After the nadir in Scottish comedy that was Happy Holidays (see No longer gemme?) this year has seen something of a renaissance. Gary Tank Commander looked as if it would be awful, but I found myself laughing against expectations. Limmy’s Show is far more hit than miss, especially when focusing on his character based sketches, and can be genuinely challenging at times. The return of one Rab C Nesbitt could have been been sad, but has, on the whole, been as good as first time around.
Scottish comedy has always been able to hold its own on the UK’s TV screens. One Scottish (based) comedy that is loved by those who remember it is Channel 4’s Absolutely. Originally shown between 1989 and 1993, this sketch show brought together Scots Jack Docherty, Moray Hunter, Gordon Kennedy and Peter Baikie as well as Cornish comedienne Morwenna Banks and the very Welsh John Sparks who had appeared in the earlier Scottish Sketch show Naked Video, most memorably as bed-sit poet Siadwell.
The show was based on recurring characters such as Hunter’s pedantic anorak wearer ‘Calum Gilhooly’, Docherty’s ridiculous Scottish Nationalist ‘McGlashan’, Spark’s northern club owner ‘Frank Hovis’ who used to tell his monologues on the lavatory and the ensemble sketches of ‘Stoneybridge Town Council’. But the most memorable character must be Morwenna Banks’ ‘Little Girl’, who would explain how aspects of life looked through her eyes. Here’s an example:
Following Absolutely’s demise they mostly went their separate ways. Kennedy, a little bizarrely, became the face of the National Lottery, Banks married David Baddiel, the man who is cursed always to be the unfunny one in any double act he appears. Jack Docherty had the first chat show on Channel 5, but not before taking the characters of ‘George MacDiarmid’ and Moray Hunter’s ‘Don MacDiarmid’ (not related to each other, although Don could be related to Hugh MacDiarmid. They certainly go to the same barbers), and giving them their own six-part show simply called Mr Don and Mr George. It may have only had one series but it was daft and engaging. Here’s a clip from the first episode:
Absolutely is now available on DVD, but all four series can be viewed for free on Channel 4’s On Demand service, which can also be found on YouTube. Like all sketch shows there are some that don’t work but in this case surprisingly few. For four years this team made some of the most intelligent, entertaining and simply funny comedy around. I envy those who have never seen the show as there are so many new characters and catchphrases to discover and enjoy.