Neil Innes Night – NFT 8/9/11
Admit it, you haven’t laughed at much on television for years. It’s not just you; it’s millions of us. What passes for comedy now is little more than narrowcasts designed for niche audiences, or the endlessly repeated prejudices of unimaginative idiots. It wasn’t always so.
Many of you may already be familiar with Neil Innes, probably through his work with those legendary eccentrics, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Some of you may even recall the Innes Book Of Records, a criminally underrated TV comedy of the 1970’s. Tonight’s offering from the Flipside crew was a celebration of the work of this survivor, attended by the man himself.
Personal favourites like the surreal ‘Equestrian Statue’ and the inventive ‘Head Ballet’ were included showing the Bonzo’s extraordinary imagination and ability to conjure hilarity out of virtually nothing, and to never, ever, leave well alone.
The evening’s first clip, ‘The Exploding Sausage’ was recalled with fondness by Neil, as having been made on the usual shoestring budget, utilising the children of the camera crew as cast members, an available stately home, and producing a sort of Lewis Carroll meets the Marx Brothers revue, their unique music providing the soundtrack. It showed the Bonzo’s had a firmer grasp on psychedelia than many of the more fashionable, and perhaps better placed contemporaries.
The clip that had me in fits was the spot-on take of the Old Grey Whistle Test, part of the Rutland Weekend Television comedy show, hosted by Eric Idle and with contributions by Neil Innes. Idle’s impression of a bearded, docile, all-accepting presenter provided the perfect host to such luminaries of the progressive rock world as Toad the Wet Sprocket, Outrageous Admiral Sphincter and others who could easily have walked off the set of the real ‘OGWT’ and straight onto this parody of it. The sound of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s tuneless, wittering hippy meanderings, enlivened by fuzzy, over-treated guitar, and the bleached-out lighting effects mercilessly lampooned Bob Harris’ fondly remembered show, and Neil reported, was a big hit with the real Bob Harris, who found it hilarious.
I recall seeing the ‘OGWT’ sketch for the first time back in the 70’s,m and fell out of my ‘egg’ chair laughing at it. I have no memory at all, however, of seeing the ‘Top of the Pops’ clip from 1977, where Neil sings a pro-Queen’s Jubilee song. Perhaps I was listening to the Sex Pistols decidedly anti-Jubilee ‘God Save The Queen’.
The surreal, and rather disturbing ‘3-2-1’ clip defied all attempts at classification, or even comprehension. This inexplicably popular game show from the early 80‘s, hosted by Ted Rogers, set crazy riddles and cryptic clues as questions for the hapless members of the public to answer. The contestants were vying to win such high tech goodies as the then-new Video Cassette Recorders, Television sets (‘Colour!’ said Ted Rogers, as I some miracle had occurred) and Micro-Stereos (still the size of a hospital). Complete confusion reigned, Ted did his mysterious ‘3-2-1’ hand signal and Neil performed his best-known song, ‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’.
For many, the real treat of the evening were the very welcome clips of ‘The Innes Book of Records’, a magazine style comedy show, which used a man with a travelling gramophone as a linking device.
The Q&A, which followed, was made especially enjoyable by Neil’s enthusiasm, even when recalling the Bonzo’s gruelling work schedule, which would eventually break up the band. Their early days, scouring London’s flea markets for old 78 rpm records whose songs they would often incorporate into their stage act, was fondly recalled. ‘We stopped arguing’ was Neil’s account of the reason for the split. The questions from the floor were as diverse as the clips, and Neil would have been happy to talk all night to us, but time pressed. Your pal Scenester begged for more on Rutland Weekend Television, and Neil did not disappoint, agreeing that the show would probably not be made nowadays, given that almost all local TV stations, which RTV was poking gentle fun at, have been swallowed by the big corporations, and who have little interest in maverick fare like RTV.
Scenester – 24/9/11
Originally posted 2011-09-30 10:55:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter