Mike Reid’s Pussy in Boots

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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.

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~ by Stuart on January 3, 2022.

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