Vic Reeves Big Night
You would not believe what's happening on our DVD shelves!
'The Enemy Of The World' Special edition is picking blackberries with Series Three of 'The Gentle Touch', while 'Pipkins' Volume Two is playing a trombone on a little tiny unicycle!
I had no idea what to expect from 'Vic Reeves Big Night Out' when I tuned in that fateful Friday night in 1990, but the sheer oddness of what unfolded onscreen was very welcome.
So let's catalogue the events of the first episode and see if we can make any sense of it at all in retrospect...
Vic comes on to sing 'I'm A Believer' by The Monkees accompanied by Bob dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel holding a stuffed dog. Apparently Vic has a really important date with Richard Stilgoe later on, but we never see how this pans out. This is clearly preying on his mind, as when Isambard goes off to saddle the dog, Vic mistakenly calls him 'Richard Stilgoe' before hurriedly correcting himself.
The show's ever-helpful assistant and general dogsbody Les is introduced, wearing his customary lab coat. I also had to wear a labcoat at work and Les sports a dozen pens in his top pocket, which was a look I often adopted if I could. A ticker-tape machine on Vic's desk dispenses Les facts (from an underground labyrinth) and this week we learn that Les cannot fail to raise a smile whenever he sees a spirit level. Students of Les Facts should note that we do not get a mention of chives in this first edition.
Next up is The Man With The Stick which leads me to a bit of a confession. I'm not one for pub crawls, but I was persuaded to attend one in Poole organised by my lab colleagues just before Christmas 1990. They mostly dressed as nuns for some reason, but I was attempted something more creative. I made myself a Man With The Stick costume, complete with paper helmet, as in the show. I can't find any photos, thank goodness, but I do remember that on the end of my stick there was a plastic reindeer with some tinsel wound round it.
After all that effort, I was slightly disappointed when no-one seemed to know who I was meant to be, but there you go.
I did, however, write to Vic and Bob to tell them of my adventure and they kindly sent me back a signed photo which I can reproduce here...
The audience are invited to join in with the traditional cry of "What's on the end of the stick, Vic?" but at least one bloke doesn't play ball, sitting there with his arms folded, looking as though he's wondering why on earth he agreed to come in the first place.
Of, course, the mystery is not revealed at this point, but we do get to examine the annotations on this week's helmet that include "a thimble near a baker's footprint"and "Spandau Ballet laughing at on orphan whose (sic) fallen off his bike."
Looking closely, you can see that there's also "an amoeba with a moustache" but this is not mentioned.
The Man With The Stick has been investigating various safety aspects of the auditorium and has noted that his nephew could get his bootees snagged on the lights if he were to tossed up. Also, there is the very real concern that Vic's desk could be confused for a Post Office counter by a pensioner. Indeed, it transpires that Vic still has a widow's pension book in his possession.
Vic is annoyed, having told him not to mention that, but the Man With The Stick wouldn't let it lie and has outstayed his welcome, being dismissed from the stage.
Next, we take a trip to Novelty Island, past an anonymous man doing a painting on stage.
First in the paddock is Graham Lister with his turn entitled 'Lard For Laughs' which partly involves forcing lard through a photo of Mickey Rourke's face (mounted on an old Corn Flakes packet) which has the eyes and nostrils cut out. There is some argument as to whether Mickey Rourke is a pop star or a film star.
Act Number Two is Hugh Bond The Heretic - a mysterious figure hidden in a black cloak with a doll's head on a stick poking out the top which he rotates. Being unable to see where he is going, Hugh fails to get into the paddock area and is therefore disqualified.
Next up is Judith Grant with Dusty The Caterpillar, who sighs in a shoebox, although Vic needs some convincing that it's not just Judith throwing her voice.
Finally, Mr Wobby Hand (living up to his name) who seems to be wearing some sort of crash helmet made out of cabbage leaves. He at least manages to get his hand in the paddock and so avoids being disqualified.
A telephone call to Jean-Paul Gaultier (who sounds more like Paul Whitehouse with a thick West Country accent) establishes that this week's winner is the little man with the wobbly hand.
Incidentally, Jean-Paul is on his BMX, hiding behind some beer barrels round the back of a rugby club in Torquay but hangs up at the mere mention of Paris Fashion Week.
The DVD sadly edits out the material around the advert break, so the sudden appearance of a load of empty pint glasses on Vic's desk is a little jarring. Basically, Vic fancied a drink or six...
Vic goes off for a pee, welcoming Donald and Davey Stott (who are both completely redundant) to the stage, in a much better edit than we'd just been subjected to. They have a table of magic tricks, which Les brings on stage for them. There are numerous plums on strings hanging down at the front of the table, as people always enjoy seeing plums hanging down, apparently.
After a bit of pushing and shoving, an explosion leads to an antique incident, with Bob throwing himself around the stage with enthusiasm.
Some Ryvita appears from behind the Turin Shroud and some hot oil startles a clockwork bird in a box. This goes a bit wrong when the bird startles Davey in turn who runs off and the act comes to a premature end.
Vic returns and performs a dramatic monologue with ominous green lighting, thunderclaps and a load of dead leaves that blow past him thanks to a handy wind machine. This is to herald the arrival of top legal mind Judge Nutmeg and his Wheel Of Justice.
Bob pedals Nutmeg's mobile court on stage and the Wheel has its hair combed, as is the correct procedure. Punishments tonight include Have You Insides Scooped Out With Duncan Goodhew's Flipper and Diamonds Are Forever, In his excitement, Vic starts to read out the punishment that will be revealed at the end, but stops himself before the climax of the sketch is spoiled.
A defendant is plucked from the audience in the form of Rick Brown ("a common name for probably a common criminal!") who looks a little uneasy and is made to swear on a 'How' annual and the contents of Jack Hargreaves' tawdry little shed.
Judge Nutmeg's computer reveals that Rick has committed several heinous crimes, including intentionally causing serious damage to the Bayeux tapestry by putting it in for a service wash in 1911!
The Weel Of Justice spins (although the accompanying song has lost a slightly rude word on the DVD for some reason) and the punishment is to Spend One Year Being Adored By The Cast Of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. You also get to see some of the cameras as Rick the recidivist return to his seat. Along with Paul Whitehouse as a bonus and possibly Charlie Higson, although it's difficult to tell...
Having dealt with the terrible man, Nutmeg comments that Vic is not a funny man and asks about the widow's pension book. Vic complains that Nutmeg wouldn't let it lie, but states that he did return it to her, thankfully.
Once Vic locates his microphone on the judge's desk, we finish off with the number 'Oh, Mr Songwriter', Les jigs about in the back ground and on the end of the stick is...
A PINT OF BEER, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!
(Sadly, it's fake as the content stay put no matter what angle it is held at, but you can't have everything)
In short, then, mad as a pond full of whistling parsnips and I wouldn't have it any other way...
(By Andrew Trowbridge)