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As I’m no longer able to edit the outdated list of links on the right, I’ve compiled some ways for you to help support my pumping out of the literary gold, if you so wish.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.

3-2-1 at Christmas

•January 25, 2023 • 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 videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 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.

A Very Chris Evans Christmas

•January 15, 2023 • 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 videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 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.

All Star Comedy Carnival

•January 6, 2023 • 1 Comment

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One Christmas special? Try a dozen! Between 1969 and 1973, ITV’s annual All Star Comedy Carnivals were an actual televisual selection box, packing miniature festive episodes of the era’s popular comedies into a ninety minute feast. Fronted by Jimmy Tarbuck, these were the Monday Nitro to the WWF Raw of BBC’s Christmas Night with the Stars. You literally couldn’t do this now, as there’s only about two sitcoms, with our nearest correlation Comic Relief doing a ‘funny’ five-minute episode of Dragon’s Den with James Cordon pitching an edible car, or a skit where losing contestants from Love Island show up in the Queen Vic.

We’re starting with the Carnival — a word so rarely used in titles — from 1972, which went out on Christmas evening. The presents are opened, you’re laid back with gut-ache, and here’s “the old JT himself,” in a tight banana-yellow jacket, with hair shaped like a medieval helmet. Can Tarby make it through the whole show without mentioning golf? Absolutely not. It’s the classic “welcome to my home” deal, studio done up like his living room, and a full orchestra just beyond the wall. The footage is one of those in-house recordings, complete with time-code, plus extra bits like Tarby moaning “it’s my fault, I missed the bloody joke out,” over a black screen cutting back from an ad, and script-editing on the fly, as he jettisons a cue card — “elbow the first one; that’s alright son, just hold that one up!

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Before they start overrunning, Tarby’s crushing you under an avalanche of gags; lines about Raquel Welch’s big knockers and confusing the mother-in-law for an uncooked turkey; plus a classic 70’s joke about the far East, concerning a snake-handler called Abdul and “his load of old cobblers (cobras).” Setting the pace, the first special comes from Love Thy Neighbour, aka your dad’s fave, as Eddie pops round to his black neighbours with a cheery “peace on earth and good will to all men, even sambos!

There’s no surprise about the content, as the standard bearer for grotty old racism, but they clearly felt compelled to cram an episode’s worth of epithets into a seven-minute sketch. After a pair of wife-swapped interracial kisses under the mistletoe — “get your hands off my wife, honky!” — Eddie and Bill are off to the pub, trading insults of “great black twit” and “big white berk,” getting in an argument about what colour Father Christmas was; “he came from Lapland, he wasn’t a nig-nog! And they were reindeers pulling that sledge, not bloody elephants!” But soon, they’re staggering home together, belting out carols. As daft Eddie left the turkey in the pub, it’s baked beans for Christmas dinner, until Bill invites them over, even though they’re “white honkies,” leading to the big reveal which leaves its audience gasping; a living room full of black people — Bill’s extended family and friends — and Rudolph Walker dressed as Santa. “I’m dreaming of a black Christmas,” sneers Eddie, and there’s your ending!

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The sitcoms are interspersed with guests calling at Tarbuck Towers; Bob Todd’s drunken milkman stumbling in in shredded clothes to the growls of a savage dog outside; the welcome appearance of a familiar yellow beak, reaching round the frame to pin Tarby to the wall. Even when not dragging someone round the room by their cock, Rod Hull’s routine is filled with great little touches, like Emu’s nods of “d’ya hear that?” when Tarby’s rude about him. And then, with sweet inevitability, beak goes betwixt legs, and over go Rod, Tarby, and the sofa. Enlivening any of the rotten light entertainment he cameoed in, modern telly’s in dire need of someone (meaning me) to revive the act, like that lad who bought Sooty off Matthew Corbett. Once I start making some real YouTube buck, cover your dicks, D-Listers!

After getting rid of Emu, Tarby’s next link is “here’s another bird, a totally different one,” with Moira Anderson doing a number, and when she’s done, he imitates her Scottish accent with an “och the noo!” As is completely unavoidable with Tarby, even though it’s fucking Christmas, he brings out golfer mate Tony Jacklin for an unbelievably tedious scripted chat, unless you’re a golf-obsessed weirdo who once had their own Saturday night gameshow based on it. Jacklin even gets to sing his own number — “I know it’s true, yes we’re pals through and through!” — obnoxiously self-congratulatory and peppered with Tarby’s gags.

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Next special is Nearest and Dearest, with a pair of leads in Jimmy Jewel and Hilda Baker who famously hated each other, and its running joke about an elderly man who could piss himself at any moment. This one flashes back to Christmas past, with 67-year-old Baker playing a child version of her character, skipping round in a dress and ringlet wig, causing the audience to just about die for real as she crams a giant lollypop in her gob, before Jewel arthritically runs in dressed as a little sailor boy. With both doing ‘child voices’, it pushes her iconically haunting duet with Arthur Mullard down to only the second worst thing she’s been involved in, and feels like some pervert paid them to make a fetish video which got broadcast on TV by mistake. It ends with the adult-again Jewel taking a cake in the face from Baker, and given their relationship, she’d probably wiped her fanny on it first.

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Other than being bad, one common thread between these mini-episodes is their slapdash nature. Presumably filmed in a rush before or after regular tapings, slinging some tinsel up on the set, there was little time for rehearsal, with lots of obvious ‘remembering’ pauses, and everyone falling over dialogue or coming in early. If this is a portrait of British television at the time, it’s a damning one. Father Dear Father‘s turn sees a line you don’t often hear in modern comedies — “It’s all your fault for pinching my shoe horn!” — and a plot about a missing dog which exists solely for the shot of the titular father (in a red hat to hide the switch to a stunt double), stepping on a child’s roller skate and ending up in a lake.

Harry Worth gets a sketch as butler to a posh Lord and Lady, becoming increasingly pissed, and needing to be carried off at the end, meaning the lucky bastard doesn’t have to watch a Christmas On The Buses. The elephant in the room here is the absence of Reg Varney, though we still have Blakey and Jack Harper; the pair who wrote this mini episode. If you’ve any cultural awareness of the show, there are no surprises; Blakey threatening Jack with the sack — “I’ll have you for this!” — and jokes (from Bob “the teeth” Grant, no less) about how ugly a drunken Olive is. There’s a goose in a sack, Blakey takes of his hat to reveal a load of its smashed eggs, and when peering under the bus, he gets covered in exhaust soot, to which Jack breaks out in an Al Jolson. It ends when they run into Olive and her shopping, causing bags of flour to explode over everyone’s faces.

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Indisputable highlight is introed with Tarby’s Irish accent, in a segment titled Christmas with Wogan. Shot during a Lunchtime with Wogan taping, there’s a superb cut to an audience comprised of very elderly ladies in black-framed glasses and party hats. They’re joined by a host of celebrity guests, including an in-character Amy Turtle from Crossroads, security guard Lionel Blair; dancing offscreen to The Good Ship Lollypop; student nurses from General Hospital (including a young Lynda Bellingham), and a quiz between married couples played by Leslie Crowther and Sylvia Sims, and Hugh Lloyd and Peggy Mount; the latter of whom is needlessly heaved up onto her stool by Crowther and Wogan with a beautiful comic lack of dignity. It’s full of innuendo about “it” and “enjoying a really good fiddle,” before the delightful appearance of Larry Grayson in black domino mask, hat and cape; a sort of Darkwing Ducky. Christmas with Wogan ends with Noelle Gordon wheeling on a refreshment trolley, blowing a kiss to real-life friend Larry, and Leslie handing him a fairy cake to an appreciative “ooh!” and then all the celebrities and audience have a good old sing-along of Jingle Bells. A shot of the crowd shows a man with an extremely bad wig, and the audience waving back to the cast as everyone says ta-ra. Absolutely joyous, if this segment had been the whole 90 mins, we’d have had a bonafide classic on our hands.

It’s quite the comedown returning to Tarby, with some “lovely singing from a fine group of lads and good pals of mine,” as a private school choir give it that high-pitched cathedral deal, though it’s worth it for the inevitable solo from a 1970’s schoolboy who looks 45. Tarby banters with the boys — “Stand up! Oh, you are stood up.” — pulling one in for a matey side-hug and calling him a rascal, then joins a round of Do-Re-Mi. When magician David Nixon shows up at the door, promising a trick “to help you beat the rising cost of living in the new year,” it feels like maybe I can save the country, but it’s just tedious mathemagic, like that riddle with the waiter and the missing pound. Karate chopping eggs balanced on matchboxes into glasses of water, it’s like he got lost on the way to Timmy and Theo’s party. Spirits briefly lift with the appearance of Les Dawson, who batters the viewer senseless with one-liners, but gets less screentime than Tony Jacklin.

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The final special visits The Fenn Street Gang; a spin-off from Please Sir!, when they could no longer deny the hard-faced cast of schoolkids were approaching thirty. It’s a nothing six-minutes, ending with child-man Frankie accidentally going down the trash chute during a game of hide and seek and re-emerging with a banana peel on his head. Tarby wishes us a sincere peace on earth, and closes with a festive Yarwood; a rendition of White Christmas shared between all the in-studio guests, with the half asleep nation of darkened, Christmas tree-lit rooms serenaded by a golfer and Bob Todd, Tarbuck and Emu, and a private school boys choir as the credits roll.

Tarby was back the following year for the 1973 edition, in the same set, with an opening monologue looking back on a chaotic year riddled with inept politicians, industrial strikes and a petrol crisis, as topical political humour of the seventies increasingly seems plucked from the current week’s headlines. Savile gets a reference, and there’s a gag about his daughter renting her new dollhouse to Ronnie Corbett, before Bob Todd returns, this time Tarby’s butler, but again played as a slurring drunk. Here’s where it hits me how much of these shows revolve around getting sloshed, which was clearly the go-to from writers faced with knocking up a festival special.

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Case in point, a singer outside who “sounds like an Arab singing Christmas carols!” turns out to be Neville King’s horrible ventriloquist puppet Grandad. Under the poor quality of the tape, the flat-capped puppet initially appeared to be a real person, with gaping mouth and limp arms. Like many characters of the era, Grandad is a paralytic drunk, turning the usual back-and-forth routine between vent and puppet into a screaming match, with Neville yelling “SHUDDUP!” and the three of them upturning the sofa during a fight where Grandad’s supposedly being violently sick from its papier mache face. A line about a woman being “in the family way” is considered so outrageous, they cover the puppet’s mouth and wrestle it down.

The stinky little sitcoms include a party at the Roper’s during Man about the House, with piano/piss confusion over the word “tinkle”; Leslie Crowther eliciting mass hysteria in the audience by entering frame dressed as a spider for My Good Woman; and in the TV version of Billy Liar, led by a young Jeff Rawle, apprentice undertaker Billy casually spiking his gran’s drink with embalming fluid for a laugh. Tarby gets his own special-within-a-special, with the team from Tell Tarby (a show which is now lost/wiped); Lynda Bellingham, Kenny Lynch, Frank Williams, Josephine Tewson, and Hugh Paddick, who run through a two-minute quickie Cinderella.

     Tarby: “And I am Buttons.”

     Lynch: “I thought I was Buttons.”

     Tarby: “Who the hell wants chocolate Buttons?

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Lynch throws on a blonde wig to play Cinderella, causing Tarby to exclaim “Oh my God, in living colour!” Cinders has been slaving away in the filthy kitchen, all dirty — Tarby paws at Lynch’s face, “Cinders. You’ve been stood near the fire again, haven’t you? Hello, he’s had a fall of soot!” Then Bobby Moore shows up, in full football kit, speaking most of his line underneath the applause which greets him, and ending the sketch by leaving with Lynda on his arm.

Highlight this year is Les Dawson, or as our host introduces him, Fatty Dawson, telling a fireside tale, glass of brandy in hand, about the Wolfman, with all that beautiful Dawson wordsmithery; “the stench of evil hung like a curtain on a forbidden grave… a black, hairy hand that scrabbled at the snow like a bloated spider…” It’s brilliant, though feels more like a Halloween special, and follows the Carnival’s theme, as the Wolfman’s caught after getting drunk on a barrel of ale. Sez Les’s bit closes with a blast of Anchors Away by trumpeter Syd Lawrence and his orchestra, accompanied by flag-waving dancers in gold trousers and bras. Back at the house, Tarby’s got the boys choir back, and there’s a slight intake of breath for 2022 viewers, as he praises Leslie Crowther and Sylvia Sims for their charity work with the Stars Organisation for Spastics.

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Yet in a parade of dire sitcoms, the in-house segments are still the worst part, at one point cutting back to Tarbuck squatting by a Christmas tree like he’s doing a protest shit under it. Duelling impressions with the real Fife Robinson give the master of accents another chance to Och Aye the Noo, and when Kenny Lynch turns up as the third Fife, Tarby manages to go a full minute without mentioning his skin col– no, hold on, he’s just taken off his hat and used it to imitate big minstrel lips singing a Jolson song. When Henry Cooper rings the doorbell for a sit-down, at least it’s not a golfer. “Henry and I have a great passion, and it’s golf…” Bollocks. Now an after dinner speaker, Henry’s asked “tell us a few tales,” and it’s not a bit, just Henry (never the most electrifying raconteur) telling a couple of anecdotes Tarby’s previously enjoyed at a golf dinner. Even Val Doonican, who stops by for a song off the new record and a duet, is another name culled from Tarby’s black book of golfing buddies.

Both in ’72 and ’73, the evenings’ offerings are certainly of a tone; like Doctor in Charge, with a Christmas drink at the bar, moans about mother-in-laws, and George Layton showing up with a blonde on his arm who doesn’t speak English — “This is my Christmas cracker, and I’m going to pull it! Oh, she’s fantastic, goes like a bomb!” In all this, Spring and Autumn‘s entry is akin to finding a Chick Tract at the bottom of the stocking. The buddy comedy between pensioner Jimmy Jewel and teenage roustabout Charlie Hawkins presents a sombre sketch about religion, with a hushed conversation in a church and lines like “after my dad left I prayed every night for him to come back and he hasn’t,” leaving it the only show without the soundtrack of audience laughter, as though the writer either didn’t get the memo, or wanted to rise above all the jokes about boobs and urine-soaked trousers.

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Oddly low energy, with an old man gently admonishing a teenager for not believing in miracles, it ends with the lad sneaking back into the church for a heartfelt prayer. “I hope you’re listening to me, God, i’m not asking for anyfing for meself, but please could you see that people are nicer to each other all year round and not just at Christmas?” Its lone, tiny audience chuckle comes for the addendum of asking God if could see to it Arsenal win the cup. Tarby closes out the year, and the entire run of All Star Comedy Carnival, surrounded by guests, each with drink in hand, over the strains of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from the choir, as Bob Todd staggers on, covered in balloons and too wasted to speak, for a second pratfall over the sofa.

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 II

•December 23, 2022 • 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 videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 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.

Tomorrow’s World at Christmas

•December 16, 2022 • 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 videos, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 660,000 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.

Lesser Noel’n Edmonds

•December 8, 2022 • Leave a Comment

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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 ShopSaturday RoadshowHouse Party Hell Playlist]

Continuing our scholarly appraisal of Edmonds, it’s time to really get into the weeds, with a pair of shows which fail to even reach modern standards of existing, with neither deemed worthy of a Wikipedia page. 1999’s The World of the Secret Camera filled the gap between House Party‘s acrimonious end and the final BBC edition of Christmas Presents, suggesting its recording pre-dated Noel’s bust-up with the Beeb. A Friday night run of eight episodes, Secret Camera is the most low-budget enterprise of Noel’s career, and a straight hosting gig, like filling the revolving chair of a Commercial Breakdown. Accordingly, of all his works, this is the one which most feels like his heart’s not in it.

Animated opening credits depict comical self-destruction of the world’s landmarks, crumbling into shame as they’re captured on camera; the Millennium Dome deflating; Lady Liberty’s skirt blowing up to reveal her knickers (with accompanying wolf whistle), which as it will turn out, is pretty on-brand. The set’s comprised of a day-glo map, with an incongruous ladder extending into the ceiling, perhaps for Noel to make a quick escape from demeaning role as bearded bookmark betwixt old clips from foreign prank shows.

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This is very much the Tarrant on TV space of “ain’t telly from abroad mad?!” and opens with a Frenchman hurling himself down concrete steps. Members of the public rush to help, with multiple slo-mos of the impact, and of bystanders’ shocked faces, while Noel’s audience shriek hysterically. The man himself is mid-laugh when we cut back — “extraordinary!” Hailing from the days before global pop culture became a communal paddling pool of slurry, the outrageous behaviour of other countries is our theme, with a flabbergasted Edmonds continually extolling the televisual Wild West of our overseas chums. “There is something totally mad about the French,” he’ll tell us, guffawing over the politically-incorrect Spanish, and teasing viewers with the words “more from those barmy Japanese!

To be fair, as mentioned in my look at Endurance UK, pre-internet, Japanese television was the lone source of shit you couldn’t believe existed, where crying naked men were shooting 80mph downhill on a toilet. You can’t really blame Noel, his fist clenched in excitement with a cry of “it’s Japanese time, yes!” into a clip of some poor sod being gifted a lifetime’s PTSD as a fruit stand violently explodes around him. But even now, after all we’ve seen — men on Omegle solving Rubik’s Cubes with their anuses; YouTubers having diarrhea fights — decades-old Japanese prank shows still have the power to loosen your jaw. Here, a rambler’s out for a casual stroll when landmines start going off; explosions so powerful they send up twenty-feet of dirt in a single frame, chasing him down the path as he makes a desperate dash for safety, believing he’s already seen his children’s faces for the final time.

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Maybe Noel finds kindred souls here, as he’ll pull out a vintage 1982 clip of his own making, where a panicked victim working at a ‘dynamite factory’ is physically restrained escaping from an accidentally-lit stick by a man playing a foreman, and dragged screaming back to an explosion which reveals a beaming Noel — “hello!” Noel reiterates how stressful it was, worrying that the man — in terror of losing limbs or his life — might run out of frame, before presenting him the joke gift of a bomb. Similarly questionable is a montage of Russians trying to extricate a $100 bill from under the wheel of a parked car, which we’re told is equivalent to the average monthly wage.

Attempting to put his own stamp on a tired genre, Noel will repeatedly use the phrase “secret camera” as though it’s a thing; like how WWE solely refer to their fans as “the WWE universe” so it can be trademarked for t-shirts. These aren’t clips, they’re “secret camera films,” made by “secret camera film-makers” and “secret camera operators.” As with Beadle’s About, most of the humour derives from bewildered confrontations, yet in another odd choice, none of these are subtitled, instead backed by vaguely ethnic stock music, leaving you no clue as to what’s being said when another Iranian pickpocket prank turns physical, which even the audience aren’t sure they should be laughing at. Noel points out “you might get your hand chopped off for this,” though it’s diffused when the camera’s revealed, and the men involved exchange a peace offering of handshakes, cheek-kisses, and a flower. “I hope that doesn’t catch on,” cracks Noel, “or I don’t think I’ll do another Gotcha!

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Naturally, he can’t refrain from getting involved himself, playing back earlier footage of the audience being patted down by a ‘security guard’ who’d been secretly rifling through their pockets, for ill-gotten gains of wallets, watches, and the most 1999 totem of all, a Cartman keyring, described as “the height of bad taste!” He also remakes gags from old American Candid Cameras, feeding people free supermarket samples before revealing it’s made of cockroaches, then offering them cash to eat it. “As it involves the Americans, it is of course, all about the money,” says Noel Ernest Edmonds, who some years later would literally be paid to eat cockroaches and eyeballs on I’m a Celebrity. Incidentally, his catchphrase when walking in for the big reveal is “you’ve just been caught,” which sounds more like security informing a cleaner their nightly wank was captured by the office CCTV.

One particular German clip’s described by our man as the cleverest stunt he’s ever seen — “bordering on magic” — which is high praise indeed from the prank-master, consisting of a building site workman submerging into a puddle like the Vicar of Dibley. Again, everything’s in unsubtitled German, with Bavarian accordion music soundtracking the panic of passers-by believing themselves to be helplessly watching a man drown. “Any idea how they did that?!” asks Noel. I dunno; dug a hole? He’s completely aghast, perhaps thinking back to his own pranking career of making celebrities late to fictitious appointments by giving them a driver who’s a bit ruddy mad!!

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Again and again we will return to the continent, with Eurotrash style voiceovers on foreign clips by Kate Robbins (who actually did the Eurotrash dubbing) and some bloke, putting scouse accents over Spanish footage of “a very mad hairdressers,” and even a “fan-dabi-dozi!” when a female dwarf dressed as Supergirl’s loaded into a cannon and seemingly fired through the mark’s window. Most popular, we’re told, is a French prankster who featured in previous episodes, instigating a flood of letters and phonecalls begging for more. Let’s break down a list of his witty japes at the beach:

  • kissing an unsuspecting stranger

  • squirting sun cream all over the body of a sleeping woman in a bikini

  • massaging a shirtless man’s belly

  • pulling down a raging man’s trunks to expose the white of his bare arse as he fights him off

  • undoing a woman’s bikini from behind, and grabbing at her tits as she tries to cover them

  • pulling down the trunks of a very angry old man

  • licking the thonged crack of a woman sunbathing

  • mounting an old man and aggressively kissing him

  • throwing sand over a sunbathing women in a clip I’m 80% sure results in accidental exposed vagina on British tea-time television

Almost every one of those would involve prison time in 2022. “It’s terrible, terrible,” laughs Noel, promising something we can play along with at home, to amaze our friends, annoy our family, and possibly “get to know the local constabulary!” Not sending us out to pull women’s tops off, are you? The truth is more mundane, signalled with a cry of “here comes a mad Frenchman!” and footage of a bloke in a baseball cap trapping people inside phone boxes by running round it with gaffer tape while EMF’s Unbelievable plays. He’ll later do it with buses, tractors, and some old men on a bench, before finally the Arc de Triomphe. Noel’s so amused, he has to compose himself, and the episode closes with various BBC folk, from a tea lady to Dick from Dick ‘n’ Dom, being taped up by an imposter Frenchman played by Barry Killerby, AKA Mr. Blobby’s guts.

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Moving on, or rather back, it’s 1992’s Noel’s Addicts, which wasn’t even a spin-off of Telly Addicts, and surely came about when a commissioning editor decided “people like Noel programs about Addicts, let’s make some more of them!” Though the pitch is ‘Noel meets with addicts’, this isn’t a heavy docuseries like Ross Kemp would do, giggling through his beard as someone details a crippling struggle with meth, but another Edmonds vehicle devoted to British eccentricity. Culturally, its biggest footprint is as the show Reeves and Mortimer were parodying, in the bit which gave us Bob’s infamous wheezing and lumpen Noel. As grim warning, Addicts shares a director with 3-2-1 and every episode of Plaza Patrol, and its opening titles use the Davro’s Sketch Pad format of painting different outfits on its mugging host — cowboy, vampire, cool leather daddy — under theme music peppered by Seinfeld-esque mouth noises.

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In this instance, ‘addict’ is a blanket term for anyone who’s got a hobby, back when having interests marked you out as a nerrrrrd, which was very much a pejorative term. “Look at this nutter!” is Noel’s lifeblood, but this is moreso a capsule of what people of 30 years ago considered to be eccentric. An elderly male belly dancer; teddy bear collectors; men who repair aeroplanes, or enjoy the extremely-1992 activity of launching yourself at an inflatable wall in a Velcro bodysuit — “mad,” shrieks Noel, “total madness!” If they did this now, it’d be about feet pics and tide pods and tweeting transphobia. Mate, we all spend 18 hours a day staring at our phones, don’t talk to us about your so-called addictions.

They’ve clearly got access to one of those video effects packages allowing the screen to be folded into a shape and flown around, and use it in every transition; Noel turning into a clock face or melting down into a donut, or the footage becoming a frisbee which flies about his head. Willie Rushton’s got a segment ala Dictionary Corner, talking a mile a minute about historical addictions, showing how clever he is by dropping references from Rambo to Dracula to reincarnated earwigs, and implying that Alexander Graham Bell fucked a sheep.

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The series has all the connective threads of Noel’s back catalogue, everything riddled with those familiar puns, like regarding Shakespeare (addicted to writing plays), “if he was that popular, how come he was bard from Avon?!” There’s also viewer letters, of which he claims there have been “tens of thousands,” reading out missives from a lady who collects puffins, a man who paints hot air balloons, and holding up a picture of a bedroom crammed with Postman Pat memorabilia. He’ll hurl facts at us; a human trivia book kept on the cistern, informing breakfast addicts that nuts come from Turkey and bananas from Brazil. Now laden with fruit, Noel asks “where can I get my oats?” A busty woman enters stage left, greeted with a “well hello!” before, much to his disappointment, rather than take them out, she tips a sack of oats over him.

In a pre-record hosted by unacceptably wacky DJ Adrian Juste, we meet a radio addict with a collection of over 200,000 recordings, which honestly seems quite normal in this era of content hoarding. I download that many podcasts every week. Juste introduces it by pushing at his mixing desk to play stings of “AH, THE FELLA MUST BE NUTS!” and “STARK RAVIN’ BONKERS!” with a completely unnecessarily effect where he’s physically squashed into the shape of a signal, flying into his panel and over the airwaves to the addict’s house. The radio buff describes himself as “a servant of history,” which I may steal, for when people ask what I do for a living, and I’m forced to explain what “funny essays about, say, Michael Barrymore or Syd Little” actually consists of. Along with an early Noel broadcast — with a cut to whining dogs making a bolt for it — they show a picture of him looking slightly different, which leaves our thoroughly humiliated host bashing the arm of his chair with a “not fair, not fair!

08

The Peter Gunn theme signals an American section, traveling to meet a man who collects film and TV memorabilia, like Andy Kaufman’s jacket and Elvira’s dress. It’s here my two very specific addictions collide, as Noel Edmonds chats about Elvira’s great big gothic knockers, even having a feel of the underwiring. Also, we have what I believe to be the only onscreen meeting between Noel and Slimer. Another episode has him interview Phyllis Diller in her Beverly Hills mansion, about various collections of clocks, cars, jewellery, wigs, hats, and musical instruments, including seven grand pianos. Hold on… that’s just being rich and buying things!

Things take a turn in a sudden sketch which feels like something got taped over the end by mistake. Titled The Saint Anne Greavsie School for Girls, it’s that disturbing 90’s adult-schoolgirl aesthetic, with Susie Blake, Sherrie Hewson and Sophie Lawrence in St. Trinians pigtails and uniforms, sat behind desks to recite the play “Noel Pulls It Off” (a riff on Daisy Pulls it Off) and randily gossip about meeting the head boy behind the hockey pavilion. Enter Noel in a mortarboard, physically attacked by the girls and begging “please; don’t; stop!” When they do, he lets out a disappointed “I said please don’t stop…” Revealing himself their new biology teacher, Lawrence giggles “can we start now?!” and excitedly rushes him, before a woman enters the classroom. No, it’s not a WPC ready to cuff him, but an addict for vintage schoolgirl comics, of which this has all been the set-up; comedically portraying Noel as a paedophile.

09

Going through her comics, Noel laughs really hard at the phrase “bosom chums,” and in celebration of the addict answering twelve questions correctly, he gives the girls the rest of the day off. Susie Blake grabs her satchel and runs to Noel, who excitedly asks “does this mean we’re off to the bike shed?!” But don’t call Yewtree, it’s just for some “sticky buns” — yeah, I bet. Also aging badly is a Woody Allen addict (“don’t worry, we’ll try and cheer him up”), who says he’d love to have Woody’s record with women, with their interview conducted in front of a backdrop of enormous Woody headshots, leering over the whole thing like he’s thinking “bit old for me.”

We close with Noel dressed as an old-timey barber in red and white stripes, (fake handlebar moustache over his real one) sweeping the floor of a barbershop set, as four men in pink jackets bid him hello, helloo, helloooo, hellooooo! Barbershop addicts, (i.e. they have a group), before singing us out, the leader says a “good ear” is important, and for literally no reason at all, starts doing Prince Charles, pulling out big rubber ears and going “errrr, errrr, Diana,” although in a close-up, I can’t legally confirm whether he’s moving his stiff arms up and down.

10

Noel’s Addicts is a show which re-emphasises 1992 — even moreso than now — as a time when one simply couldn’t enjoy a thing without being derided for it. You mean you don’t come home from work and drink yourself to sleep in front of the telly? What a ravin’ great nerd! Old book-boy loves his books, don’t he? Bet you shag ’em! Papercuts all over his willy, this one! There was a clip going round Twitter last year of Graham Norton belittling Henry Cavill for partaking in Warhammer, with that idea that men shouldn’t have fun; shouldn’t have hobbies; and even a casual interest renders you an obsessive weirdo and helpless addict. Keen on Woody Allen films? ADDICT! Go out dancing once a week? JUNKIE! Like a thing which other people don’t like as much as you? STARK RAVIN’ BONKERS! My own addiction is writing longform pieces about Noel Edmonds, which you are all enabling, so don’t bother trying an intervention.

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