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As I’m no longer able to edit the outdated list of links on the right, I’ve compiled some ways for you to help support my pumping out of the literary gold, if you so wish.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

Sunday Night Dread: That’s Life

•May 19, 2022 • 1 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 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.

Brian Conley

•May 9, 2022 • 1 Comment

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Brian Conley’s another of those cultural oddities who were massive for years, endlessly quoted in classrooms and offices, yet never deemed worthy of a DVD release or even repeats, outside of minor satellite channels. The Brian Conley Show ran for 53 episodes over a full decade, taking us from the neon and knitwear of 1992 to television’s post-911 trench warfare, and all powered by hand-clapping holiday camp confidence. Like Shane Richie hurled at Jack Nicholson, Conley’s passport probably read “actor, comic, West End star, cheeky boy!” And how to even define his act? It was a bit of everything; sketch comedy, physical flailing, impressions, variety, song and dance; the jack of all trades club style which dominated TV for decades, but never made it out of the 90s. Sketches with a sing-a-long catchphrase? Of course. Slapstick pratfalls? Also yes. The serious song? I’m afraid so. And now, barring “it’s a puppet!” every minute has all but been forgotten.

A career represented in digital dregs, there’s just two episodes available to look at, so we’ll begin chronologically, with 1992’s first series. This isn’t a great way in for a reappraisal, with a feet-finding and very slight show, sharing the sub-30m screentime with guest acts. Brian’s in a leopard skin, fedora and shades ensemble, opening with a thunderous “do you love me?” by The Contours — I can mashed potat-er! I can do the twist! But at least it’s not the Blues Brothers. One day, we’ll get to the bottom of that era’s obsession with 1950’s and 60’s Americana. From Davro, Abbot and Dennis to Little and Large, and every lay-jeh-men act between, they bloody loved their teddy boys and greasers twirling big-haired diner waitresses over their shoulders.

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Halfway through the show, he’s joined by the Singlettes, a kitsch Australian comedy group in beehive wigs, performing covers from that exact genre, doing dances where you pretend to be going underwater and shit. His coming out in a vest, pants and helmet during Leader of the Pack, covering his genitals with a hand, sends the live crowd unglued. Whatever’s been lost in the intervening years, it’s clear that in his time, the people loved him. He has a real connection with the audience, imbuing shoddy gags with an infectious sense of “we’re only mucking about!” and big on the aura of chaos, perpetually glancing offscreen with a laughter that suggests this isn’t how it went in rehearsal.

It’s a fast moving show, with onstage costume changes before the previous punchline’s dry; assistants running on to slide jackets over his arms or help shed tearaway trousers as the next set’s wheeled in behind him. Keeping the energy level high helps distract from the quality of material, like Brian’s gardener character, running through lines about “the hanging gardens of Basildon,” suggesting the use of a corset to “lift the begonia without getting a big ‘ernia,” and implying his penis has gotten hard from drinking fertilizer. At one point, a Red Indian dances out from the wings — “I said have a ho, not Navajo!” There’s enough dad jokes in these 24 minutes for a thousand bastard sons.

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Both Dangerous Brian and Nick Frisbee are present from the beginning. Frisbee; psychotic children’s presenter parodying CBBC’s broom cupboard; runs through jokes about big tits, ear wax, and the Chinese eating animals, while Dangerous Brian hypnotises a real elephant, saying “poppadom, poppadom” in its ear because it’s Indian. Even with the professional presence of Nick Owen, the elephant upends the sketch by repeatedly reaching for Brian’s cock with its trunk, though after that recent video of an elephant pretending to eat someone’s hat for a joke, perhaps it’s deliberate, with the good old nob-gag transcending species. We go out on a real Butlins closer, curtain raising to reveal all the dancers and guests, everyone clapping along to a jolly sing-a-long of Enjoy Yourself, in the TV equivalent of a stranger in the street telling me “cheer up, might never happen!”

Next, it’s a stage show from 1996, which went out live on ITV, and became Brian’s only VHS/DVD release, with promised ‘extra bits’. The title Alive and Extra Dangerous plays into his rep, which was not quite in the Freddie Starr/Barrymore league of “anything might happen!” but sneaking up just behind, with vague threats of going into the audience. This is a weird thing to be watching in 2022, but especially when you’re running a fever from the booster shot, and spent all night looping one line from a Mitski song in your head while tumbling in and out of recurring dreams where Neil Buchanan built a proton pack so heavy, you couldn’t stand up while wearing it.

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Surprisingly modern opening titles switch Brian between wigs, glasses and smiles on a computer screen, in a techy take on the classic Davro’s Sketch Pad “man of a thousand comedic faces” format. We begin with a cameo from the real Mystic Meg, at the height of her fame, alongside Brian’s parody character, Septic Peg. This lays the table for what’s to come, with jokes which genuinely take me aback with their Christmas cracker rankness. But the audience are fully onboard, roaring as he quaffs whiskey and makes one eye look massive through a magnifying glass. As usual with a stage version, there’s more of a rock concert feel, with everyone just wanting to see all the classic bits in person.

Cut to Brian dressed like a giant orange, accompanied by flamenco dancers, and singing in a Spanish accent — “you can keep your peach or mango, cos you know when you’ve been tangoed!” The suit could easily be resprayed for a bollock cancer awareness campaign, and it feels like scenes in biopics where the price of fame has our protagonist sign up for a humiliating advert, like Rocky as the caveman. Brian bangs out an Oriental riff on a steel drum, before pushing the sticks into his eyes to make them go slitty, with a buck-toothed “aah, glasshoppa!

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Out of the orange and into a shiny black jacket for one of many stand-up sections, which set lofty new records for hackiness, with fellas walking into bars and doctor’s offices, Germans reserving deckchairs, and did you know Brian’s got a black belt in karaoke? Plus there’s willies. Lots and lots of willies. What I didn’t remember about Conley’s work was the incessant references to penis. In a hundred-minute show, you’re lucky to find a 60-second stretch without either talking about, miming, or touching his own, or orating about phalli in more general terms so frequently that even I, the master of nob comedy, end up thinking “turn it in, mate!” Small willies, big willies, hard willies, soft willies; Brian Conley is utterly fixated on willies. Balls rarely get a look in, although there is a fair bit about arses.

Admittedly, it’s a bit rich me knocking anyone for being puerile, and I did laugh when he pulled a “Tarzan in the jungle with a belly ache, wants to do a toilet, [fart] too late,” but whenever he’s straight gagging, it’s a compilation of every joke you got told in school. Nick Frisbee reels off strings of laffers about bogies and farts, and condom lines Mike Reid used in his panto. He even nicks one of my personal favourites, with a letter from Spanish viewer Señor Willy (in mine, he’s author of the book Spying On You in the Bath), although Brian’s is a fireman with two sons, “Hose-A and Hose-B!” Obviously we can’t judge these by modern comedy standards, as this was simply the way back then, taking ownership of a gag, not by writing, but by performing it to the largest audience, and there’s nothing you won’t have heard on the playground or from uncles at Christmas.

Doctor, I’m suffering from incontinence.”

Where are you (w)ringing from?

The waist down!

Though the material’s stinky, Brian kinda sells it on enthusiasm alone, and it’s not even bad per se, just weird that it went out in a juicy live evening slot, and not 9am of a half term. Likewise, you can set your watch by the topical references, with two jokes about Linford Christie’s lovely big dick and bollocks, Madonna being a slag (“why does she wear knickers? To keep her ankles warm”), Skodas being rubbish, Fatima Whitbread’s hairy armpits (“nah, she’s a nice bloke”) and Camilla looking like a horse. The French are frogs, and the Welsh sheep-shaggers, while accusing audience members or dancers of being gay is an easy laugh. We all get that standards change, and I’m not about to drag him to the gallows, but it’s all so lazy. Perhaps we’re more attuned in the Twitter era, where you can watch a topical joke burn itself out from fresh to hackneyed in the span of a day, before hearing it on HIGNFY a fortnight later.

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Breaking for a whistle-stop tour of his career, he’s laughing at an old picture from 1978, and running a clip of a debut TV appearance with Bernie Winters in 1982. “If they were brains, you’d be Prime Minister!” says young Brian, pointing at an audience member’s large tits. Then it’s back to the present, where you can’t diss the gag-rate, in a show which runs an hour and forty minutes, but won’t let you catch a breath. Yes, they reek — “Lone Ranger and Tonto came across a bacon tree… it was a ham-bush!” — but they never stop. Dangerous Brian beats up goons in a cartoony fight scene; there are numerous magic tricks; there’s even a rap, marching round to a quasi hip-hop beat and grabbing his cock, though rap skits are outdated by 1996, and he confuses it with acid house, repeatedly screaming the word “acciiiid!

Personal highlight is a Devil Went Down to Georgia bit, appearing to play the fiddle, until a finger suddenly emerges from his open fly, moving back and forth in time to the music like a knuckled penis. It’s a genuinely funny visual, particularly when it casually grips the bow, but the absolute gall to do on television what didn’t get a laugh when I did it in GCSE drama. What’s next, turning his pockets inside out and saying “now for my elephant impression”? Throughout the show, he’ll randomly revert to a rotten American accent, which we get a lot of in a film noir skit, acting out a radio drama with an onstage Sound FX Department adding slide-whistles and gunshots to jokes about trusses and gay snakes. He’ll pull the soundman out to grope at his chest, informing him his nipple’s gone hard, in a routine he’d recreate years later, without the patsy’s consent, with a female Big Brother contestant.

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Switching styles again, there’s observational humour; “Why do women pluck their eyebrows? Remember playing kiss chase at school, lifting up girls skirts? Why are the windows in plane toilets frosted? What’s the deal with old men wearing their trousers so high?” Then impressions; an ice cream man having a poo, an Eskimo going for a wee (flicking ice cubes out of his crotch into the crowd), and a gay chicken; “any cock’ll do!” There’s Barrymore style audience interaction, ordering women in the front row to close their legs and not fold their arms — “you’ll curdle your milk” — and pretending to polish bald men’s heads, although he doesn’t eject any elderly. And more jokes; about wanking, about grandad’s willy going hard, and the expiry date on condoms.

As a willy-fanatic, Brian’s obviously well into condoms too, evidenced by the show’s most baffling section, announcing in a dramatic movie trailer voice “we now live in the age of the condom!” Ah yes, the mid-90s, when they first came in. A musical number replete with swirling spotlights and a big band voice, if you take out his comedy thrusting, the lyrics are straight off an 80’s government flyer about the threat of AIDS.

Sex today is filled with many dangers,

going to sleazy bars and picking up strangers,

for every thrust you make, another chance you take,

if you go down, you may go down forever…

He gets the men in the audience to sing along with its anthemic chorus “yes, I’m a condom man, I’m a condom man!” while pointing at his penis for the thousandth time, with a call for “the lads with small willies” leading to predictable silence, while the men with big willies are raucous, and my, couldn’t the final scene of Scrooged have been very different with Brian in the lead? He takes a huge bow at the finish — “I’m safe as can be, cos I put on thirty three!” — like he’s just closed on Broadway rather than being a 35-year-old little boy giggling through the first sex education module.

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Other than the subject of rubbered-up boners, Brian’s favourite is undoubtedly what appears to be the Yarwood Earnest Song, but gets subverted by say, accidentally backhanding a woman into the piano, or when “I believe that children are the future,” a tiny trombone poking out of a pram for a solo. “Do you fancy a bit of Elvis?!” he yells, before tossing a prop of Elvis’s arm into the crowd, and in a blast of Yesterday, on “there’s a shadow hanging over me,” a cut-out of Hank Marvin descends from the ceiling. Consequently, when he is being sincere, you’re waiting for the turn, like a number off his upcoming album, which is dedicated to his wife. Fool me once, Brian; I know the stool’s gonna break and send the pole up your hole, or the harmonica player’s trousers will fall down! But it’s played straight, with impassioned crooning to the end, soaking in applause with a look of pride.

The big show closer involves special guest “Mister Al Jolson!” where Brian showcases his Olivier nominated stage role. Thankfully he’s not in blackface, but is in slick West End performer mode, singing about that Swanee River properly, with nobody chucking a bucket of water over him from the wings, or pretending a carrot is his winkle. The accent still honks though. ‘Al’ does three numbers, including a bullfighting themed routine, which feels like the worst bits of the Royal Variety, and comes across as pretty self-involved after a preceding 90 minutes about bogeys and farts. But everyone’s up for a standing ovation as he takes his final bow, with a clapping which could be described as ‘violent’. The advertised ‘Extra Bits’ on the VHS take the form of Conley’s Cock Ups; minor bloopers we’ve either already seen, or which couldn’t possibly exist if the show actually went out live as purported. To no great shock, the script’s attributed to Brian, plus a pair of writers who’ve credits for — brace yourselves — Little and Large, Russ Abbot, Davro, and The Les Dennis Laughter Show.

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Jumping forwards ten years from his first TV series to July of 2002, this is a different format in a different world, and comes from the final run, three years into the revamped Brian Conley Show. Doubled in length from thirty mins to the full hour, no longer a sketch show, we’re in capital-letters Late Night, with Brian as Carson or Letterman — at least, in his mind. The continuity announcer warns guests will be “braving” him, as Brian tells us “it’s party time,” rearing into camera to yell “HIT IT!” like he’s The Mask or something. The set’s cavernously noughties, evoking Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush with swirling shapes and a staircase which takes guests roughly twenty minutes to descend. Brian bursts out of the wings through smoke, swinging Sinatra voice belting out “baby, let the good times roll!” and gone are the silly wigs, replaced — again, in his mind — with a Rat Pack cool. This is simply Conley as Conley, barring a lone skit, satellite interviewing a racing driver who’s sponsored by Vicks and Anasol, played by himself in grotesque joke shop teeth and a nerd voice going on about skidmarks.

After the standard opening topical monologue, he bids us welcome in one of his American accents, before bantering with the band leader like Partridge and Glen Ponder — “he’s ad-libbing now, ladies and gentlemen!” This is notably trippy because the band leader is Steve Brown, aka the actual Glen Ponder, giving a real multiverse Knowing Me, Knowing You vibe. Will we close on him fatally shooting Michael Winner with a pair of antique duelling pistols? Brian’s definitely moved with the times, as this runs on the blithe cruelty of the fresh millennium, when every TV doc was titled Britain’s Fattest Pieces of Shit: Look at These Dick-Ugly Bastards. There are constant digs at other celebs; Martine McCutcheon for missing West End shows through illness; Angus Deayton for doing cocaine; while Rik Waller’s a fat bloater and Jade Goody should move to “the Isle of Dogs.” Even Todd Carty gets it, in a routine about his EastEnders sacking for being part of the furniture — “Wooden. He is putting on a brave face, the only face he can do!” Is there Conley/Carty heat?! In 2014, they starred together in CBBC’s Celebrity Driving Academy, but any scenes of Carty forcing him to suck on a hot exhaust pipe for penance never made it to air.

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Some segments are oddly Barrymore in both tone and content, coming just a year after the death of Stuart Lubbock and the big man’s subsequent television exile. A skit where he’s on the street, auditioning members of the public with his catchphrases, is fully just My Kind Of People, with Brian laughing at accents and asking an old man “was it cold in the ground this morning?” Conley’s Kids puts him in an infants school, dancing with children who say the funniest things, and making them laugh in yellow tights with an enormous gold codpiece, which honestly seems a bit penisy for under-sevens, thrusting it at the camera to S Club’s Reach.

Let’s be very clear; this is a truly appalling show, and I would kill for a whole series of it. The celebrity interviews are somehow worse, and first is Emily Symons — Marilyn from Home and Away — who as one-time fiancée of anti-vax goblin, Matt Le Tissier, sees him holding the all-time punching above your weight championship. As an Australian, she gets all the gags about barbies and Kylie Minogue’s arse, and accompanies Brian blowing across the top of a bottle for a duet of Tainted Love, before he pretends to eat a live cockroach, like they do in the bush — “that was tasty, but not as tasty as you!

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Brian interviews like he’s writing for the school newspaper, asking Natalie Imbruglia “do you miss being in Neighbours?” and “was it difficult going from acting to singing?” leaving his guests reeling off dead-eyed press junket auto-replies. As Natalie stretches out on the sofa, Brian calls it “my little casting couch,” and makes a joke about going down on his wife, before leaving her shrugging to a punchline about Jeremy Clarkson, having to gamely laugh at gags about Michael Jackson being white and George Michael being gay. Enrique Iglesias fares no better — “why’d you think you’re so popular?”is there anyone special in your life?” — and forced to identify funny plastic fish props. One with big ears? Herring aid. Candles in it? Fish cake. And so on.

Final guest Phillip Schofield pisses himself during an anecdote about a dead scuba driver, then plays Russian Roulette with Brian, using bottles of champagne, where they’re strapped in an office chair while Glen Ponder furiously shakes the bottles at their faces like he’s at a swinger’s party and realises he’d better get home soon if doesn’t want to miss The Apprentice. It’d be unfair to judge Brian’s work solely on the latter series, as everyone came out of the era looking like a horrendous cock, but like the music of Madonna, Brian’s surviving work shows that whatever era he was in, he was a man of the times. These days, he’s acting in EastEnders as Sonia’s estranged dad. If he gets fired, I hope Todd Carty’s got a nice zinger lined up.

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.

A Salute to Rod, Jane and Freddy

•April 29, 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 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.

Beginner Hauntology: Interference

•April 19, 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 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.

Owt Good On, Mam? – When Game Shows Had The Horn

•April 10, 2022 • Leave a Comment

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[previous Owt Good Ons: The Three L’sBear Special]

As a terribly repressed figure, bloated with shame and self-loathing, it’s with some trepidation I must wade into the suspiciously-sticky waters of — where else? — the nineties, when telly got thirsty AF. ITV already had form with the Margi Clarke fronted Good Sex Guide, which found an incredible 13 million viewers in 1993, and in ’96, they took that randiness and made a quiz out of it, in the form of Carnal Knowledge.

This is the Mr. and Mrs. deal, with couples answering questions about each other, only, all the questions are about nobbing. This old spin on the format had previously cropped up as segments in shows like The Word, but as an entire series, with the only conceivable willing viewers drunk and/or visibly purple with sexual frustration, its natural home was the Friday night post-pub wank hour. No full episodes are available, with just a partial on the worst quality VHS rip I’ve ever witnessed, scarred with enormous tracking lines depressingly suggestive of multiple rewatches.

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Our hosts are Graham Norton and Maria McErlane; the latter familiar in the grot-slot as narrator of Eurotrash, with both shows produced by Rapido TV. Filling the role Robert Llewellyn took in the pilot, shot three long years earlier for Channel 4, this is Norton’s first big TV gig, airing a week before his debut in Father Ted. Like all these 90’s shows which revelled in their extremely grown-up hedonism, in 2022, it’s embarrassingly naff, from opening credits where stick figures shake the fig leaves off their genitals under calypso music, to Maria’s intro of “welcome to 50 minutes of full frontal group sex with jelly wrestling nuns!” That was how everyone talked about sex back then; Angus Deayton’s voice describing “a very hot night involving rubber gloves, an industrial strength tub of Utterly Butterly, and a German midget!” Truthfully, the moment anyone in 1995 got an erection, they reported themselves to the police for obscenity.

The thing which immediately stands out is Norton’s not doing the “EEEHHM” noise which has sat at the end of his every line for the last 20 years. You know the one. Jo Brand does it too, as does its biggest proponent, Dara O’Briain. There’s that old saying, ‘to err is human, to ERRRR is O’Briain.’ Perhaps less experienced with live audiences, Norton’s yet to pick up that verbal tick, which, as explained by Stewart Lee, functions as subliminally flattering the audience into thinking they got the joke early, and their laughter cuts off an additional line. It throws me to not hear it, conditioned to expect an EEEEHM each time he speaks, and leaving me like someone who used to clear landmines, watching my kids at the sports day sack race and flinching from bangs which never come.

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For maximum confusion in remembering who’s the boy and who’s the girl when reading back my notes, couples competing are Landa and Linden, and Kerrie and Sarah, with Kerrie a big fella with a ginger goatee, who’s “known Sarah since she was 11.” Don’t panic, they’re about the same age, and got together when she went to his flat for a meal and “we had a food fight and I flung her in the shower.” Yeah, sounding dodgy again, as she had to wear his clothes, which are really big “and then we had a fight and they fell off, and she didn’t go home for 4 days.” Always good when your meet-cute anecdote sounds like an alibi made up in a panic. “I swear, officer, she chucked a trifle at me, and then…”

Also, Kerrie likes Sarah because she’s petit — “I like small women” — and has a fantasy about her and her sister, who he’s been trying to get round for a threesome, and this is all fine. Sarah’s most attracted to the way Kerrie speaks; yeah like when he’s on TV saying he wants you to scissor your blood sibling while he fucks his hand in the corner; a real oldschool charmer, a proper Nigel Havers. It makes Linden’s confession of liking Landa’s “breasts” positively virginal. Norton is unbearable here, using dreadful 90’s sex phrases like “bedroom aerobics” and “romantic romps,” and his role is to profile the couples, delivering bad puns over photos of them. Photos like this (FYI they are both white).

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First round is a Family Fortunes style “we asked 100 people,” delivered by Maria from a chair shaped like a fat nob and bollocks, and framed in front of a vulvic archway. The answers are a grim portrait of 90’s British sexuality, with the first question, “what do you do if you can’t cum?” cutting to horrible vox pops in the street. “If I can cum, I’m in luck!” says a man in a flat cap. “Panic,” giggles a young woman. “Go harder!” says a man as his girlfriend laughs. “More sex,” she adds, “loads more sex!” Wahey! Top answer was “to laugh,” which makes sense considering sex of that era was a tawdry sitcom with parping noises and beds breaking from too much of the old rumpy-bonky. A silly willy getting hard and all slime coming out of the end? Brilliant!

Plus, there’s another bloke who looks like Peter Sutcliffe, and the show’s so old, one of the questions is “what is dogging?” which Norton has to explain, complete with joke about turning the interior lights on, “giving a whole new meaning to pay and display!” EEEHHM! And on the subject of men fantasising while in the bath, he quips they’ll “frighten their rubber ducks while playing hide-the-loofah,” which I swear, is a line you could use to ascertain the time period more accurately than carbon dating.

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Round two’s the Kama Sutra game, where (fully-clothed) couples are given positions to wrangle into under a sheet on the floor — “just step over the wet patch!” — as Graham Norton says witticisms while peeking beneath and laughing like a man choking on his dinner. For the Mr. and Mrs. part, the women describe their partner’s nobs. Landa goes with “large, crinkly, hairy,” and is that not Bungle off Rainbow? Linden’s view of his own differs slightly, with “big, thick, very hard, definitely clean, but a lethal weapon,” while Kerrie describes his junk as “bulbous, thick of girth, nobbly bit underneath (I’d get that checked, mate), hard and clean.” Note that both men, not suspiciously at all, point out their penises are clean, which is very much not the action of men whose dicks have wobbly stink lines coming off. My ‘MY DICK DOESN’T STINK’ t-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by the shirt, etc.

When it’s the lads’ turn to describe their ladies, Kerrie’s clearly seething Sarah didn’t say his was like the Eiffel Tower (having gone with “of mediocre size”), and opens by joking she’s “riddled with cellulite.” Other questions include “which sexual act have the women refused to do?” (Kerrie answering “up the jacksie” and sighing mournfully), and the conundrum “you can have your dream home, but only if he shags his ex.” Worst of all, they have the girlfriends guess which of four women in the audience their blokes would most like to sleep with, resulting in Landa’s “number three, because he likes pretty girls,” while the others are stood right there.

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In a show riddled with terribly-aged moments, nothing quite dates it like the What’s My Line round, trying to guess a mystery guest’s “bizarre connection to sex.” It turns out, the middle-aged, unassuming Ken is from “a society which is obsessed with bottoms.” Aren’t we all, mate? Ken’s club is called The Just Botty Spanking Society, and he only ever refers to female arse as such; “the botty,” appreciative of “all its moods… moving, making noises.” And as we’ve previously seen in our trawls through the 90s, big arses were to be spurned and sneered at back then — we’re liberated sensual explorers, but bums don’t even have nipples; what’s the point in that?!

Some 18 years before twerking made it into the English Dictionary, they’re confused and aghast by Ken’s bizarre fetish, debating it for ages, trying to wrap their heads around purposely touching or looking at a bottom, asking “do you get pleasure from looking at it jiggle?!” like Ken told them he wanks over pictures of coal. Praise be, the tape runs out before the final, so we’ll never know who won, and fittingly, it cuts off with Graham Norton saying the scores stand “very erect” before laughing at his own joke. But this is the game show equivalent of coquettishly holding hands in the park on a third date compared to Sky One’s Prickly Heat.

A show I previously described as “It’s a Knockout as devised by Wayne Lineker,Prickly Heat began its run in 1999, in a period full of Ibiza-based early-reality shows, with drunken lads and lasses sticking out their tongues and waving pale buttocks at the camera. The boozy, debauched image of 18-30s holidays slotted perfectly into the Lads Mags era, when stuff like the image below was perfectly fine and normal.

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Fittingly, coming off a successful run of early morning innuendo with Johnny Vaughan on The Big Breakfast, van Outen’s our host, having taken over from Davina McCall, who moved on after Prickly Heat‘s first of three series. Incredibly, Britbox have yet to pick it up, so we’re left with just two incomplete and selectively edited rips on YouTube. You know exactly where you stand from the titles; a concussion-speed highlight reel of alcohol tipping into open mouths and swimwear-clad boobs being vigorously shaken. A woman rides a patio chair like she’s trying to fuck it to death; a man gets stripped of his towel as van Outen lowers her sunglasses for a better look, with an expression that says “check out the farter on him!” The theme tune’s a thumping chant of “AA-AA-AA, OOH-WEE-OOH-WEE OOH!” reminiscent of drunken lads in the street at chucking out time, yelling “OI OI, SAVELOY!” at you while one of them has intercourse with a postbox.

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Shot on a scorching beach in Magaluf, all four home countries battle it out in teams of eight — four men, four women — each nation’s very best at grotty shagging games. Introduced in VTs, they frolic on the sand to Music to Watch Girls By or Mambo No. 5; girls in tiny bikinis, boys in posing pouches. Arses are taken out (control yourself, Ken), boobs are jiggled, then everyone rolls round in a big wet pile. It’s so lengthy and gratuitous, I could hear the tuts of Mary Whitehouse’s ghost all the way from Hell. Co-host Julian Clary goes off hunting down two missing players, but all the ‘reality’ bits of hangovers and who’s fingering who at the hotel have been edited from the video, along with pre and post-game interviews and intros, robbing us of any context. Containing nothing but the actual games definitively marks this down as someone’s tug-tape.

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Indeed, each game’s devised solely for obvious pervy reasons; to make tits bounce or fall out of tops; to make contestants grope each other, or to put them in positions — on all fours or frantically bouncing up and down — where viewers may think “I bet that’s what they look like when they’re doing it!” The first round’s a filthy demonstration of this, having them ride the juice from grapes through slits of a garden chair as the camera leers like a pervert. A knocker escapes as van Outen commentates “Kelly’s ‘aving trouble with her bits,” and the lads fill each other’s speedos with grapes, in a grim portend of the haemorrhoids they’ll suffer later in life as a result of this. A watching crowd of twentysomethings pump their arms to the Vengaboys, as van Outen observes “great gushes of juice oozing out of Ibbie’s trunks; well I do hope it’s all juice!

DvO’s commentary seems like she’s worried Julian fucking Clary is too subtle, with choice cuts like “it’s all about how much sausage our contestants can stuff in their mouths in five seconds; I bet i’d be good at this!” and asserting that female contestants “spend most of their nights legs akimbo!” As they bomb down a water slide with modelling balloons, she suggests “these girls have all had experience manipulating men, and normally with much less to work with, know what I mean?!” What, that their penises were less than two feet long? Yeah, I think I get it.

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The next round is a… spy assault course? How to even describe this without sounding like I’m filling out an eyewitness report for Operation Yewtree? The men are dressed in a tuxedo/speedo combo, and mix a blue cocktail as James Bond music plays. Nearby girls are covered in cream, with a secret code hidden somewhere on their bodies, and wince as the lads merrily bat away at their tits like cats at a bathroom light. The code opens a safe containing a bikini, passed to another girl laying naked under an upturned paddling pool, which she has to get into before it’s tipped over with a see-saw, exposing her nakedness. One of the fellas has a peek when he chucks in the bikini — “the cheeky devil’s havin’ a look!” — while the cameraman gets right in too, for a shot of a bare back as she ties the top on. From there, it’s a getaway on space hoppers along wet tarpaulin, designed to make contestants slip for more ‘accidental’ exposure, and the race is won by hopping in a bed and getting off with each other.

Then it’s onto a “pub crawl” which puts everyone on hands and knees with a tray of sloshing glasses strapped to their backs. A pair of holidaymakers are the obstacles, with wet girls crawling over a middle-aged man, beer-soaked boobs first, while van Outen cackles “getcha leg over!” The men navigate the same chap in a manner she describes as “the homophobic approach,” backs arched, crotches well out of the way. But funnily, they traverse the woman very slowly, belly-down like a snake, and leading with the hog. Any games which focus purely on male contestants are victim to a savage edit, with our archivist not so keen on the boring non-titty stuff, and using his free hand to hit pause. Kept all the bits where teams scrub oil off each other under the shower, mind.

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The rounds seem endless, involving various shite; stashing dead fish down their pants; crawling over a giant inflatable sausage while holding a saveloy they have to gobble down like a delicious phallus, as Julian Clary phones it in with lines like “you’ve had worse.” The sausage crawling’s filmed from underneath, Put ‘Em On The Glass style, and when yet another girl’s knockers pop out, the producers must’ve been livid — “That’s the last thing we wanted to happen! We can’t show that!” Then Denise goes on about how giant sausages dried up in the heat will give a girl friction burns, as one of the contestants pukes a half-digested saveloy onto the sand.

Much of the ‘games’ would probably count as sex if you were telling a mate what you got up to on holiday, like filling each other’s trunks (front and back) with the various contents of a British breakfast — sausage, tomato, scrambled eggs — before waddling off like that documentary about the man with elephantiasis of the bollocks. There’s an enormous amount of lengthy genital groping, with everyone getting right in there, and in a snippet of post-match interview, a Scottish girl laughs about wiping her team-mate’s bum, before he jokes “I’ve not got a sausage in my pocket!” and waves a semi-turgid crotch into the lens for a lingering close-up of his blood-filled william.

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If there is a highlight, it’s the Scottish ice cream man bought into judge a wankfest where the men slaver the women with cream, jelly and custard, groping and wobbling their jugs as they’re garnished with chocolate sprinkles, which he does with a plain-faced earnesty — “this team seem tae have got the layers correct.” When we get a look at the scoreboard, Scotland have 1,000 points to England’s 25,000, so presumably a single point was given every time something absolutely fucking appealing happened. As a bloke with Jambo from Hollyoaks hair dives under a duvet with a girl and Denise asks if she can join, with a “three in the bed, and the little one said, ‘mmmmm!’” the tape suddenly ends. There is another 12 minute section on YouTube where, amazingly, one of the contestants is Alex Jones from The One Show, but I can’t put myself through it. After all this, I shall be petitioning Number 10 to start putting bromide in the water supply, like they did with soldiers’ cups of tea, so that no British man or woman ever becomes horny again.

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.

Saturday Morning Archaeology: No. 73

•March 29, 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 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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