Ways You Can Support My ‘Art’

•November 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

As I’m no longer able to edit the outdated list of links on the right, I’ve compiled some ways for you to help support my pumping out of the literary gold, if you so wish. For context, since the launching of the Patreon, I’ve posted over 100,000 words of free material on here each year. I hate getting into the grotty business of money, but I can’t do this if I starve to death, so here’s how you can slow my eventual descent into the skeletal realm.

SUPPORT ME ON PATREON. There are various tiers, starting at $1 a month, including access to tons of exclusive content which will never appear here on the free blog.

BUY MY BOOKS. I’ve got a number of titles available in both paperback and digital, on Amazon UK, and Amazon US, or your local Amazon of choice.

BUY ME A KO-FI, if you’d like to sling me the financial equivalent of a coffee. If it helps, feel free to pretend you’re throwing it in my face instead of letting me drink it.

CHUCK ME SOME MONEY ON PAYPAL.

Cheers.

Cilla at Christmas

•January 14, 2022 • 3 Comments

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 500,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Mike Reid’s Pussy in Boots

•January 3, 2022 • Leave a Comment

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Though I did eventually clear my plate of Jim Davidson’s rancid old trilogy of Christmas cum jokes, what kind of pop culture historian would I be without taking a header into the original rude panto? A perennial on fold-out tables manned by glum men at rainy car boots, Mike Reid’s Pussy in Boots pre-dates Sinderella by a year, with its VHS cover clunkily trumpeting “you will not believe what you will see,” and “you have been warned!” It also promises “IT’LL RAISE MORE THAN THE CURTAIN!” and lads, I think it means our willies! Jokes on you; Boobs in the Wood made me impotent.

Keep in mind, especially if you’re using a text-to-voice program, that this is Mike Reid off Runaround and EastEnders, and not DJ and rapper Mike Read, but if it makes it easier, just think of him as Frank Butcher, as everyone in 1994 did anyway. There’s no distinction between Reid and Butcher, although the former never killed Martine McCutcheon on New Year’s Eve (at least that I’m aware of). Reid’s a captivating figure, who I’ve covered once before; an aggressive bull of a man, with skin the colour — and texture — of ancient oak, adorned with a beaming white strip of teeth, like someone shining a floodlight through a letterbox.

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Easties is where Reid did his best work, in particular during 2000 as half of television’s most legendary extramarital affair, rocking up to Pat Butcher’s door in nothing but a revolving bow tie, and triggering the resulting slap-fight between Pat and Peggy — “You bitch!” “You cow!” Though she wouldn’t start on EastEnders until later that year, Reid landed Barbara Windsor as Pussy‘s fairy godmother, adding real star power to a format Jim stuffed with his non-PC-warrior mates. From what little information is available, it appears the show didn’t tour, and was conceived of purely as a VHS. Its solitary performance was taped at the 600-seater Beck Theatre in Hayes, which has the onscreen look of a village hall, and revealing camera angles show rows dotted with empty seats; either from weak-bladdered pensioners, or punters who’ve had enough.

Pussy‘s sleek running time of 74 minutes has me punching the air, a good half-hour shorter than Jim’s attempts to make the Fanny and Alexander of actual fannies. But even in such a tight space, you’ll hear the word ‘pussy’ so many times that it stops being double-entendre and becomes just a sound, like the beep from a smoke alarm which is probably just low battery, so you roll the dice and go back to sleep.

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We open with Mike Reid inside the frame of an oil painting, dressed as a lady and growling “where’s that fuckin’ pussy?” Pussy herself struts on in a leather miniskirt and red leather boots, and the title comes down over her boots and crotch, but the P looks like a B, and Bussy in Boots seems like a bawdy show starring losing Drag Race contestants and a confused Paul Danan that almost definitely exists in 2021. Because the most crucial part of mucky pantos is going on about massive wangers all the time, Reid stars as Big Dick Whittington, and will refer to his giant dong many times, usually accompanied by a little trumpet noise with his mouth. Pussy’s played by Cindy Milo, who’s got a sensational résumé; as herself in a James Whale, ‘Prostitute’ in an episode of Ghostbusters of East Finchley, Nude Art Model in a Mr. Bean, and an unnamed role in Hale and Pace. Her sole post-Pussy credits are grumble videos Schoolteacher Sex Lessons and Fetish Special 2 (no doubt just a lazy thematic retread of the original).

Barbara Windsor, dressed like Les McQueen, flies in for her first line, “what a bleedin’ carry on!” before squatting down to rearrange her knickers. She’s got a magic wand, with which “…I do tricks, such as inflate tiny dicks,” asking a man in the front row “d’ya need any help, darlin’?” Her character, Wandawoman, speaks entirely in rhyme, which are those bad-songwriter couplets where the word order’s switched to make it work, like narrating us back “300 years or more, when men were men, even though tights they wore.” She’s on wires for the whole show, and with a “beam me up, Scotty,” gets yanked offstage at the sort of speed which should be preceded with the words “hi, I’m Steve-O…” They make a joke of how roughly she’s hurtled about, but her pelvis must’ve been in a right state by the end.

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The curtain pulls back to reveal the set we’ll be staring at it for the next 45 minutes, as Pussy totters on to wolf whistles, sobbing “Woe is me, is there nobody who can do this poor girl a good turn?”A voice comes from the wings — “I’ll give you one, love!” It is an unmistakable voice, like a car starting on a cold morning; like a bear coughing up the bloodied jeans of a hiker; like Tom Waits drowning in a gravel pit. Usually bald, Mike Reid’s in a wig — the Ann Widdecombe — with a puffy yellow smock and flowing brown coat, immediately grabbing his crotch and informing us he has a big penis. It’s a pleasingly DC Thomson look, like the sheriff who charges Lord Snooty for taxes in a Robin Hood dream, or the best man at one of those Shrek weddings.

Fumbling his lines, he introduces himself as “Dick Whiddlem [sic], known to my friends as Big Dick.” Sometimes you forget, or tell yourself you’ve overplayed it in your mind, but my God, Mike Reid is incredibly cockney. If you ploughed into him on a zebra crossing, he’d explode in a shower of pearly buttons like Sonic. I’ve not seen such a lack of H’s since reading a list of the top 4 best members of Steps, and some of the slang is dying for an etymological backstory; like cunnilingus as “snarling at the busby.”

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The threadbare plot is Pussy’s lost and can’t remember which panto prince she’s supposed to be marrying, but there’s no time to get into that, as Reid’s bellowing jokes at the audience — “woss the difference between a penis and a bonus? Well your wife will always blow yer bonus!” While Davidson awkwardly crowbarred lines from his stand-up into the panto scripts, Reid just shoves his whole act in there, with repeated breaks to run through old pub standards about women not being able to drive, and nuns farting or wanking, or washing “the old fur burger.” At points, he’ll argue with a scripted heckler, threatening him with “a fuckin’ dry slap” and that he’ll be wearing his bollocks as a bow tie.

In a brief return to the story, there’s a pantomime bull with a huge stiffy and swinging ballbag — “‘ave a look at the plums on that!” Reid strikes a match off its knackers and lights a joint, with a “hey, man, good shit, maaan!” And then he’s back at it, slowly pummelling you with rights and lefts. “Two Irishmen were in a car…” WALLOP! “Remember that Mrs. Bobbitt who cut her husband’s wink off…” ‘AVE THAT ONE, SON! Quasimodo come to London for an ‘oliday… zis is ven I was at a Hitler rally… I went out with this bird the other night…” It’s only been going fifteen minutes, and thirteen have been Mike Reid’s stand-up about turning nobbly rubber johnnies inside out.

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Like Sinderella, Pussy is a doe-eyed naif, asking “what’s virginity?” and crying because she’s lost her prince. Reid cheers her up with more jokes — “geezer went in a Chinese shop… her legs were quarter past nine, not a stitch on… ” But the most important panto role is the villain, introduced here with loud footsteps and a booming “fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the pussy of an English woman!” I don’t know what I was expecting, but Nick Cotton with a boombox was way down the list. One of soap’s great heels, he’s dressed like an only-slightly more cartoony Nasty Nick, all in black and with a purple neckerchief and silver chain codpiece. This man was born to be a panto villain, one year even waving from an open-topped bus during my own town’s bonfire parade, to promote his role as Captain Hook in a nearby theatre. A huge cut above the dregs Jim drafted in from cruise ships and his local divorced men’s tossing off club, he makes the best of what turgid little material he’s given, which unthinkably doesn’t include the line “‘ello, ma.”

For a professional comedian, Reid knows what a joke is, but can’t write funny dialogue, inserting the tedious remarks you hear on the warehouse floor from the bloke who always thrusts his hips when you ask if he’s coming. At one point, Babs says she’s been sucking a golf ball through a hose pipe. “Well, I’ll be blowed!” cries Reid. Perhaps the low point, so admirably awful it wins me over, is an extended gag about prisoners being fed whale meat, with a punchline of dancing across stage ala the Vera Lynn standard, “whale meat again!

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A jarring detour from the revelry feels like when shit gangster films take the perfunctory visit to a lap dancing club, in a humourless routine where Pussy writhes to a very un-panto bass-heavy seductive dance track. The audience are completely silent, barring a lone, distant “wheey!” from the balcony, before a screen’s pulled in front of Pussy, lit from behind to show her silhouette straddling a chair, filling the air with whistles. In this very silly show, with lines like “talking of fruit, that’s a smashing pair,” it’s veered into straight titillation; and not the cheeky kind, like women cheering at the Chippendales, but the leaden self-seriousness of men’s arousal, pumping away with their angry little faces all contorted like they’re knocking out a fireplace with a sledgehammer and really teaching it a lesson.

Pussy peels off her clothes (in shadow) revealing a visible nipple as she spins, if you’ve got good enough eyesight. Are the audience meant to be turned on by this? In all the cuts to them, it’s a definitively older crowd, full of red cheeks and signet rings, and nobody under forty. A good chunk are a decade into their pensions, with a front row entirely made of white-haired old ladies. Imagine being sat next to your grandad for this; him getting his first stonker since Gloria Hunniford did an advert for walk-in baths. When the screen drops, Pussy’s in a miniscule silver bikini, before Mike walks out pretending he’s wanking under his tunic. “I’m a lucky man,” he says, “talking about luck, geezer went to Spain…” Oh, he’s off again — “…took her to bed, cor didn’t he give it a service? Ker-runch!

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Almost thirty mins in, as he picks up a lute, we get our first proper musical number. There’s nothing so horrific as The Shirt-Lifter’s Song here, in fact, the funniest thing about Pussy in Boots is how rude the songs aren’t. There’s only a couple, both to the tune of Greensleeves, and so utterly lacking in creative filth, they don’t even reach the subversive crudity of playground standards where Jesus Christ did a skid, killed a kid, and trapped his balls in a dustbin lid. The naughtiest line’s “let me ring your bell,” which doesn’t get a laugh, and if your teacher overheard you singing this, you wouldn’t even get told off:

please, please, let me please you,

ple-eee-ease think of Big Dick,

please, please, let me tease you,

and I’ll let you get on my wick.”

When she’s sat on his knee, the age difference is so striking, it looks like a girl being babysat by a recently unearthed bog body (which Reid also resembles), and she’s there for the long haul, in another “Mike’s joke-time” section, laughing in her bikini at gags about geezers and snails and testicles. “Why has daddy got two winkles? He’s got a little one he goes wee wee with, and a big one he cleans the maid’s teeth with!” Babs flies back in, with a joke about nuns’ dirty habits, and to magically beam-up our leads in coloured shards of light, leaving the live audience to applaud an empty stage, presumably after watching Mike Reid waddle off into the wings.

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A caption reads “later that evening,” as Nasty Nick and a henchman do the standard ‘bumbling crooks bumping into each other’ spots. They’re hunting for Pussy (tee hee), having seen her on a missing poster, with the King offering a reward for her return. “Where’d you reckon’s the best place to find Pussy?” asks Henchman, chuckling through his lines. Nick: “On the end of your dick, you great aardvark!” At this point, they ‘rehearse’ their routine for an upcoming talent contest, in minutes of literal “I say, I say, I say!” — a format which drags each joke to twice its natural length. To sum it up in a selection of punchlines, “a hedgehog in a condom factory,” “scruffy bollocks,” and “Popeye kicked him in the bollocks,” along with Nasty Nick imitating an orgasming Queen Victoria.

Well over the halfway mark, we finally arrive in a second setting, at a bank of blinking control panels and a backdrop painted with planets like a junior school classroom during Space Month. Gyrating dancers in retro-futuristic bob wigs and transparent skirts move like robots, while the men have Dr. Doom masks and plastic purple codpieces. With the weird mix of costumes — Shrek Reid, fairy, bikini — it resembles those early 80’s Italian Star Wars rip-offs. This, says Babs, is Wandaland, “where everything’s free, including relief by hand… even the wet ones too!” Reid puts on the world’s worst America accent to make a Star Trek reference, “daring to go where no pussy has gone before!” as Babs directs us to a phallic-shaped monitor for her Wandavision. Disney owe the estate of Mike Reid some serious buck.

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Wandavision peeks into other panto worlds, though thankfully pre-dating Boobs in the Wood, so we needn’t fear a sudden cut to Kenny Baker playing with himself. Anyone disturbed enough to ask “What if Frank Butcher had a sketch show?” finds their answer here, in pre-recorded bits which are the show’s stinking nadir, with New Faces host Derek Hobson interviewing Reid, who’s in variety of panto guises. First, Aladdin. And how do you imagine that might go? Turban? Cross-eyed? Wobbling his head in a Mind Your Language Indian accent, all “oh no, no, no sir, please be excusing me,” and “bung-ding bung-ding” noises? Because yes. Exactly all of that. For the second time this show, he says his cock’s bigger than Linford Christie’s, pulling back the robe to reveal an erection which is both two-feet long and green; “when my lump is rubbed, sir, genie cum four or five times!

Then Reid’s got one foot on a log as Robin Hood — sorry, “Robin the Hood… I invented the condom” — going on about the Big Bad Wolf having a enormous nob and repeating the “who’s Maid Marian?/we all have!” gag last seen in the Little and Large Christmas special. He gets to show his range as Dick Turpin, with a camp, lisping voice, and clasping pink knitting; “ooh, you’ve made me drop a stitch!” With jokes about queens, fairies and purses, he actually uses “ducky.” Amidst all this, we frequently cut to the audience pissing themselves; at material like Reid using what he imagines is a French accent, saying “zat” instead of “that,” because he’s a frog who got kissed into a handsome prince.

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This section really highlights how Mike Reid, outside of being Mike Reid, is a nativity play level performer. Frank Butcher worked because it was just him in a hat, but tasked with doing a voice or an accent, or any character that’s not a gruff cockney man, it’s genuinely embarrassing, like the most nervous kid in class being made to read aloud. Forced into non-Frankness, as in an Ugly Sisters split-screen, the voice will revert back to his own halfway through, or won’t come in until he’s remembered to do it. Chewing on a cornstalk with a blacked out tooth and going “ooh arr” as Jack the Giant Killer — with lots of ‘big chopper’ jokes — we get a surprise cameo from another soap A-Lister, when Lynne ‘Ivy Tilsley’ Perrie pops up as Poison Ivy, looking like Grotbags rolling down a hill.

This was right in the middle of 63-year-old Perrie’s sudden wild turn from soap actress to hypersexualised tabloid fodder, in gleeful “look at this mad old nympho” stories. Pussy in Boots bridges her sacking from Corrie after turning up for work with swollen, surgically enhanced lips and the grim final years CV, which took in an infamous drunken appearance on Shooting Stars; the comedy/soft-core pseudo fitness video, Lynne Perrie’s Alternative Workout (a VHS:WTF waiting to happen); and the kissing of a dancer’s flaccid penis in a hot tub, which was reported in papers as IVY’S ORAL SEX VIDEO SHOCKER! At this stage, it’s likely she couldn’t be trusted in a live show, and in this pre-record, stumbles and mumbles though a handful of bad jokes, calling Reid a “dyslexic dick.”

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For ten, long minutes the audience are stuck watching these skits, on a screen smaller than the one in your living room, with Frank, Babs and Pussy just awkwardly stood there. We briefly return to the play, with more big penis jokes and the audience cheering when Reid takes a good long look at Pussy’s arse, inciting a man to shout “aye aye!” like he’s on a building site, and then it’s straight to more sketches. If you minus the pre-taped bits from an already short running time, they’re onstage for less than an hour; half of which is Reid running through his solo act. Not a bad day’s work, if you don’t mind your name being associated with one of the worst things to happen in a theatre since Lincoln’s head getting blown off.

Mike Reid’s Flying Circus is the standard ad parodies; in a Hawaiian shirt gobbing a mouthful of Weetabix back into the bowl — “they taste like fuckin’ cardboard!”; sat on the bog as toilet roll flutters off the tube, effing and blinding at an unseen dog, as a director (Reid doing his gay voice again) lisps “cut, cut!”; and in split screen next to his female self, in a parody of the Mark Williams “we wanna be together!” commercials. Having previously described a dragged-up Sid James as “a bollock in a bonnet,” next to a blonde-wigged and lipstick-smeared Mike Reid growling in falsetto about “twelve inch danglers,” Sid’s a stone cold ten.

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Pussy’s hen night takes place at the talent contest, with a medieval tavern set, where dancers in busty wench outfits twirl to a tinny ‘change one note so it’s not copyright infringement’ Casio cover of the first two bars of Eye of the Tiger. In a final casting shocker, the innkeeper/MC is Ted Robbins, giving a performance far too good for this old guff, introducing Londinium’s own Mike Reid. That’s not me getting lax with the names; he’s literally announced as the actual Reid, who’s time travelled back to a period his jokes were still relatively fresh.

It’s the thinnest set-up for our most unabashed stand-up section of all, without even the pretence of playing a character — “Know why they call us cockneys, dincha? Cos our cocks hang down to our knees!” Told in the sort of voice usually only used in theatres when announcing there’s a fire, Reid batters the audience with yet more jokes about geezers; lorry driver geezers, geezers in mental hospitals, posh geezers getting sparked out by a skinhead, a geezer who told the queen about a boil on his plums, a geezer “who invented a self-lubricating pussy.” Er, you mean, God, mate? “Have you ‘eard the one about…” Mike, everyone’s heard it. Dr. John Hammond saw half your set when he was poking around in that amber.

While he does his thing, the dancers look on reverentially, out of character and doubled over in laughter. One joke about a trucker and a posh bird (“leaning over him with her bristols hanging out…”) goes on for six and a half minutes, with little asides to the fellas in the audience about the things which really make his gristly old penis throb, and physically miming arses and lob-ons and having a wank, which the elderly ladies are very amused by. This isn’t a panto, it’s an episode of The Comedians, except Reid’s dressed like Mo from the Three Stooges, stood in front of a backdrop with bottles of mead painted on it. He wins the in-panto talent contest, and Pussy totters over to present his trophy, which is penis-shaped, before Nasty Nick and his mate jump in with cutlasses to kidnap her. Babs flies on with a “not so fast, you horrible buggers!” and freezes them in place so Pussy can deliver boots to the nads.

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In the closing five minutes, they rush through the ‘story’ like every member of the cast realised they’d left the gas on. Babs infers she has loud orgasms, before the big wedding scene, where a background dancer dressed as a jester manages two whole catches while juggling. Frank appears at the top of the stairs in a crown and cape as Good King Wonker, and evidently, Pussy’s one true love is the until-now-unmentioned Prince Willie Wonker; a bloke in a modern suit and oversized plastic ears, who — as we’ve seen many times on here — moves his stiff arms up and down to indicate he is like Prince Charles. “We wuz gonna get his brother, but it’s a pantomime, not a fuckin’ fairy story!” says Reid, playing off the ‘Edward is unmarried, and thus gay’ trope of the day.

After a big ears/big cock joke, Reid leads Pussy away, and her dress comes open, revealing the lot — I mean everything — and she stands there looking shocked for a couple of seconds, giving the audience an eyeful before turning around. It’s wild to me that this is the original dirty panto, which you’d think Jim Davidson would’ve wanted to top with gynaecological relish, and yet he never went further than the kind of saucy underwear displays one could find in any random episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo. What a snowflake. “Gadzooks,” cries Reid, “now we’ve all found Pussy’s pussy!” And that’s it, that’s the final line, before a curtain call which doesn’t get a standing ovation, because half the audience need a hand getting out of their seats.

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The credits left me spinning wildly down a rabbithole I feared I would never find my way back from. In Brian Klein, Pussy in Boots shares a director with half the stocking-filler comedy in of the last 20 years, from the live DVDs of Jimmy Carr, Joe Lycett, Micky Flanagan, Jack Whitehall, Frankie Boyle, and Sarah Millican, to series like Top Gear and A League Of Their Own. Klein co-devised Pussy with football journalist Norman Giller, a man who, along with writing Reid’s panto, boasts history’s most unbelievable body of work. Klein and Giller are responsible for over fifty of those comedy Own Goals and Gaffes sports DVDs where a dog runs on the pitch or whatever, while Giller’s solo bibliography contains the sentences “books in collaboration with Ricky Tomlinson” (all following the Noun/My Arse titling format) and “books in collaboration with Jimmy Greaves” (of which there are twenty). Sit down for this last one, where he’s credited with novelisations of some of the Carry On films. What the hell are they like?!

“…as he assured her that, no, it wouldn’t bother him to be naked all the time.

“It would if your ice lolly fell in your lap,” huffed Joan.

Sid looked down at his crotch, and then back up, and then quickly at his crotch again, wearing an expression on his grizzled face which said “Cor blimey, she’s right!”

Incredibly, there’s a suggestion on Twitter these are sequels to the respective films. The sinking feeling I got when I knew I’d have to track these down for longform dissection cannot be described. I honestly hope someone fucks my head with a hammer on the way home from the shops. Also in the credits is a pretty ungenerous one of ‘additional material’ for Mike Reid, whose ancient stand-up comprised two thirds of the fucking running time. My rule to always Google names lead from the credit of ‘special consultant: Tony Lewis’ to a first result of the 2002 headline “Police probe Mike Reid over ‘anti-Muslim’ gags,” as Lewis turned out to be his agent.

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Pussy in Boots is perhaps the thinnest script I’ve witnessed yet, with about ten minutes of Panto existing as a breather for Reid between gags he’s told thousands of times. In terms of offence, it’s got all the stuff you’d expect from a 1970’s comic, with Irish jokes, Chinese accents, jokes about Julian Clary being gay and Madonna being a slag, with its worst moment a lengthy routine about a “beautiful Indian girl” who gets the red dot scratched off her head after sex, by a geezer who finds out he’s won a car. But even all this, compared to Jim’s aggressively hateful propaganda, almost feels twee, like being made to drink a shot-glass of wee rather than a whole bucket of cold diarrhea. And at least it isn’t just propaganda for Reid’s opinions. Among fans of the genre, Pussy in Boots seems better remembered and regarded than the Jim Davidson panto universe, and thankfully for me, there were no sequels, as Mike Reid just did the one; in and out, no messin’ — WALLOP!

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Millard’s Christmas Selection Box

•December 23, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 500,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Little and Large at Christmas

•December 14, 2021 • 1 Comment

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[more Little and Large: Who Do You Do?Double DareSeries 1The Final SeriesStout and Reed]

Like the inevitability of Only Fools and Horses novelty socks from the auntie you never see, once I started diving into the lads, I think we all knew this was coming. It’s December 23rd 1978, and this is Christmas alright, with a flurry of superimposed snow over the opening titles, where Syd and Eddie swoop down in a UFO, suggesting, like Mr. Bean, they are aliens in human form, which would explain why they never got the hang of that Earth thing called ‘humour’. A troupe of dancing girls sing us in with the L&L theme, giving the clearest listen yet of its lyrics about being “projected right into space, without any warning!” Deffo aliens.

The vague thread of the show is their attempts to get a celebrity guest, but it’s the same old; Syd stood nodding while Eddie runs through gags about how skinny and stupid he is. Syd played football but a dog ran on the pitch and buried him. Syd sent away for a bodybuilding kit but couldn’t open the box. Lucozade makes Syd ill. Eddie has however landed that big star, and please welcome to the stage Roddy Llewellyn! Out comes an elderly Chinese man, who Eddie says he got out of “the yellow pages.” Shall I give him the benefit of the doubt here? It is Christmas after all.

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There’s more of that out-and-about time-filler, fielding impressions from members of the public, rife with “ooh, Miss Jones!” and child Frank Spencers in berets, including a racy use of the word “bum” which gets bleeped out by a horn. One boy’s “I am Margaret Thatcher” is straight out of Eddie’s playbook. Every frame of these sections could be hung in a gallery, as flawless portraits of late 70’s British society; the background of each shot filled with either scowling mistrust or feverish excitement at visiting television cameras; 10-year-olds with haunted old faces, men in yellow-lens glasses, and every woman over forty in inch-thick specs and a coat that goes down to the floor.

It’s all the puns ‘n’ impressions you’ve already heard, only, in festive settings; plastic joke-shop ears and red circles on their cheeks in Santa’s workshop, as Eddie runs through presents for the stars. A chimney brush for Sooty (“he likes a clean sweep!”), a bra with three cups for (pointing at each in turn) Olivia Newton John, and a chocolate stocking for Danny La Rue (“he gives the chocolate away and wears the stocking!”) I must confess to being blindsided by a couple of gags; the Bionic Man wanting a new electric organ, and Henry Cooper getting an extra large toilet “to stop him splashing it all over!” Also, a Laurel and Hardy bit, where Eddie gives Syd a razor but accidentally puts the batteries in backwards, has a genuinely unexpected reveal of Syd now sporting a full beard, wrong-footing in the good way, rather than simply “that was more racist than I anticipated.” The other big surprise comes after Eddie’s Cliff impression — “hi fans” — when the virgin boy child, Mr. Mistletoe and Wine himself, the real Sir Clifford turns up in a long scarf, to give us a lovely rendition of White Christmas.

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Another musical break comes in the form of Dana Gillespie, accompanied by male dancers in tight shirts bearing the glittery words SNOW, BOOGIE, ZAP, JAZZ, YES and POW, and after Eddie’s Les Dawson impression, the real Les shows up to carry her off on his shoulder — “takeaway crumpet!” Eddie then has a big announcement, that the world’s best band have reunited just for them; “the sensational fab four, The Beatles!” Four East-Asian gentlemen walk out, and pissing himself at his own joke, Eddie informs us “they were the crew on the yellow submarine!” Yeah, think I’ll take back that benefit of the doubt. In a cancellation double-bill, Syd and Eddie dance out from behind a Christmas tree, either end of a cardboard cut-out row of celebrities, whose legs kick in time to the music, one of whom is notorious dead paedophile, Cyril Smith.

I get a terrible case of reverse deja-vu, with a Grease parody which pre-dates the mega medley I sat through from the final series by a good decade. It’s got the same opening — greaser gang clicking fingers to Summer Nights, giving us a look at the funny gang name on their backs — though this time it’s Teabags instead of T-Pots. At least it’s contemporary here, taking place in the year the film came out, but not even broken up with impressions or jokes, and just a full, straight cover, with the entire joke “haha, Syd’s in a dress!” For the sake of transparency, and in case the estate of Eddie Large takes me to court for slander, there is a dubbed on belch from ‘Sandy,’ and a boing noise when Eddie takes a comb out of his pocket.

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Another sketch has Syd put to bed by his “mummy.” So, is he meant to be a child, or is this merely the bleak living situation of a greying and balding 36-year-old Cyril ‘Syd Little’ Mead? When mam’s gone, Eddie emerges from the cupboard as a teddy bear, which leaves him sweating buckets by the end, for more jokes about the Chinese, before dragging Syd’s sexy, lingerie clad sister Dana Gillespie into the toy cupboard with a “phwoarrr!” Honestly, they’ve got a pretty strong case against Seth MacFarlane here. But it’s not just the Chinese who get it, with Eddie as an ‘Argentinian’ in an enormous Mexican sombrero and poncho, and as a carolling Scotsman in vast tam o’shanter and kilt — “she’ll be wearing frilly knickers when she comes!” To their… credit, the only instance of blackface involves Syd throwing chestnuts on the fire, which explode, leaving him the classic shredded suit and covered in soot.

A skit titled Soopersonic in Panto Land is your standard ‘Eddie comes out in hats doing his voices’, with celebrities as famous panto characters. Harry Secombe as a raspberry-blowing Friar Tuck, David Bellamy as Baron Hardup — Syd having to bite his lips together to keep from laughing — and of course, as the fairy queen, Larry Grayson. Kojak stands in for Goldilocks, where they go with “one of the three bears (bare head)” rather than the would’ve-been-better Baldilocks. Syd’s reading his lines off a scroll, which is why he mispronounces villain as “vill-ain,” with jokes about “who’s maid/made Marian?” (“nobody yet, but we’re all trying our hardest!”) and Benny from Crossroads booking a honeymoon suite for him and Miss Diane; “’do you want bridal?’ I says, ‘worst comes to the worst, I’ll hang onto her ears!‘”

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More impressions and jokes about Syd dressing up as a matchstick lead into the closing song, where Syd’s on a stool, choir behind him and children sat on the floor, for the full Doonican. It’s a cover of Cliff’s Christmas Alphabet (“C is for the candy, all around the Christmas tree”), and old Soopersonic manages a whole verse before losing the flow and mispronouncing cake as “keek.” When he’s done, Eddie runs through his version, whipping out hats and wigs; “I is for John Inman, I’m free.. F is for Frank Spencer, the dog’s done a whoopsie!” For Arthur Mullard, he simply squashes his nose with a finger. The final line, where they tell us “we’ve enjoyed your company on our Yuletide TV show” makes me feel guilty, because it’s very much not mutual.

Like a bloodied man who just opened a present to find it was a bomb, I’m using my remaining fingers to unwrap the Christmas special from December 23rd 1980, knowing I shall never juggle again. Second series animated credits have them climbing up ladders to screw bulbs into signs bearing their names, again with snow superimposed over the top (but no sleigh bells). From an opening shot of the audience, everyone’s in a party mood, shown throughout joyously waving coloured balloons, and wearing those fragile paper baseball caps they gave out at roadshows and county fairs, with a spiral cut in so you can push it down onto your head until it rips. Whatever we may think of Little and Large from our towering perch here in far future, have no doubt, the people of their time wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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Syd comes on through an entrance that looks like the Stargate, interrupted by Eddie, armed with the big red book from This Is Your Life. “What have you got behind your back?” “A big fat bum; what’ve you?” But as I’m watching, I fall prey to a sudden medical episode, where my chest goes into a spasm, firing involuntary bursts of noise out of my mouth. I’m about to call 111 when I realise — it’s laughter; laughter at the introduction “Sydney Rasputin Little, star of stage, screen and microscope,” and a line about the Queen “shaking him by the throat” at the Royal Variety. Then a double-jab of one-liners: “for the first six months of your life, you lived in an incubator, until the chickens kicked you out,” and “you were evacuated several times during the war; your mother blamed the syrup of figs.” What’s happening here?! These are good jokes, like when Eddie says Syd got a Monopoly set “and spent so much time in jail, Lord Longford came to visit him.”

But then, shunted between realities, back to the one where they were shit, we’ve returned to Eddie’s voices, where, if you turn the sound right up, you can hear him muttering “Where is it? There…” to himself (as himself) in the middle of a line, when the pages of the book (an empty photo album) get stuck together. Next is a sketch with Cliff and Olivia Newton John; Syd in a dress, Eddie resembling Carlos the Jackal. A cherry gets stuck on the end of Syd’s nose. A cracker explodes, leaving — for the second Christmas running — tattered clothes and soot-covered faces.

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As if to punish me for laughing, a sketch set in a doll’s hospital hits perhaps their all-time career low. Broken toys sit in the waiting room; Syd as a bandaged soldier; an elf I correctly peg is there solely for a “national elf” gag; oh and a full-sized golliwog. Its visual appearance is as horrible as the politics; a misshapen nightmare with two enormous, vacant white eyes and off-centre red lips stitched onto a flopping, jet-black, felt head, with a single tuft of hair where the rest has been ripped out. It’s the outfit your dad was turned away from your birthday in, even though the invite specified ‘NO FANCY DRESS’ because he wore it last time too; every boomer nostalgia about the past incarnate, like they talked about the Good Old Days so hard, this thing manifested itself out of the remnants of penny sweets from the friendly white newsagent and an undrunk Mr. Frosty.

Eddie limps on with a crutch as another bear — “Who are you lot, the village people?” — before holding up his severed ear with a “what’s this ear?” and bending over to do a rippling big fart, which causes Syd to laugh as he wafts it away. The most festive thing here is Syd doing his lines like an innkeeper at the nativity, shouted in infants school monotone. It’s then that Eddie turns to the golliwog, putting on a Jamaican accent to ask “’ello der, chalky. How yer getting on dere, man? I told you you should never have come off de marmalade jar!” He nudges Syd with a “mind, he could always get a job with Hot Chocolate.” Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout gets pushed by in a wheelchair, and Eddie jokes it’s Sandy from Crossroads (an actor left immobile by Hodgkin’s Disease) before doing another fart, which makes Syd break again.

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Only with a segment like that can Eddie Large as Jimmy Savile — wig, eighteen-inch cigar, but giving up on the voice about two words in — seem like a palate cleanser, by way of introducing Sheena Easton. Sheena’s Scottishness allows Eddie to don the tartan, with a key sticking out of a keyhole in the sporran like a stubby little penis. He yells in a CU Jimmy accent about the singers he manages; “Barry McManilow and Angus Sinatra,” corpsing when getting in Syd’s face to call him a Sassenach. When Syd denies being a “foreign body,” Eddie counters with “You’re not blaming English workmanship for that, are ye?!” and sorry, but I did chuckle again, so just tip me into an unmarked grave when the time comes.

Speaking of death, Eddie very nearly meets with the Lord when they’re Andy Pandy and Noddy for a puppet song, with strings on their arms and a dance consisting of hopping from one leg to the other on an inflatable floor. Set to the tune of Day Trip to Bangor, it’s the kind of thing only a five-year-old might laugh at, with lines like “Winnie the Pooh was locked in the loo,” but the end of each verse sees them taking flat-back bumps on “we all fell down.” By the third verse, Eddie’s absolutely gasping for air, struggling to stay upright and missing all his lip syncing, and at the end of the fourth, surprises himself by kicking his legs up so hard, he almost does a full backflip, landing on the back of his head in a way that would’ve killed him on a regular floor, visibly having to untangle his strings after heaving himself back up.

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Straight into another song, Eddie’s plainly reading his bits off an autocue, in a comic tribute to “those good old horror movies.” Sat on a tinsel-decorated stage, the pair aren’t even in suits, just normal clothes like they’re strolling round a garden centre of a bank holiday, and with that exact energy level. “Boris Karloff, Boris Karloff, is not nice! Very ghoulish, never foolish, Vincent Price!” Yeah, Merry Christmas, mate. This decision that “sod it, Halloween’s close to Christmas innit?” continues as Orson Welles (“I’m Orson Welles”) plays clips from his own horror movies. Famed horror director Orson Welles, who definitely wasn’t picked because he’s the only director they’ve heard of and cos he’s fat like Eddie. Still, we get vampire bride Syd, the lads adjusting the bolts in Frankenstein’s neck to make The Archers come out of his mouth, and Syd incorrectly saying Van Helsing as “Helsling.”

Most terrifying sight of all is the sudden cut to a life sized golden statue of a naked Syd Little (barring a bow tie), covering his genitals with his hands, like some bootleg C-3PO figure from the market. Eddie chisels the bow tie off — “oh dear, your dickie’s fell off and got bent!” — and then a model in a gold bikini joins them. “She’s looking very Christmassy. A party hat and a pair of crackers!” But the main course of 1980’s special is a Dallas skit, whose intro alone lasts 2 ½ minutes, parodying the opening titles, and gleaning yet more laffs from Syd dragging up. A couple of wigs here elicit shrieks from one audience member which must join our collection of wild solo reactions.

As much as the audience are suffering, Syd’s having an even rougher time, almost giving himself an embolism, tasked with voices meant to be both American and female, and in the end, just goes with his own. Considering how many American characters featured on The Little and Large Show over its eleven series, it’s as though the pair have never heard one speak, using the sort of third-hand accent you get from the English voiceover bloke at Sky doing an ad for WWF wrestling, or a 90’s commercial for radical soft drinks. Accents aside, Syd comes in early on a line and has to repeat it, and when dressed as Barbara Woodhouse, looks into the wrong camera before completely blanking. But they keep going, in a skit based entirely around the conceit that Babs always wears the same skirt, so it must fucking stink; Eddie dressed as a dog with a peg on his hooter, and so on.

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Nothing about this ‘special’ is festive, feeling like (and almost definitely) a load of offcuts from the series. After Eddie pulls a woolly hat out of his pocket to do Benny from Crossroads‘ version of D.I.S.C.O. — “B. E. N. N. Y.” — they attempt to steer it back to the season with a Christmas duet for the big closer. It’s fished straight out of the Two Ronnies bin; a traditional-sounding tune with rhyming lyrics building to dirty punchlines about boobs, bums, and unmarried mothers. In fact, there is a credit for ‘Special Lyrics’ to regular Two Ronnies writers, David Newman & Peter Osborne. The song narrates a Victorian-set story about bastard-child Syd and adopted mother Eddie the Duchess, where we get an elderly Syd going cross-eyed at the cleavage of a big-titted servant girl bent over a tray of satsumas. A running bit here has Eddie repeatedly dumped with snow from above while Syd’s left untarnished, even when he makes them switch places. In an unintentional metaphor for their life’s work, Syd’s meant to get his comeuppance in the end, but the jumbo tub of tiny polystyrene balls barely glances past him as, presumably, he’s standing off his mark.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow

•December 4, 2021 • 4 Comments

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[More Noel: Noel’s HQFirst & Last: Noel’s House PartyThe Live, Live Christmas Breakfast ShowWhen Noel Tried to Crack AmericaNoel’s Christmas PresentsSwap ShopHouse Party Hell Playlist]

Yep, I’m back on my bullshit again. Having already penned tens of thousands of Noel-centric words, perhaps I should just leave him be, but then, could I contentedly go into the ground having failed to cover every coiffured inch of the Edmonds oeuvre? Decades from now, my restless ghost will be left wandering the South Downs, barred from the afterlife with loose ends untied; scaring some campers by spelling out pleas on a ouija board for a typewriter plus a VHS containing at least three episodes of Noel’s Telly Addicts. Inevitably then, we end up here, at The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow. Roadshow was somewhat of a bridge in Noel’s career, spanning the gap between the disastrous cancellation of the Late, Late Breakfast Show after a man’s death, and the series that would elevate him to the throne of light entertainment’s emperor, Noel’s House Party.

After one of his classic audience participation stunts — a bungee jump from an exploding box entitled ‘Hang ’em High’ — claimed the life of Michael Lush on November 13th 1986, Noel resigned both from the show, and possibly from public life forever. But within weeks came an outrageously self-pitying appearance on Wogan, bemoaning the shock of sudden career ruination, the sadness of having to cross out filming dates in his diary, and his being overwhelmed by thousands of letters of support. He and his new bride, “we had a bad couple of weeks.” A real man of the people, Noel asked himself “is it worth it?” with K9 police protection units on the grounds of his estate because of “nutters coming to the house,” and arming the gardener with a pitchfork. Even Wogan played along — “of course, it was a terrible tragedy for the family… but a traumatic time recently for you as well; your career seems to have stopped dead,” before a horribly misjudged joke about being known as “Lucky Edmonds.”

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Exactly six weeks after Lush’s death, Noel was back on our screens, choosing to fulfil the contract of a live Christmas special, which was renamed from the tainted Live, Live Christmas Breakfast Show brand to the simple Christmas Morning with Noel. While these festive shows would continue through to 1988, before morphing into Noel’s Christmas Presents, it would be two years before he’d return with a full series. The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow debuted at 6pm on September 3rd 1988, and though Noel thrives on the arena of live TV, this was pre-recorded, perhaps having to earn back the trust of the BBC and the British public, who didn’t want to inadvertently find themselves watching a snuff film over their spaghetti hoops. Similarly, he could no longer rely on pulling members of the public into dangerous stunts, and the audience who, during House Party, were under constant threat of getting yanked out of their seats or confronted with hidden camera footage, now remained solely behind the frame as unseen claps ‘n’ cheers.

Even as the world’s foremost Noelologist, it’s wild how Roadshow; a series that history’s entirely ignored in the wake of Noel’s House Party; is just Noel’s House Party, but three years earlier. The deja vu is overpowering from the opening theme, which is practically identical, right down to the big “bahm-bahm!” ending, though brilliantly, its credits are shared by House Party‘s composer and — of all people — Joe Longthorne. Many of the HP staples began here, with the gunge tank, Wait Til I Get You Home, and the Gotchas; under their more laborious title, the Gotcha Oscar. Where the latter series stuck to its setting of Crinkly Bottom Manor, Roadshow‘s location switched weekly, broadcasting from locales as varied as the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the Channel Tunnel, King Don’t Tut’s Egyptian burial chamber, a Japanese judo school, and on the high seas aboard the S.S Boil-in-the-Bag; as the titular Roadshow made its way around the globe. In reality, these were shonky sets in the BBC studio, but the place-names should give you a clue to Roadshow‘s MO, which was wacky, wacky, wacky.

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I begin with an episode from the weirdly specific location of a private American prison. Note that this wasn’t Roadshow‘s first episode, coming a year into its run, but as a jumping-in point, multitude jokes about Noel being a criminal deserving of a stint inside sit really oddly in the wake of the Michael Lush incident. It’s very Oz-like, with metal gantries and cell bars, as uniformed guards and cons mill about in the background, before Noel emerges in prison-issue uniform (N7213, trivia fans), handcuffed to a nightstick-wielding guard. Noticeably, Noel’s very grey, far more than he’d ever appear before or since, with that fabulous mane completely faded at the sides and around the temples. Maybe there was no more room for contraband hair dye when he was smuggling all the gunge in up his arse.

Unfortunately, this is very much the Noel Edmonds comedy hour, with just a handful of games breaking up interminable, gag-filled monologues and two-hander comedy skits, where celebrities — as they would in House Party — show up to trade one-liners as a funny character. Where this really grates is in its deliberate naffness, with every joke an awful pun that’s meant to elicit groans instead of laughs, and each punchline followed by a knowing sideways look intimating how bad it is. Sure, we all enjoy the bad Christmas Cracker joke, but you wouldn’t do it all the way through dinner.

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Worst of these are the prop comedy sections, where he goes all Carrot Top, telling us the prisoners deal in snout before holding up a board with dog noses stuck to it. “The bloke in cell 17’s a pickpocket,” he says, revealing a pocket embedded with an ice pick; a newspaper chain of cut-out men who’re “the chain gang,” and a salt cellar with an AA battery; “assault and battery!” Every joke is worse than the one before, ending on a truly ghastly moment he hurriedly wraps an escape plan in tinfoil to proclaim “I’ve foiled the escape plan!” If this is him playing safe, strap a fraying bungee cord round my waist and I’ll take one for the team.

The closest thing to a prank on a member of the public is a pre-record where old people have been tasked with tipping pink slime down funnels into bottles as they whizz by on a conveyor belt, with Noel pissing himself as — oh no! — the belt keeps moving, causing them to spill the gunge a bit. There’s quiz sections, the first with “two real nutters,” one of whom’s so nervous he forgets his own name, playing a Don’t Forget The Lyrics game. The bloke sings “merrily” instead of “gaily” to Rolf’s Two Little Boys, causing Noel to laugh and tell him what word he got wrong in a 1970’s comedy woofter voice.

The gunge tank sees celebrities — such as Carmen Silvera from ‘Allo ‘Allo — playing a word game for prizes on behalf of the poor non-famous sap who’s sat inside. When contestant Fiona loses, Noel calls her a “naughty girl” before dumping a load of custard on her. MP David Owen shows up in the next episode, where Noel sleazily admonishes another gunge-soaked woman with a “that was naughty, wasn’t it, Linda?” As always, the oddest Noel/contestant interactions are found in Wait Til I Get You Home, which use the same animated intro as House Party. This week’s dad appears to be Ned Flanders, with pre-quiz banter of a story about his wife being too heavy to carry over the threshold when they got married.

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For those unfamiliar, Noel met with a child and asked them things, and the parents have to guess their answers. But his questions to children are like those of your weird aunt; have you kissed anyone yet? How would you ask someone to marry you? It sounds like stuff they read out to someone who’s just been busted by an online vigilante group. “Stop crying, mate, we’re not gonna hit you, we’re only filming for our safety, yeah? But did you, believing this to be a nine-year-old boy, ask which sexy bikini his dad would buy his mum, and then show him loads of examples?” The rest of it’s clearly engineered for the kid to say that his mum’s overweight.

Often, these sections paint a grim picture of home life, with Noel chuckling through stories of mums yelling at dads whenever they attempt a display of affection, and pig-thick fathers who are always drunk. In the second episode, the dad seems to be a straight-up alcoholic, with the kid’s answers all about how he can’t hold his drink, but it’s good because he lends her money when pissed, recanting an incident stripping off naked at the rugby club — “my father practically lives down the rugby club.” For their gifts, two kids ask for a computer, while one girl really worked out how to milk the system by asking for a — clearly rehearsed at home — “dance costume designed and made by David and Elizabeth Emanuel” (the designers who made Princess Di’s wedding dress).

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Sadly, there’s yet more character comedy — Dear John‘s Peter Blake as a mean guard; Joe Pasquale in the prison workshop, flailing around and miming a chainsaw as he honks into a kazoo; and Lisa Maxwell as recurring character Janice, in a real Colin Hunt performance, as president of the Roadshow fanclub. The club functions as that Crinkly Bottom role of parochial British zaniness, crammed with gags like a local man who stole savoury fertility pills and gave birth to Twiglets, and fake ‘funny’ letters from viewers, with that trademark Edmonds put-on laughter worse than ever, literally slapping his thighs at every punchline, perhaps desperate to ensure that everyone understands it’s all good, harmless fun.

There’s a Gotcha Oscar for Peter Snow, straight from the Beadle school of pranking, being a joyless exercise in frustrating the victim. It ends like they all do; the moment punctured by the appearance of Noel Edmonds, presenting his microphone like a man showing off a proud, pulsating erection on entering an orgy, to let them know they’ve been Noeled. Sadly we exit the prison episode without a scene where Noel’s tricked into going down to the greenhouse.

My next Roadshow‘s on a space station, with our host emerging from a rocket which bears the words THIS WAY UP and an L plate. Although, the ‘plot’ is they’ll later be sending Britain’s first astronaut into space, so are they already up there or not? The related gags will make you wish you’d fallen into a black hole — “the British aerospace industry has really made great strides… in fact, i’m wearing a pair at the moment,” and landing on the Milky Way between meals. Then a zero-gravity Billy Pearce floats in on a wire, presumably about to take one small step for the lay-jeh-men — “me foot kept going to sleep… the doctor strapped an alarm clock to me leg! By any chance, he’s not onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger is he?

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Audience participation is limited to pre-taped pub challenges, where Noel’s sat in a beer garden with two members of the Great British Public playing Russian Roulette with hard-boiled eggs; a game we’ve previously seen employed by Freddie Starr and Craig Charles, and which seems even more pathetic on Saturday tea-time than it did in the 1am ITV wank-slot. The next episode’s got a game of “dingle-dangle; dangling your dingle at just the right angle,” where contestants have to squat a pencil hanging from their groin on a string into the neck of a bottle, in one of those saucily coy 1980’s British sexual repression party games, like drunk uncles thrusting into adult nieces from behind to bust a balloon against her bum. This was the pre-shagging era, and nobody fucked back then, rather, they lay on their backs with their legs in the air, socks still on, for some ‘bonking’ or a bit of ‘how’s your father with the old meat and two veg’. Noel’s in fits over Dingle Dangle, but mate, I’m from the future; the last time I saw a bloke squatting over a glass bottle, it went right up and came out in bloody shards.

After a Gotcha for Bob Wilson, the show ends ends with Noel strapped to a rocket like Johnny Knoxville, which is lit by Billy Pearce and rises out of frame in a shower of sparks. My final episode, and the last of its current series, is set in an undersea wreck, with background extras stumbling around in flippers and scuba gear, and lazy Noel just in a stripey top. Frank Carson’s dressed as a pirate to tell a joke about Arabs, and Lisa Maxwell plays bloopers of Tony Robinson falling over in Maid Marian, under the guise of the Roadshow Club’s historical re-enactment society. Most notable thing here is the Lyric Game contestant who resembles the exact mid-point between Elvis and Peter Sutcliffe, and whose appearance is so striking, I assumed it was someone in disguise for an end-of-series prank.

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Scouse popstar Sonia plays the gunge tank game, with the lad behind the glass a 21-year-old city investor called Malcolm whose nickname is “big boy,” in case you wondered what the men of Thatcher’s Britain were like. Unable to not be creepy when there’s gunge about, Noel offers losing Malcolm the star prize of a dishwasher if he can give Sonia a good enough chat-up line to get her onto his lap, and that’s the real quiz, that’s the real quiz! She’s lured into the tank, but Noel ups the ante — “what about a kiss? What about giving him a little kiss?” Alright, Ghislaine. There’s another weird game where villagers bowl a bale of hay down a hill out of a tractor, aiming for a big replica of Noel’s mouth which resembles the gateway I’ll be passing through on my way to Hell. Should the bale miss, it knocks a button which triggers gunge-buckets on members of the public stood on a gantry, giving it the feel of those complicated torture devices Limmy sets up to murder Minecraft villagers.

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The closing Gotcha sees Claire Raynor dicked about at a radio show, having to gamely take over when the DJ runs off to be sick. Most of the laughs with these things seem a bit unfair, coming from all the celebrity’s yawns, tics, and muttering to themselves when they think they’re alone, and unaware there are hidden cameras. But genuinely great here is the way Raynor fails to recognise a disguised Edmonds, in a wig and false-beard-on-real-beard, as he witters on in an American accent across a desk at her for over half an hour, about farming rhinos for aphrodisiacs, even when he plonks the Gotcha on the desk and asks her to describe it.

Raynor: “It’s a kind of Oscar clutched in a hand…”

Noel: “It’s called a Gotcha Oscar.”

Raynor: “Gotcha. Right.”

Not until he’s forced to say his own real name does it finally dawn on her, which must’ve been irksome; a tacit admission she couldn’t recognise Noel if he were sat two feet away. Raynor presents him with his own trophy; a golden microphone engraved with The Prattle Award, “for the man who talks the most unadulterated balderdash!” and we close with Frank Carson being attacked by a giant foam tentacle, before — hurray! — a treasure chest opens to reveal Liz Smith dressed as a mermaid.

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As is human nature, we only want what we can’t have, and dire as Saturday Roadshow is, when seen only in glimpses, its siren call lures you onto YouTube’s deadly rocks for more. The policeman from ‘Allo ‘Allo; Mary Whitehouse getting gunged; Jimmy Cricket in an admiral’s hat, as Noel rocks about on a fake pirate ship; Geoffrey McGivern as a locked-out nudist, crawling under Bertice Reading’s table with his anus pixelated. Stay strong, Millard, leave it be. Though this is House Party in all but name, it’s a markedly different Noel, no longer atop the ratings, nor with the creative freedoms or supercilious nature that came with being the King of Saturday nights. It’s a position he was happy to brandish in Crinkly Bottom, quick with an impatient snap at the producer’s gallery, or an on-camera rebuttal to a bad review. Here though, well… ‘humbled’ is the wrong word, but perhaps this is a man who’s aware he’s on thin ice. Noel always threw himself into that most British cliché of the self-deprecating host, constantly slating the wobbling sets, awful jokes and half-asleep audience of his own shows, but on Saturday Roadshow, it’s the one time it feels like he really means it. And as well he should.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

James Whale Talks to the Dead

•November 25, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 500,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

 
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