As Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s tour rolls into Liverpool, Getintothis’ Luke Chandley writes a personal love letter to his all-time favourite comedians.
I don’t remember the first time I heard of Reeves and Mortimer but I know it was from Shooting Stars. To me, Shooting Stars was the first comedy show I got really, truly excited about.
I don’t know how old I was, but I’m pretty sure I was in primary school. Back in those days (he says, like one of them famed ‘old’ people) comedy seemed easier. It’s tough to describe what I mean, but in the 1990’s, comedy would only make it onto the TV if it was actually funny. A regular Friday evening was The Simpsons, Friends, Frasier, Men Behaving Badly and other similarly digestible shows. It was a simpler decade when TV still seemed to matter, especially to me. It was around this time I discovered Vic and Bob.
I found them when I was clearly very impressionable. I was young, and here were these two grown men acting like children, coupled with another grown man acting like a baby. Vic, Bob and George Dawes were like comedy Gods who had been sent down to make my life more exciting. I was hooked.
What really whet my appetite was the fact that I couldn’t watch it every week. My parents were fairly strict so if it was a “no” from them, then it was a “no” to the show. Maybe I would do something naughty or maybe my parents wanted to watch something else, but either way seeing my two new favourite comedians wasn’t a weekly affair, but more spontaneous. I was teased by the first episode then held back until I happened to catch another. It was the biggest tease, but this only served to interest me more.
I’ve grown up loving comedy, and I study the performance of it – typically British and usually stand-up – regularly and enthusiastically. It’s a medium that truly fascinates me but unfortunately, British comedy has gone downhill at a rate of knots.
The stand-up scene has boomed with the popularity of Peter Kay and Live at the Apollo but through this increased focus, the market has forcefully produced predominantly middle class dross; watered down content about the hilarity of food names or how trains are a bit crap, or something. Observational comedy has taken centre stage because people remember things, and remembering things is funny. Only that’s not really true.
The special talent that Reeves and Mortimer have is making stupid, crazy thoughts and ideas exciting and blunt. The imagination of these two lads must be on par with some of the greatest artists and minds out there. It sounds like a far-out shout, but look at some of their work – it is consistent insanity littered with small bits of normality.
Whilst writing this piece, I was able to perform the best research possible and rewatch Shooting Stars. I got to rewatch Big Night Out too (a show that, to this day, remains one of my favourites). What strikes you when watching the two comedians is how clearly excitable they get about their work and each other. They are a couple of giddy men, eager to grab the attention for themselves in the least egotistical, most generous way possible. Their art is silliness in it’s purest form. They have continued to intellectualise being completely bonkers during a time when the comedy scene seems to be suffering a serious inability to let go of being sensible and literal.
It’s not the surreal element of their comedy I like the most. It’s the fact that they produce consistently different programmes time and time again. They are a brand in of their own and the market they’re in stinks of boredom.
Their latest vehicle, the wonderfully absurd, incredibly Vic and Bob sitcom show House of Fools was a lesson in being idiotic. They took an old, audience-centric model and injected their own style onto it perfectly. In true BBC style, the (critically acclaimed) show was cancelled after two series, cancelled like their (award-winning) game show Shooting Stars. Their counter-culture comedy was deemed not mainstream enough for the ageing and ailing network. The same network that cancelled the (award-winning) Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle but continues to throw episode after episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys into our unwilling and upset faces.
The joy of Vic and Bob to me is in their ability to make me laugh. They are geniuses during a time when, actually, the term is used too often. They know that the most basic, idiotic things will make people laugh. You don’t necessarily need comedy that makes you think. It’s a nice thing to have, but there’s a huge trend of comedians who want to lace their comedy with provoking points and important messages. I know the world is shit and I know I need to think about it, but give me 30 minutes of “true or false: the Dutch language was a joke that got out of hand” over social and political satire any day.
Reeves and Mortimer are still the only people to consistently bring me to pain whilst laughing and I don’t ever want that to stop. Bob’s recent triple heart bypass was a scare, but their latest tour, which swings our way this month and next, offers us ‘The Precious Moments’, when the most precious moments are hopefully still to come. There are no comedian’s doing silly today as well as these two do.
I love Vic and Bob.
Reeves & Mortimer play The Liverpool Echo Arena on December 16.