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|The Comic Strip|
|Notable works and roles||The Comic Strip Presents... (1982–2000, 2005–2016)|
The Comic Strip is a group of British comedians who came to prominence in the 1980s. They are known for their television series The Comic Strip Presents..., which was labelled as a pioneering example of the alternative comedy scene. The core members are Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall (died 2014), Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson and Jennifer Saunders, with appearances by Keith Allen, Robbie Coltrane, Alexei Sayle and others.
Two double acts, Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall under the name "20th Century Coyote" and Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson as "The Outer Limits", started performing at the newly-opened Comedy Store in London in mid-1980, alongside compere Alexei Sayle who had been resident there since the Comedy Store opened in 1979. Concurrently Richardson searched for a venue to mount a play he had produced with Michael White. He planned to run The Comic Strip late at night after the play's performances. He sourced the Raymond Revuebar in Soho, but realising it was unsuitable for a theatrical production and running out of enthusiasm for the play, he decided to continue with the idea of a cabaret night. He persuaded the double acts and Sayle to move from the Comedy Store along with Arnold Brown, an older stand-up comic who did not fit so obviously into the alternative comedy scene. Sayle again resumed his compere duties and decided the running order, with Richardson having behind-the-scenes control. Richardson put out an advert for female performers which was answered by French and Saunders.
Richardson prompted members to sign a contract to signify their attachment to the group. The Comic Strip opened at the Revuebar's Boulevard Theatre on 7 October 1980and ran until 1981, when the troupe went on a national tour and then a tour of Australia. While the performers gained more exposure, actors such as Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams turned up to watch. A half-hour television documentary about The Comic Strip was broadcast in 1981.
Richardson approached producer Mike Bolland, the newly-appointed Channel 4 youth-and-entertainment commissioning editor to propose a series of Comic Strip films for the channel. Bolland agreed to his proposal, his first commission for the station and Jeremy Isaacs quickly approved the budget.Richardson negotiated a deal with the channel for six self-contained half-hour films, using the group as actors rather than standup performers. Almost simultaneously, the BBC signed Edmondson, Mayall, Planer, and Sayle to star in The Young Ones , a sitcom in the same anarchic style as the Comic Strip. Richardson was initially to have played the role of Mike (ultimately given to Christopher Ryan), but did not, the result of differences with the show's producer, Paul Jackson.
|The Comic Strip Presents...|
|Created by||Peter Richardson|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||5|
|No. of episodes||42 (plus 5 films) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original release||2 November 1982 –|
20 January 2016
The Comic Strip Presents... debuted on 2 November 1982, the opening night of Channel 4. Each episode was prefixed by an animated lead-in consisting of the words "The Comic Strip Presents" accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of a drum machine and a Farfisa organ rendition of "Quando quando quando", together with a bomb labelled "Have a nice day", falling towards a map. In the early episodes the map was of a section of north Dorset and southern Wiltshire, centred on the town of Shaftesbury.
The first episode was Five Go Mad in Dorset , a parody of The Famous Five. It was written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens, who wrote most of the early episodes. Five Go Mad... drew anger from some viewers for the way it mercilessly satirised a children's classic, although the Enid Blyton estate had given permission for the broadcast. A meeting was called to discuss the group's future with Channel 4, after complaints from viewers.
The final episode of the first series was to have been a spoof chat show called Back to Normal with Eddie Monsoon (referred to as An Evening with Eddie Monsoon by some sources). It was never produced, as it was considered too vulgar even for the "alternative" Channel 4, and contained material that was possibly libellous. The script—which, uniquely for the Comic Strip, was written as a collaboration by the entire cast—was later published, along with the rest of the series, in book form.
A second series of seven episodes followed in 1983–84, including Five Go Mad on Mescalin , a sequel to the first episode, and the newly-written Eddie Monsoon – A Life?, a spoof documentary on the life and times of the title character, an obscene, drunken television host (played by Adrian Edmondson). Michael White, the theatre impresario and Rocky Horror Show producer who had been brought in by Richardson as executive producer on the series, appeared in this episode as Monsoon's producer, who had been responsible for axing Eddie's television comeback show—called Back to Normal with Eddie Monsoon. The reasons given for the cancellation (e.g. "the things you said about Burt Reynolds") are presumably the same problems that led to the real Back to Normal... being dropped by Channel 4. (The name Eddie Monsoon—a corruption of "Edmondson"—was later used by Jennifer Saunders, core member and Adrian Edmondson's wife, for her character in Absolutely Fabulous .) A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques was the first episode to be filmed outside the United Kingdom, being made on location in and around San José, Andalusia, Spain, using some of the same locations as A Fistful of Dollars which it spoofs.
Two one-off episodes were aired on Channel 4 over Christmas 1985, reflecting the tight schedules of the group. Consuela was a French and Saunders-led pastiche of the Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca (1940), with French's eponymous crazed housekeeper taking centre stage. The second episode, Private Enterprise, was the tale of a music business rip-off, where Peter Richardson steals a studio recording session tape and passes the results off as his own work.
The group made two feature films— The Supergrass (1985) and Eat the Rich (1987)—as well as three one-off Comic Strip Presents... episodes which were the next to be screened on Channel 4. The first of these, The Bullshitters , was a parody of television spy and detective shows such as The Professionals . It was not broadcast under the Comic Strip name, partly because of the original group only Richardson appears (he is the only performer to appear in every single episode), and partly because co-star and co-writer Keith Allen did not want to be so closely associated with the group.
The third series was broadcast in 1988, and some episodes had longer running times, mostly around 50 minutes. Five of the six episodes (all except Funseekers) were given a limited theatrical release. They included The Strike , which won the Golden Rose of Montreux; More Bad News , a sequel to Bad News Tour showing the band reforming after five years to play at Castle Donington; and Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door , written by Mayall and Edmondson in the violent style of their sitcoms Filthy Rich and Catflap and Bottom , which featured Peter Cook as a psychotic contract killer (the eponymous Mr. Jolly) and Nicholas Parsons. Peter Richardson and Pete Richens only contributed one episode to the third series, allowing cast members such as Planer and Sayle to get their ideas on screen.
By then, the show had proved a hit, and some big names appeared in later productions, including Leslie Phillips, Miranda Richardson, Lionel Jeffries, Nicholas Parsons, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Cornwell, Kate Bush, Richard Vernon, Ruby Wax, Graham Crowden, Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Elvis Costello, and Benjamin Zephaniah (as a Rastafarian police van driver), and several musical acts, particularly from the Bad News series which was also aided by Queen guitarist Brian May, such as Def Leppard and Marillion.
In 1990, the series transferred to BBC2. By now, all the regulars (with the exception of Peter Richardson) had become more famous for their own shows, and more recurring performers such as Gary Beadle, Phil Cornwell, Steve O'Donnell, Mark Caven, Sara Stockbridge, and Doon Mackichan were brought in. Rik Mayall was contracted to ITV's The New Statesman , and was only able to appear in two of the BBC productions ("GLC", and the Comic Relief special "Red Nose of Courage"). Richardson and Richens took over the bulk of the writing again, and Richardson also took over as director, having previously directed the two feature films, as well as The Strike. The six-part 1990 series was followed by three individual specials in 1992, and a final six episodes in 1993.
In 1998, the original team reunited and returned to Channel 4 for the first time since 1988, for a one-off special, Four Men in a Car. This was followed in 2000 by a sequel, Four Men in a Plane. After a five-and-a-half-year hiatus, another 60-minute one-off special, Sex Actually (a parody of the 2003 film Love Actually ), was made in 2005. It starred Sheridan Smith ( Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps ) and Tamer Hassan ( Layer Cake ) alongside several of the regular cast members. Four Men in a Car was notable for being the first broadcast, on either television or radio, to involve Rik Mayall since his quad bike accident. Permission was thus given by Mayall's family to show the special.
Peter Richardson, who has built his career as a writer-director with the TV series Stella Street and films such as Churchill: The Hollywood Years , has not ruled out the possibility of a whole new series of The Comic Strip Presents... featuring younger cast members.
In June 2011, a casting call went out for a new hour-long episode, starring most of the original team.This was followed by an announcement that The Comic Strip was to produce a one-off special entitled The Hunt for Tony Blair , starring Stephen Mangan as Blair and Robbie Coltrane as Inspector Hutton. The one-off show included Jennifer Saunders (as Margaret Thatcher), as well as Harry Enfield, Rik Mayall, and a host of others.
As of 2009, the archive of Channel 4 episodes has been broadcast on UKTV's flagship channel, Gold. In May 2010, it was announced that Gold would broadcast the next new scripted episode of the series, "Five Go to Rehab", along with a 30th-anniversary documentary. "Five Go to Rehab" is a sequel to Five Go Mad in Dorset and featured the entire original cast (Ade Edmondson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Richardson, as well as Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Stephen Mangan and Robbie Coltrane), and it was filmed in the first weeks of July 2012, in and around Totnes. Richardson wrote and directed the film. The film showcased the characters thirty years on trying to recapture their youth. The film broadcast on Gold 7 November 2012.
In addition, a documentary broadcast 3 November 2012, 30 Years of Comic Strip, detailed the filming and reception of several Comic Strip episodes including both original Five Go Mad episodes, The Strike and its somewhat sequel "GLC: The Carnage Continues", A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques, The Bullshitters/ Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown , Bad News Tour/More Bad News, and The Hunt for Tony Blair. For A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques, a short sequel was made broadcast in several parts, showing the two main characters reuniting, despite the ending of the original episode. Unshown scenes of the original episode were also aired for the first time. For the Bad News part of the documentary, Planer and Richardson dressed up as Den Dennis and Spider Webb and in character, recalled their time as Bad News. Some of the telling of the Bad News story was real, due to their real-life signing to EMI, and some fictional, such as the scenes from More Bad News detailing the recording of their debut album. A lot of the original cast were interviewed for the documentary, alongside other people involved with the series at some point such as James Buckley and Stephen Mangan. As Gold, in its current format at least, has never shown the BBC's "GLC", ...Nervous Breakdown, or Channel 4's The Hunt for Tony Blair, these were the first time clips from these episodes were aired on the channel.
In May 2018, a two-hour documentary history produced by Sean Doherty aired on Gold titled How The Young Ones Changed Comedy. It combined archive footage with revelations from many of the stars involved—such as Nigel Planer, Alexei Sayle, John Lloyd, Paul Jackson, and Lise Mayer—while later comedians discussed The Young Ones ' impact on British comedy generally.
In 1986, Virgin Video released various episodes of the programme dating between 1982 and 1984, which have now become rare. The 1988 series was released on video the same year by Palace Video, each episode having its own video. The only existing episode of the BBC series on video is "GLC", which PolyGram Video released with The Strike in 1994. When the Virgin and Palace Video videos went out of print in 1990, the rights were transferred to PolyGram Video. After three years, all the Channel 4 episodes of The Comic Strip were released on video.
Eat the Rich (1987) has not been released on DVD in the UK. Eat the Rich is available as a Region 1 (American) DVD, a Region 2 (German) DVD, and a Region 4 (Australian) DVD. The Supergrass was released to VHS and DVD in 2003, albeit favouring the short 93-minute version rather than the longer original which had been released theatrically and on VHS (103 minutes) in the late 1980s.
A nine-disc Region 2 DVD set, The Comic Strip Presents: The Complete Collection was released in July 2005 (and re-released in August 2007). This included all the Channel 4 and BBC episodes (finally canonising The Bullshitters as a Comic Strip episode) plus The Supergrass across eight discs, but not Eat the Rich (due to rights issues), and was released too early to include Sex Actually. The ninth disc includes a retrospective documentary from 2005, Julien Temple's 1981 film The Comic Strip (which retroactively lays a strong claim to being the actual first 'episode'), and the two Comic Strip episodes of the 1998 documentary series First On Four. Across the new and archive documentaries are featured interviews with every single key Comic Strip member.
The DVD set contains revised edits of South Atlantic Raiders (both parts approximately 10 minutes), Wild Turkey, and Four Men in a Car, in addition to featuring the pre-existing, 93-minute version of The Supergrass. The DVD re-editing was a deliberate creative decision, with the work undertaken by Peter Richardson himself alongside editor Geoff Hogg, though the decision was a controversial one with fans of the series.
As of 1 May 2012, the entire Comic Strip Presents... series was available on Netflix's streaming service in the U.S., split into eight seasons. It was eventually removed in May 2013.
A slimmed down, five-disc Region 2 DVD set The Best of The Comic Strip Presents was released on 7 October 2013. This includes the first disc release of Sex Actually, The Hunt for Tony Blair, and Five Go to Rehab as well as Gold's 30th-anniversary documentary. From the earlier box set, the following films were included: Bad News Tour, More Bad News (revised edit), Five Go Mad in Dorset, A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques, The Strike, GLC, Gino, Susie, Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door, Spaghetti Hoops, Red Nose of Courage, Bullshitters, Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, Gregory: Diary of a Nutcase, The Crying Game, Four Men in a Car (revised edit), and Four Men in a Plane.
The Comic Strip Presents... originally ran for three series and one special on Channel 4 from 1983 to 1988. Two series and three specials subsequently aired on BBC Two between 1990 and 1993. Since then, specials have aired sporadically on Channel 4, beginning in 1998 and most recently in 2016. The collective also created four theatrical films between 1985 and 2004. There have been a total of 42 television episodes, four feature films, and one short film.
Bottom is a British television sitcom created by Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall that originally aired on BBC2 from 17 September 1991 to 10 April 1995 across three series. The show stars Edmondson and Mayall as Edward Elizabeth "Eddie" Hitler and Richard "Richie" Richard, two crude, perverted flatmates with no jobs and little money who live in Hammersmith, West London. The show features chaotic, nihilistic humour and violent comedy slapstick.
Jennifer Jane Saunders is an English actress, comedian, and screenwriter. Saunders originally found attention in the 1980s when she became a member of The Comic Strip after graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with her best friend and comedy partner, Dawn French. With French, she co-wrote and starred in their eponymous sketch show, French and Saunders, for which they jointly received a BAFTA Fellowship in 2009. Saunders later received acclaim in the 1990s for writing and playing her character Edina Monsoon in her sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.
The Young Ones is a British sitcom written by Rik Mayall, Ben Elton, and Lise Mayer, starring Adrian Edmondson as Vyvyan, Rik Mayall as Rick, Nigel Planer as Neil, Christopher Ryan as Mike, and Alexei Sayle, and broadcast on BBC Two for two series, first shown in 1982 and 1984. The show focused on the lives of four students and their landlord's family on different plots that often included anarchic, offbeat, surreal humour. The show often included slapstick gags, visual humour and surreal jokes sometimes acted out by puppets, with each episode also featuring a notable selection of guest stars and musical numbers from various performers.
Nigel George Planer is a British actor, comedian, musician, novelist and playwright. He played Neil in the BBC comedy The Young Ones and Ralph Filthy in Filthy Rich & Catflap. He has appeared in many West End musicals, including original casts of Evita, Chicago, We Will Rock You, Wicked, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has also appeared in Hairspray. He won a BRIT award in 1984 and has been nominated for Olivier, TMA, WhatsOnStage and BAFTA awards.
Christopher Ryan is an English actor best known for his roles as Mike in the BBC comedy series The Young Ones, Dave Hedgehog in the BBC comedy series Bottom, Tony Driscoll in the BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses, and as Edina Monsoon's ex-husband Marshall Turtle in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.
Richard Michael Mayall was an English actor, comedian and writer. Mayall formed a close partnership with Ade Edmondson while they were students at Manchester University and was a pioneer of alternative comedy in the 1980s.
Peter Richardson is an English director, screenwriter, actor, and comedian. Richardson founded the Comic Strip troupe of performers, which showcased his double act with Nigel Planer and launched the careers of French and Saunders, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, and Alexei Sayle. Richardson approached Channel 4 to make a series of short, self-contained one-off comedy films with this group, which led to The Comic Strip Presents..., many of which were written, directed by and featured him in acting roles.
Bad News are a fictional English heavy metal band created for the Channel 4 television series The Comic Strip Presents.... Its members were Vim Fuego, vocals and lead guitar ; Den Dennis, rhythm guitar ; Colin Grigson, bass ; and Spider "Eight-Legs" Webb, drums. The band continued outside the context of the TV series, with the actors eventually playing a number of live gigs as Bad News, and recording an album and a single that made the UK charts.
Filthy Rich & Catflap is a BBC sitcom produced in 1986 and broadcast in 1987. The series featured former The Young Ones co-stars Nigel Planer, Rik Mayall, and Adrian Edmondson as its three title characters. It was written by Ben Elton, and produced and directed by Paul Jackson, with film sequences directed by Ed Bye. The show's music was written by Peter Brewis. One series consisting of six half-hour episodes was produced. Despite the continuity announcer saying that the show would return the following year, only one series was ever made.
"GLC: The Carnage Continues" is an episode of the British television comedy series The Comic Strip Presents... broadcast on BBC2 in 1990. It parodied a Hollywood telling of the 1980s takeover of the Greater London Council by Ken Livingstone and the subsequent disbanding of that body by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, re-imagining the story as a Charles Bronson / Sylvester Stallone-style action movie. It is a spiritual successor to The Strike, which involved the creation of a Hollywood version of the 1984 miners' strike.
Eat the Rich is a 1987 British black comedy film directed by Peter Richardson, who also writer with Pete Richens. A co-production between Channel Four Films, Iron Fist Motion Pictures and Michael White Productions, it features cast members from the popular television series The Comic Strip Presents....
Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door is a 1987 comedy film made for British television as part of The Comic Strip Presents... series. It was briefly screened theatrically in late 1987 and was broadcast on Channel 4 on 5 March 1988. It was released on VHS in the late 1980s, and became available on DVD when the entire Comic Strip Presents... series was released as a box set in the UK in June 2005. It has also been repeated occasionally on the Paramount Comedy Channel.
The Dangerous Brothers was a stage and TV act by anarchic comedy duo Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, performing respectively as "Richard Dangerous" and "Sir Adrian Dangerous". Originally appearing on stage in London at the comedy club 'The Comic Strip', the characters were well developed before appearing on TV. First appearing on television on a one off 1980 BBC TV show 'Boom Boom Out Go The Lights', they were also featured in a TV short 'documentary' film 'The Comic Strip', directed by Julien Temple, before they appeared in a number of brief sketches in the TV programme Saturday Live from 1985 on.
20th Century Coyote was an English comedy group famous for first uniting Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall. Formed by Lloyd Peters in March 1976 whilst studying B.A. Drama at Manchester University, this improvisatory character-led comedy troupe was to become the resident company at The Band on the Wall in Manchester. Peters recruited fellow thespian student Rik Mayall principally because they shared the same off-beat humour – anarchic slapstick mixed with a large dose of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Two further drama students were press-ganged from the year below and rather late in the day Adrian Edmondson to appear in Coyote's first improv-based comedy entitled Dead Funny (1976). Six other shows followed before an Edinburgh Fringe Festival spin-off. The 40-minute live shows were self-contained narratives based on recognized comedy templates but worked, or more correctly warped, by improvisation and then re-improvised in performance. The shows were often loud, crude and grotesque. The group were important in that, its techniques and the lasting influence of character-led sketch and 'improv' comedy helped shape a distinctive brand of 'alternative comedy' in the 1970s and 1980s and that would soon dominate the comedy mainstream.
The Strike is one of the short comedy films – written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens, and directed by Richardson – which made up the long-running Channel 4 television series The Comic Strip Presents.... First aired in January 1988, it also received a limited theatrical release, and won the Golden Rose of Montreux for the same year.
Five Go Mad in Dorset was the first of three Five Go Mad specials from the long-running series of The Comic Strip Presents... television comedy films. It first aired on the launch night of Channel 4, and was written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens, and directed by Bob Spiers.
The Supergrass is a 1985 British comedy film written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens, and directed by Richardson. The film stars Adrian Edmondson, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith Allen, Nigel Planer, Alexei Sayle, Ronald Allen, and Robbie Coltrane. The Supergrass was the first feature length film by the 1980s alternative comedy group The Comic Strip.
Adrian Charles Edmondson is an English actor, comedian, musician, writer and television presenter. He was part of the alternative comedy boom in the early 1980s and had roles in the television series The Young Ones (1982–1984) and Bottom (1991–1995), which he wrote together with his collaborative partner Rik Mayall. Edmondson also appeared in The Comic Strip Presents... series of films throughout the 1980s and 1990s. For one episode of this he created the spoof heavy metal band Bad News, and for another he played his nihilistic alter-ego Eddie Monsoon, an offensive South African television star.
Springtime! is a boutique entertainment company established in the UK in 1977 and based in the United States since 1983. The company's activities encompass film, TV, radio, record and stage show production, entertainment marketing & publicity and talent management. The company has produced and marketed audio recordings, films, TV specials and music videos. It is periodically active as a record company releasing its own audio productions and acquisitions.
The Hunt for Tony Blair is a one-off episode of The Comic Strip Presents..., a British television comedy, which was first shown on Channel 4 on 14 October 2011. The 49-minute film was written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens and presented in the style of a 1950s film noir. It stars Stephen Mangan as the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is wanted for murder and on the run as a fugitive from justice. The film received its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August 2011. It first aired on Channel 4 on 14 October 2011; it received a mostly positive reaction from reviewers, and was nominated for a BAFTA award and the British Comedy Awards.