‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ at 40 & discussion: BFI National Film Theatre, London, 2019

Not as such stand-up comedy, but extremely worthy of inclusion in a comedy blog, I attended a very interesting discussion and celebration of the classic TV comedy series Not the Nine O’Clock News which reached its fortieth birthday in 2019. The show has many happy memories for me with it being one of the first ground-breaking shows I saw. I had the live LP record which I played repeatedly with constant hilarity and I can remember reciting the sketches with mates in the school playground the next day of television transmission. I was twelve years old in 1979 when the show first aired, it was a revolutionary observational comedy series involving the week’s news and many of the classic sketches including Gerald the Gorilla and Constable Savage as well as quick fire visual routines were shown on the big screen at the BFI. The series made stars of Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones (all of whom I have seen live and feature elswewhere in this blog) and Pamela Stephenson who all went on to become comedy legends. Interestingly, I learned that another later comedy legend Victoria Wood (who Geoff Posner (one of the members of the discussion panel) was later to work with) had been asked to be part of the team but had turned it down before Pamela Stephenson made it her own. 

The evening consisted of a rarely seen early episode before a detailed and fascinating discussion with director Posner, agent Marc Berlin and music composer Howard Goodall all led by BFI programmer and one time Not the Nine O’Clock News writer Dick Fiddy. The discussion covered the writing process of the sketches (submitted by likes of Andy Hamilton, Richard Curtis, Guy Jenkin, Clive Anderson plus many more writers that were to become famous as well as creators Sean Hardie and John Lloyd). Goodall also talked about his part in the creation of the famous songs including Gob on You and Nice Video, Shame About the Song.

Questions were then invited from the audience and I eagerly asked if there had ever been talk of a revival in some shape or form. The answer was sadly not because it would be very difficult to get everybody together (plus the fact that Smith had sadly died in 2013) and there are many similar shows on television today which wouldn’t have made it as original and unique of its time. Nevertheless, the evening was a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a wonderful insight into one of my favourite comedy sketch shows.


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