Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s friendship, as any fan of absurd character comedy will know, goes way back. But this latest television venture, Gone Fishing, alludes to a turning point for the two comedians, as they each deal with the repercussions of recent heart problems (Whitehouse had to have three stents fitted in his heart, and Mortimer had a triple heart bypass). In light of these undoubtedly life-shaking health scares, the pair turn to fishing as a way of embracing the great outdoors, and indeed, life itself, once more. The pair embark on a trip across the UK, where Whitehouse departs his angling knowledge on Mortimer’s enthusiastic ear.
Whitehouse and Mortimer’s genuine, deep personal bond is the set piece of this programme, giving the show a purity about it. Here we have two open, modest and genuinely hilarious men, who both have health concerns but are adamant that these will not stop them from enjoying the simple, and finer, things in life. Conversation drifts across an array of diverse topics, from death and the afterlife, to friendship, show business and their comedy beginnings. Both came to performing stand up comedy through friends, and admit they probably wouldn’t have ever gone into performing if it wasn’t for the encouragement and confidence of their comedy counterparts.
As well as showcasing a variety of fishing techniques and fish species, (which are not exclusively interesting to angling enthusiasts, on the contrary, the beauty of these creatures and their habitats can be appreciated by many a casual viewer), Bob fulfils his side of the deal by rustling up ‘heart-healthy’ (low cholesterol and saturated fat) meals, confessing on occasion that the dishes might fall on the ‘dreary side of tasty’.
Gone Fishing is an important conversation piece. It discusses the effect that significant and sudden health problems (such as those suffered by Mortimer and Whitehouse) can have on the wellbeing and general confidence of those who suffer them. Not only will this programme make you laugh, but it will leave you with your heart feeling full. What is more important than friendship and health? Not a lot as far as I can tell.
All episodes of Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing are available on BBC iPlayer
2018 was a solid year for British comedy on television. We had a deluge of excellent new sitcom series, particularly those with teenage protagonists, from the Northern Irish school kids of DerryGirls to Conor and Jock of TheYoungOffenders and Gloucestershire cousins Kerry and Kurtan in ThisCountry. Dark and surreal comedy has also been thriving, with the return of Inside No. 9 and Flowers, and also Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out. This article will explore 2018’s TV comedy highlights (let’s just forget about that TheInbetweeners reunion, shall we?)
The fourth series of Inside No. 9, which broadcast at the start of January, certainly lived up to past instalments. The anthology series (created by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton) dabbled in Shakespearean comedy, dark and twisted mystery and heart-breaking trips down memory lane. On Halloween, a special ‘live’ episode aired, which was a half hour of comedy that certainly divided its viewers (that is, those who didn’t accidentally tune out before the end…).
Another stand-out programme that no doubt every fan of dark comedy has watched this year is The End of the F****** World, which originally aired on Channel 4 in 2017 but was released on Netflix in January 2018. With short twenty-minute episodes, vibrant characters and unexpected plot developments, this series is a punchy rollercoaster unlike anything else. With a new series expected later this year, this is certainly not the last we will hear from murderous teens James and Alyssa.
February saw the return of ThisCountry; one of the greatest new comedies of recent years. This mockumentary series about the lives of teenagers in rural areas has plenty unbearable moments of awkwardness that rival Ricky Gervais’ TheOffice. But the message is a rather sad one; these teenagers are limited in opportunity and experience. But Kerry and Kurtan (played by siblings, and writers of the show, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper) are, unsurprisingly, the stars of the show. Their childishness, pettiness and naivety is what makes This Country a stand out. The dialogue is always unexpected, which brings the hilarity, but all the while the message behind the humour really packs a punch.
Flowers is a truly beautiful tragic comedy. it picks up on family rifts, personal anxieties and implications brought about by mental health issues, alluding to them incredibly subtly in the characters’ actions and words. Series two, which aired in June, showed each character’s gradual demise to be looming ever nearer, often making for an uncomfortable watch (especially when our concern changes focus and hones in on Shun, who is struggling to come to terms with the loneliness he faces in this strange, foreign place). Flowers features stunning comic performances from Olivia Colman, Julian Barratt and Will Sharpe (who also writes and directs).
In July, Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse brought us the hilarious and wholesome GoneFishing; a documentary series for BBC2 about the beauty of natural wildlife and the importance of looking after our health. The two legendary comics (both now bordering on 60) have had their fair share of health scares in recent years, with both having experienced major heart problems that gave them a bit of a re-awakening. Mortimer and Whitehouse are clearly great friends and their shared humour makes this programme a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
And who could miss the return of Vic and Bob in Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out at Christmas? This revamp of Reeve’s old show format is exactly what we would expect from the absurd duo, with the addition of some up-to-date satirical references (featuring the likes of Piers Morgan and Donald Trump), as well as a visit from George Ezra. But some old favourites are back, including Graham Lister, The Man With The Stick and The Stotts.
So now that we’re comfortably into the flow of a new year, we can really start to look forward to what’s to come in terms of comedy on our TV sets (or laptops, or smartphones, or tablets, or microwaves). In 2019 we will be treated to new instalments of Inside No. 9, The End of the F****** World, ThisCountry and GoneFishing. Other returning programmes include a final series of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe as well as a TV series of vampire mockumentary film What We Do in the Shadows. But for now, perhaps a re-watch of some of the programmes above from 2018 will help fight the January blues.
One half of infamous sketch duo Harry and Paul, Harry Enfield has been satirising popular culture for decades. His cheeky charm and uncanny impersonations have made him a firm family favourite, and that doesn’t look set to change any time soon. Enfield, along with fellow comic Paul Whitehouse, recently announced his first ever tour for Autumn 2015, off the back of their successes with Harry and Paul’s Story of the 2s last year, which won multiple awards including two Royal Television Society awards.
To learn more about this comedy legend, I asked him these seven questions…
1) What is your favourite thing about being in a double act?
My favourite part of being in a double act is making Paul Whitehouse laugh. He has the most infectious laugh I have ever heard. Usually I make him laugh about things that are so bad we could never dream of doing them on telly. They are just for us. Sometimes I think we are truly evil people.
I am not a particularly healthy eater. I tried to eat lettuce and crap but I don’t really like it. So I have to go to the gym a lot to try and get rid of all the pies and chips and pizzas and chocolates and rats.
3) Are you any good with technology?
Technology is great in terms of computers that correct your spelling and stuff. Email is annoying Twitter is bollocks Facebook is a recipe for time wasting. Ditto Instagram. My kids do all this but I do not have it except the email which I hate.
4) Are you a cool dad?
I am about the least cool dad there is. I am obsessed by things being tidy and as I have three teenage children this is a source of enormous irritation for them. They hate me.
5) How did you begin your comedy career?
I began in comedy when I was at university over 33 years ago. There were not many comedians around then, so I was lucky to get a television break purely by being a comedian. It’s much harder these days as there are loads more, and they are much funnier than we were.
6) If you were an animal, what would you be?
I think I’d be a duck. They’re pretty chilled out, and it’s easy to get away from predators simply by sitting on a lake. As long as the lake doesn’t have some weird Jurassic monster in it with a taste for ducks.
7) Are you religious?
Yes. I believe in Tarvuism.
Look it up on the Internet and you will see it is the one true religion. My daughter is actually a High Priestmunty of Tarvuism. To all Tarvuists out there I say “Hebbo”.
Paul Whitehouse stars in a new comedy, based on his BBC Radio 4 series: Nurse, and I am given further reason to believe that 2015 is set to be a brilliant year for British comedy on television.
This heart-warming programme has a format similar to that of a sketch show but this is approached in a new way, intertwining the narratives through the use of community mental health nurse, Elizabeth (played by Esther Coles), who visits vulnerable adults in their homes. The group of service users, most of whom are played by Whitehouse, include an elderly man with schizophrenia who thinks he has received a letter from Ted Hughes and a morbidly obese man called Graham who seems to have an unhealthy relationship with his mother, as well as with food.
Nurse appears to be incredibly well-established from the very first episode, which is certainly worthy of credit, thanks in no small part to the years of writing experience Paul Whitehouse possesses, I’m sure. The humour is satisfyingly dark (note a moment whereLiz, PC Dave (Doc Brown) and PC Terry (Colin Hoult) discuss a racist man, referring to him as “Ku Klux Kevin”) with a certain layer of bleakness reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’ Derek. But the aim of Nurse is certainly not to mock those who struggle with mental illness, but rather, Whitehouse wanted to “explore the world of a Community Mental Health Nurse with warmth, compassion and humour.” With excellent, sensitive writing from Whitehouse, Coles and David Cummings, this target is certainly met, and the programme revolves around the people, rather than their reasons for requiring extra support.
When we don’t talk about something, it makes us all so much more fearful of that thing, which is why I think this programme has come at a perfect time. Nurse is helping us challenge the stigma attached to mental illness in its own small way, and is a prime example of how important comedy is in today’s society as a means for getting a message across.
Its first series is quite literally short and sweet, being just four episodes long, but I hope for another, and perhaps longer, series of Nurse off the back of this one’s success.
2014 has been a fantastic year for British Comedy, and The British Comedy Awards exists to showcase a large proportion of that to the public.
Last year’s post about the British Comedy Awards ceremony was largely negative, as a result of the production rather than the comedy being nominated and awarded. The show was aired live, which meant that mistakes could not be hidden and the timing issues were obvious, with some speeches having to be cut short which seemed outrageous. This year, however, the programme aired on Channel 4 on December 17th, rather than live, on December 16th, which meant the whole affair appeared far more professional and respectable, if a little fake, to the television audience.
It was a delight to see the wonderful Harry Enfield receive three awards (individually forBest TV Comedy Actor and teamed with Paul Whitehouse (Harry & Paul) for Best Sketch Show and Best Comedy Moment). Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) also won Best TV Comedy Actress, which I think is incredibly well-deserved and so endearing to see how shocked she was to be recognised. Matt Berry was nominated for a whopping six awards, though he lost to Nick Helm for Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist, which is just as it should be seeing as Berry has been a television comic for over a decade. I’m a big fan of Berry’s Toast of London; it was great to see such a strange style of sitcom win an award for once.
The person I was most pleased to see win an award was certainly Aisling Bea, who won Best Female TV Comic. Seeing this absolute ray of sunshine crawl onto stage in her dress and heels and inadvertently turn herself into a “hospital DJ,” made me laugh so much and just proved that Aisling is a funny woman through and through. I am unbelievably pleased for her and can’t wait to see what this award does for her career in the coming year. Another beautiful moment was hearing an emotional speech from Brendan O’Carroll (Mrs Brown’s Boys), who was rightly awarded with the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award.
It’s easy to be cynical whilst watching such a grandiose display of wealth and status, and there were times throughout the production where I did feel like the spirit of British Comedy was being exploited, but, unlike Stewart Lee, I chose to ignore that this year. From the position of a viewer rather than a performer, I can see that The British Comedy Awards gives comics a platform to boost their careers or give them recognition for their lifetime achievements, and that can only be a good thing in my opinion, however unfair you believe the results to be. Out of the nominees for King or Queen of Comedy, however, Greg Davies will always win in the end.
I think my favourite part of the whole affair was hearing Tulisa say “I’m a big comedy fan.” Yes, that part made me laugh the most.