There’s been a load of old guff on telly over Christmas and New Year (am I right in thinking “Mrs Brown’s Boys” got a Christmas AND a New Year’s Eve special??), but there has been at least one jewel, buried away on BBC4, but shown twice so you’ve no excuse if you missed it.
“Bob Monkhouse: The Last Stand” showed one of Britain’s best loved and much missed comedians performing what turned out to be (and, as becomes apparent as you watch it, he knew it) his final performance.
In the early 80s, when there was a changing of the guard and alternative comedy came in, brushing all of the old timers away, Monkhouse managed to escape unscathed, mostly, I think, because by then he was better known for being a gameshow host than a comedian.
This gig, aired for the first time, was him reminding everyone of the force he had been. In front of an audience of specially invited young comedians – it was filmed in the summer of 2003, so many in the audience (Kevin Day, John Culshaw, David Walliams, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Thomas) were not the established acts they are now – Monkhouse delivers a set of wonderful gags, impeccably timed, before embarking on a trip down nostalgia avenue, reminiscing about his relationships with other comedy legends: Peter Sellers, Tommy Cooper, erm…Benny Hill.
The footage is interspersed with current interviews with those in the audience that night, and it is truly fascinating stuff.
Of course, it got me thinking of a suitable record to play, and I could think of none more appropriate than this:
“Spike – The Beloved Entertainer” is probably my favourite Elvis Costello album. Yes, I know that “Armed Forces”, “Imperial Bedroom”, “Almost Blue” and “This Year’s Model” are all classics, but “Spike” does it for me because it was one that I discovered for myself, rather than being told (rightly so) that all those I’ve already mentioned deserved a place in any self-respecting record collection.
I say “discovered for myself”, but that’s ever so slightly disingenuous: had I not watched this documentary, holed up in my room in the halls of residence in my first year at college, then maybe it would have passed me by:
Oh, and if you’re living in the UK (I think restrictions prevent you from watching it if you’re not) and want to watch that Bob Monkhouse show (and I really do recommend that you do), it’s here, presumably for a limited time only.