" flick. These scamps were also responsible for aiding with the development of the phenomenal "Eat The Rich" film. Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Christopher Ryan and Rik Mayall would go on to fame as "The Young Ones." Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French would go on to "French and Saunders" and eventually part ways for "Absolutely Fabulous" and "The Vicar of Dibley." Basic comparison as far as career launching would be comparative of "SCTV" or the original "Saturday Night Live" TV series here in the states. The shows and skits were very well written. Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall would go on to do "The Dangerous Brothers," "Filthy, Madcap and Laughing" and "Bottom." Excellent stuff that is all well overdue for a region DVD reissue.
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