What's the funniest British comedy of all time?
IT'S the debate that will always get input at any dinner party, cafe, bar or barbecue.
The question is simple, but the answers are endless. What is the best British comedy show of all time?
Personally, I'll always have something to say about it, after growing up in the 1970s in the UK, a time that produced some classic shows that are still playing on free to air TV today.
I spent most of my life thinking that the seventies were rubbish, but the older I get the more I've come to realise it was a golden time to grow up.
My earliest recollection of comedy was begging my parents to let me sit up to 9.30 on a Wednesday night so we could watch Dave Allen at Large, a show considered not for kiddies then, but by today's standards would be rated G. The Irish comedian, rest his soul, was a genius at telling jokes, an artform that sadly has been lost over time. Today nobody tells jokes around a barbie as we are all worried about offending someone.
Over the years I've seen many of my heroes live on stage, such as Rik Mayall (aka God), Rowan Atkinson, Alexei Sayle, Kitty Flanagan, Lano & Woodley, Judith Ludy, and the funniest man alive, Ireland's Jason Byrne.
If you like a good laugh, nothing beats live comedy for a top night out, and that's what got me thinking.
The last year has been stressful for all of us, especially us ratepayers in Ipswich, so how can the local paper bring back a smile to the faces of the people of this great city?
So I set out on a quest to compile a list of the ten best UK comedy shows of all time. In the end, after countless hours of research, discussions with people at cafes, rewatching of classic episodes online along with well-worn DVD's, endless cups of strong coffee and numerous arguments with fellow QT staff, the list, dear reader is complete.
Please keep in mind this is just an opinion, and is open to discussion, so I encourage you to get involved and leave comments on our Facebook page about whether or not you agree with this list.
At the very least, I hope this list puts a smile on your dial and brings back some good memories.
Are you sitting comfortably? Let's do this.
10. The Goodies
(1970-1982 9 seasons)
The ABC used to screen The Goodies in the 6pm slot from Monday to Friday and a whole generation of Aussies grew up watching Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden as three men for hire....no job too big, no job too small. Everyone had their favourite 'Goodie', and no two episodes were the same. It remains more popular in Australia than any other country on Earth, and it's still 'goody, goody, yum yum'.
FUN FACT: One episode was so funny it caused a man to literally die laughing. On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from the UK died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode Kung Fu Kapers in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a black pudding-wielding Bill Oddie. Mr Mitchell died of a heart-attack brought on by his laughing.
9. The IT Crowd
(2006-2013 4 seasons)
It was the show that gave the world the line "Have you tried turning it on and off again?" which is used in offices around the globe on a daily basis.
The show that launched the career of actor Chris O'Dowd (The Sapphires, Bridesmaids), The I.T. Crowd quickly gained a cult following with its constant references to computer jargon and the 'nerd' sub-culture. It follows the lives of four people: Roy, Moss, Jen and Richmond who run the I.T. Department from the basement of a big London firm. It was a show that took pop culture and created its own pop culture. The first episode of season two titled Work Outing remains simply one of the most perfect, politically-incorrect and hilarious 24 minutes of television you will ever see. It will have you yelling "I'm disabled!" for years to come.
Roy: "Is this another one of your inventions?"
Moss: "Might be."
Roy: "What was the last one? Oh yes. A ladder, to help moths escape from the bath. How is that useful?!"
Moss: "How is that NOT useful?"
8 Absolutely Fabulous
(1992-2012 5 seasons)
The creation of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous (aka: 'Ab Fab') has remained popular for over 20 years, and ended with a big screen outing in 2016. Ab Fab is the story of Edina Monsoon, a PR agent who spends her time chasing bizarre fads in a desperate attempt to stay young and "hip" with her BFF (Best Friend Forever) Patsy Stone by her side (played by Joanna Lumley).
Ridiculously politically incorrect, laugh out loud funny and a painful reminder of how crap fashion really was in the 90's....sweetie, Ab Fab remains relevant and funny to this day.
Eddie: "In this body there is a thin person dying to get out."
Gran: "Just the one, dear?"
7. Father Ted
(1995-1998 3 seasons)
The show follows the misadventures of three Irish Roman Catholic priests who live in a parish on the fictional Craggy Island, located off the west coast of Ireland. Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire and Father Jack Hackett live chaotically together in Craggy Island's parochial house, along with their housekeeper Mrs Doyle, who always wants to serve them tea, in fact insisting with her "Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on. Ah ya will!"
The show gave us the World's Most Boring Priest, The Dancing Priest, Bishop Brennan and a host of other great Irish characters, along with launching the career of TV icon Graham Norton as Father Noel. If you've never seen it, trust me, you're missing out on a classic.
Father Dougal: I wouldn't know Ted, you big bollocks!
Father Ted: [astounded] I'm sorry!?
Father Dougal: I said I wouldn't know Ted, you big bollocks!
Father Ted: Have you been reading those Roddy Doyle books again, Dougal?
Father Dougal: I have, yeah Ted, you big gobshite.
(1983-1989 4 seasons)
Rowan Atkinson starred in this show which over four seasons travelled through history in the Middle Ages, Tudor, Regency and World War I periods. Famed for his sarcasm, wit and put downs, Blackadder was at its best under writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton who took over script duties from season two onwards. Also starring Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson as 'Baldrick' and the late Rik Mayall in some of the best cameos ever, Blackadder made history hilarious fun, and gave the entire world the term "I have a cunning plan," plus genius expressions like "We're in the stickiest situation since Sticky The Stick Insect got stuck in sticky mud."
FUN FACT: In the final episode, Goodbyeee, Blackadder attempts to feign madness by wearing underpants on his head and sticking two pencils up his nose. This plan was based on Rowan Atkinson's habit of sticking pencils up his nose to entertain his cast-mates during read-throughs and script editing sessions.
5 The Two Ronnies
(1971- 1987 12 seasons)
Over 16 years, 12 seasons and 93 episodes The Two Ronnies entertained a whole generation of viewers in the 70's and 80s, making household names of Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker. A sketch show which employed some of the best writers at the time, it featured sketches, musical numbers, cheesy serials and direct to camera monologues.
The comic timing of the two leads remains unmatched to this day, and is exemplified by their most famous sketch Four Candles, which you can easily find on YouTube. It is a work of pure genius. While you're there, search for The Accountant Sketch which was six years ago voted Best Sketch of All Time' by the British public. It's impossible not to laugh.
Ronnie Barker: "In breaking news, the toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on."
4. The Young Ones
(1982-1984 2 seasons)
Every now and then a show comes along that defines a generation, and The Young Ones was the pinnacle of 'alternative comedy' in England in the early 80's, which also signalled an end to bawdy British tastes like Benny Hill and Carry On. Comedy became edgy, political and angry.
The tale of four students Rik, Neil, Vyvyan and Mike in their share accommodation house, the script totally baffled the BBC when they saw it, but they went ahead with the show anyway. If often made no sense, was all over the place, looked cheaply made, and should never have worked. But it did, and to this day remains totally hilarious.
Written by the late, great Rik Mayall and Ben Elton (who then went on to write BlackAdder) it screened at 11pm on the ABC in Australia as they too had no idea who it was going to appeal to. It caused a whole generation of teenagers in the 80's to sit up late on a Tuesday night and declare themselves 'Anarchists'.
FUN FACT: A pilot for a US version was made, but not picked up with Nigel Planer (Neil). The name of the show was going to be "Oh No, Not Them!"
3. Monty Python's Flying Circus
(1969-1974 4 seasons)
There's not much to say here that hasn't already been said about the influence this show had on, and continues to have on generations of comedy fans. It's in the top three because it broke every single rule of TV, comedy and writing...then broke them all again on a weekly basis.
They brought us The Parrot Sketch*, The Upper Class Twit of the Year, The Spanish Inquisition, Gumby, SPAM, Silly Walks and the funniest cartoons ever put to air. Monty Python's Flying Circus remains unmatched in its creativeness, ingenuity, outright lunacy and the ability to poke fun at the British class system alongside the complete absurdity of the human race. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Say no more.
*Editor's note: It is an ex-parrot
2 The Office
(2001-2003 2 seasons)
The brainchild of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Office defined the mockumentary style of filming, and hit a chord with anybody who has worked in one.
Starring Gervais as David Brent, the boss from hell who sees himself as an entertainer more than a manager, this was the show that coined the phrase 'Car Crash TV', where a character will do something so embarrassing you want to look away but can't. Also launching the career of The Hobbit's Martin Freeman and actor Mackenzie Crook, The Office took the most boring workplace in the world and turned it into comedy gold over 14 hilarious episodes. Gervais and Merchant successfully translated it to the US, where it ran for 201 episodes over nine seasons, making Steve Carell a household name in the process.
David Brent refuses to go away, and the character appeared in cinemas when 'David Brent" Life On The Road' hit the big screen in 2016.
David: "Well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that Neil will be taking over both branches, and some of you will lose your jobs. Those of you who are kept on will have to relocate to Swindon, if you wanna stay. I know, gutting. On a more positive note, the good news is, I've been promoted. So, every cloud...(looks around at the total lack of enthusiasm)...you're still thinking about the bad news, aren't you?"
1. Fawlty Towers
(1974-1979 2 seasons)
It's hard to find anyone that doesn't love this show and for most people, will be a no-brainer for the number one spot.
The brainchild of John Cleese, (from Monty Python), he got the idea for the show after staying in The Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, England, where the manager Donald Sinclair was "the rudest man I've ever met" according to Cleese.
He famously threw a timetable at a guest who asked when the next bus was. Cleese wrote 12 episodes with his wife at the time Connie Booth (who plays Polly) and a legend was born. Basil Fawlty is the hotel owner with his nagging wife Sybil, hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (played by the late Andrew Sachs) and staff member Polly all working together from one self-made calamity to the next. It gave us Basil The Rat, The Germans, Que? plus countless other golden moments of comedy that tickled our funny bones in the 1970s', and will remain just as hilarious 100 years from now.
If you don't find Fawlty Towers funny, then check your pulse. You are probably dead.
Basil: Is there something wrong?
German Guest: Will you stop talking about the war?
Basil: Me? You started it!
German Guest: We did not start it!
Basil: Yes you did - you invaded Poland.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Did we miss out some of your favourites like Are You Being Served, Little Britain, Yes Minister, One Foot In The Grave, The Inbetweeners, Keeping Up Appearances, Steptoe & Son, George & Mildred, Porridge, Bottom, Some Mother's Do Ave Em, Kenny Everett, The League of Gentlemen, The Good Life, Dave Allen at Large, Man About the House, Cuckoo, Birds of a Feather, Love Thy Neighbour, The Vicar of Dibley, Man Down, Catherine Tate, Mrs Browns Boys, To The Manor Born, or Dad's Army?
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