Saturday Smiles

It’s the weekend – in case you hadn’t noticed – and I thought I’d try something different to entertain you for a while. For a change, I thought I’d show you that I don’t just listen to music when I’m on YouTube. They have much more to offer, catering to almost any niche interest you can think of, and a few more that you probably wouldn’t imagine. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the video I watched when I first got my Nintendo Switch: I had searched for videos to show me how to use it, how to insert game cards, etc and the first one I watched showed me how to take the Switch out of its box. And nothing more. So very helpful!

One thing YouTube provides is masses of comedy videos. These range from the self-produced ones by people trying to impress us with their comedic talents – don’t give up the day job, guys – to a raft of clips from TV programmes. These come from all around the globe, but I’m afraid my ability to keep up is only capable of English language ones: I did try a couple in Italian and Spanish but couldn’t understand a word. The women were all beautiful though, so there might be a research project there, I think…

For this first of what may well become an occasional series I thought I’d share four pieces from classic UK comedy shows of days gone by. They all still make me laugh when I watch them, even though they have been around for anything from thirty to nearly sixty years. It will be interesting to see the response from non-UK readers: do you find these funny? Have you ever heard of them before? Are we weird over here? And other thoughts…

The first one comes from quite possibly the best comedy double act we have ever had – in my lifetime, for sure. They often did sketches in what was supposedly their home (don’t ask) and this is, I think, their best:

Not a word spoken, just pure genius at work, even if they did borrow the idea from Benny Hill. And all done in one take, as the poor aim on that final grapefruit shows. Morecambe and Wise were mainstays of our TV through the Seventies, and their annual Christmas Day show became a TV institution. My generation grew up – in days with no recorders or time shift/download options – glued to the TV for an hour on Christmas Day. We wouldn’t have missed it for anything, and it was the perfect antidote to an excess of turkey and stuffing (though the combination of laughter and stuffing could be dangerous). If you’d like to know more about them, their Wikipedia entry is here.

Another classic British TV comedy was Yes Minister, which then became Yes, Prime Minster after its fictional head was promoted to the top job. It ran through most of the Eighties, and was one of the most skilfully written series we’ve ever had: it was sufficiently close to the truth on many occasions to be assumed to have a mole in government circles leaking the stories to them. This is typical of the show. The sound and picture quality aren’t great, but the script and acting more than make up for that:

For those not in the know, all of those newspapers still exist. All but the Morning Star are mainstream – that one is a far left paper, with links to the British Communist Party and a correspondingly very small readership. Back in the Eighties The Sun had a ‘page 3 girl’ every day – you can probably guess the content from the punchline of the video. If you want to know more about the show, you can find their Wikipedia page here.

One of the problems of going back too far into TV history is that the shows I enjoyed on the BBC haven’t survived the passage of time, as the BBC had a policy of wiping the master tapes in order to reuse them, so there are very few clips available. One such series was Not Only…But Also, which ran for three series between 1965 and 1970, following a pilot episode in late 1964. It starred Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and frequently reduced my Dad and me to helpless laughter – usually at one of the bits where Cook deliberately caused Moore to corpse with laughter too. This sketch is one of their most famous – it never featured in the TV show, but was part of their theatre act and has been recorded for posterity, luckily for me. This goes back to 1964:

Back to the Eighties again for my final selection for today. Only Fools And Horses ran from 1981 to 1991, with a set of one-off Christmas specials which lasted until 2003. The show gave us so many classic moments, which have really spoiled me for choice. This is one of their best known:

You can see it coming, but they set it up so well, even if BBC Studios hadn’t given the game away on the video titling!

If you have enjoyed these please ‘like’ the post and leave a comment. This is something of an experiment for me, and it would be good to have feedback. You never know, I could end up on a mission to take classic British comedy to the world! At the very least, I hope I’ve brought a smile or two to your face and brightened up your weekend.