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Wednesday, July 19

The Young Ones

We were watching a documentary last night on The Young Ones. This programme was a fairly cutting edge comedic offering that achieved first cult and then mainstream following on BBC in the 80's. In some ways it was very anti-mainstream. The comedians involved were obviously a part of the alternative comedy scene.

It struck me as interesting with hindsight to see how sold out to the mainstream each of the team became. By sold out to the mainstream I'm going to use the West End musical as the yardstick. In general a musical is a populist form of entertainment, deeply rooted in the cash-generation strategies of modern entertainment. I happen to like musicals, and not just the twee pleasing-to-everybody sort. I like the off-beat ones which subvert the genre, or show incredible prowess which transcends the fact that it happens to be a musical... but to an alternative comedian, appearing in a musical should still look like selling out.

Ben Elton - writer and occasional appearances. Clearly now a West End bitch, having co-written a musical The Beautiful Game with Andrew Lloyd-Webber and also having buggered with Queen for We Will Rock You. Any street-cred Elton had is successfully destroyed.

Ade Edmonson - Vivian. I have a recording of him in The Rocky Horror Show. Since this was, itself, a cult musical, perhaps it's not a sell-out for him to appear in it. Richard O'Brien is a quirky soul and his masterpiece is probably the sort of thing you'd think was away from the mainstream... but it's very widely popular, the sort of thing that young people who want to be wacky like. O'Brien himself was the original West End childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the current run of the Rocky Horror Show stars Roger Lloyd-Pack of Only Fools and Horses fame... a mainstream offering of immense proportions.

Rik Mayall - Rik. I nearly forgot that he was in the 90's cast of Jesus Christ Superstar as King Herod.

Christopher Ryan - Mike. Easily a forgotten part of the cast, as he's not had the same sort of profile as the others, perhaps a result of being short. However, it was my girlfriend who successfully identified him on stage in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when we saw it last year at Andrew Lloyd-Webber's theatre on the West End.

Nigel Planer - Neil. Perhaps an exception to the rest, Nigel is not so much an alternative comedian as he is a character actor. However, character actors sometimes do musicals, and I have a recording on my computer (a few clicks away) of the London Cast of Chicago in which Nigel played Amos, the cuckolded husband of Roxy Hart.

Alexei Sayle - various bit parts. This is the one member of the crew who appears not to have been involved in musicals. There was a 1985 TV movie, which included Sting in its cast, called Ligmalion, but that looks like a satire, rather than a straight bit of musical theatre.

There... I got that off my chest.


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