Friday, November 18, 2005

The Mock Sociology Of Little Britain Is Copied Lock, Stock and Tutu From Mr Dick Emery, But That Doesn't Make It Right Or Clever

Failing to get a joke is not a pleasant experience, but it is trumped, I think, by the sensation of getting a joke, recognising its characteristics, and concluding that it still isn't funny.
Over 9 million people watched Little Britain on BBC1 last night. (Roughly the same number voted Labour at the last election, though this may be a coincidence.) In these banal times, such statistics qualify the programme as a phenomenon, though it should be remembered that public executions, Mr Michael Barrymore, and the weary toilings of the England football team have all attracted big audiences.
Little Britain is original only in that its skits are threaded between a mocking sociological voiceover, delivered by the former Doctor Who, Mr Tom Baker. Everything else has been borrowed, lock, stock and tutu, from Mr Dick Emery, a comic actor whose stock-in-trade was the repetition of cartoonish characters to the point where the audience felt obliged to laugh out of a sense of familiarity. His types ranged across society: there was a frustrated "boot boy", a toothy spinster, and a posh tramp. He had a camp man called Honky Tonk, and Mandy, a silly blonde who located an innuendo in everything, giving Mr Emery his catchphrase, "Ooh, you are awful, but I like you," delivered with a clump of the handbag to the side of the head.
I have long been of the opinion that the election of Mrs Thatcher in 1979 was made possible by Mr Emery's Mandy. The subsequent transformation of the word "handbag" into a verb (see also Ms Annabel Goldie, another Emery-esque political character) is a further sign of the lingering masochism of the British psyche.
Personally, I preferred Mr Harry Worth, particularly when he did the splits in a doorway.


Anonymous said...

I had completely forgotten about Dick Emery, who was popular when I was very very young. You can take nostalgia too far, you know.

Learson said...

The appeal of Little Britain may be based on the premise that British viewers prefer the comfort and security of the familiar and formulaic to the originality of the new. It reminds me of the story in which psychiatric-hospital inmates sharing a dormitory evolve a joke-telling ritual. Because the inmates have all heard one another's jokes they simply assign numbers to the items and then shout out a joke number and everyone laughs.Then a new inmate arrives and after the numerical system is explained to him, he calls out a number but nobody laughs. He asks why there was no response only to receive the answer - "Its the way you told it".