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From Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville

The TV debut of Vic Reeves Big Night Out on Channel 4 in 1990 is often seen as marking a turning point for British TV Comedy, ushering in what is often characterised as the ‘post-alternative’ era. The 1990s would produce acclaimed series such as Father Ted, The League of Gentlemen and The Fast Show, while the new century would produce such notable shows as The Mighty Boosh, The Office and Psychoville. However, while these shows enjoy the status of ‘cult classics’, comparatively few of them have received scholarly attention. This book is the first sustained critical analysis of the ‘post-alternative’ era, from 1990 to the present day. It examines post-alternative comedy as a form of both ‘Cult’ and ‘Quality’ TV, programmes that mostly target niche audiences and possess a subcultural aura – in the early 90s, comedy was famously declared ‘the new rock’n’roll’. It places these developments within a variety of cultural and institutional contexts and examines a range of comic forms, from sitcom to sketch shows and ‘mock TV’ formats. It includes case studies of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer and the sitcom writer Graham LInehan. It examines developments in sketch shows and the emergence of ‘dark’ and ‘cringe’ comedy, and considers the politics of ‘offence’ during a period in which Brass Eye, ‘Sachsgate’ and Frankie Boyle provoked different kinds of media outrage. Cult British TV Comedy will be of interest to both students and fans of modern TV comedy.

Mapping post-alternative comedy
Leon Hunt

3885 Cult British TV Comedy:Layout 1 14/12/12 07:52 Page 1 1 From alternative to cult: mapping post-alternative comedy Putting the ‘post’ into ‘alternative’ What is ‘post-alternative comedy’? The ‘post-’ prefix sometimes signifies an opposition to the term it transforms (as in some versions of post-feminism), but can also imply a more complex relationship, a continuation as well as a break. There is a version of the post-alternative that hinges on a caricaturing of the alternative comedy of the 1980s as self-righteous, ‘politically correct’ at the expense

in Cult British TV comedy
Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and the cultification of light entertainment
Leon Hunt

3885 Cult British TV Comedy:Layout 1 14/12/12 07:52 Page 36 2 Britain’s top light entertainer and singer: Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and the cultification of light entertainment We want to be treated as mainstream comics doing bog standard entertainment. (Bob Mortimer, quoted by Viner 1995: 5) Personally I think of it as family fun. It should be liked by everyone, from the very young to the very old. (Harry Hill on his Channel 4 series, quoted by Williams 1997: 29) Whatever constitutes ‘post-alternative comedy’ is widely taken to begin with Vic Reeves and

in Cult British TV comedy
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It nearly took my arm off! British comedy and the ‘new offensiveness’
Leon Hunt

togetherness’ of popular comedy (Brown the panderer to common taste) (2007: 202). Alternative and post-alternative comedy are strongly middle class in their appeal. Defences of Sadowitz usually rest on the contention that he is tweaking his audience’s political sensibilities, ‘assaulting their values’ (Double 1997: 210). To the middle-class observer, Brown’s audience is a ‘rough’ crowd – Jacobson is reminded of ‘a game at Millwall’ (1997: 136). Sadowitz’s audience are a less intimidating prospect (unless you are in Montreal and you are Jerry Sadowitz) – almost as white as

in Cult British TV comedy