Tag Archives: Comedy

1980 ➤ Rik and pals detonate a timebomb beneath another kind of strip for Soho

On this autumn day 30 years ago, a handful of comics in their twenties broke free from the bear-pit formula of the Comedy Store, which had opened in London in 1979, modelled on its Hollywood precursor. These soon-to-be-famous clowns were angry with Britain’s complacency in the face of recession and decided to define a new kind of comedy. First news of the breakaway faction that would eventually make household names of French & Saunders, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson and Alexei Sayle appeared in the Evening Standard’s On The Line page …

Comic Strip, Rik Mayall, Alexei Sayle,Michael White

First published in the Evening Standard, October 2, 1980

❚ SOHO HAS LONG ENJOYED A GOOD GIGGLE and now, cheek to cheek with the king of strip Raymond’s Revue Bar, the Comic Strip opens on Tuesday in the tiny Boulevard Theatre off Brewer Street. Billed as London’s “newest anarchic cabaret”, it could be called Son of the Comedy Store, a nightspot already well established as a Gong Show for would-be comedians.

“The Comic Strip’s going to feature the best of the Comedy Store and more,” explained Peter Richardson, one of a comedy duo called The Outer Limits, who are launching the enterprise with West End impresario Michael White (the man behind the musical Annie). “There was too much experimentation in the Comedy Store. We want to establish a certain standard at the Comic Strip.”

alternative cabaret,comedy, Soho, Comic Strip,1980,Rik Mayall

Angry Feminist Poet: Rik Mayall at the Comic Strip, Nov 1980. Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s

He and the comedians he has brought with him — including the Comedy Store’s acerbic compere, Alexei Sayle —believe the traumas of the 1980s have brought a sharper cutting edge to comedy comparable perhaps to the satire Germany fostered in the 30s. “Who wants to see Kafka on a stage when it’s all round us in real life? People want to laugh,” said Rik Mayall, one half of an act called 20th-Century Coyote. “There’s a growing interest in political cabaret too.”

This self-styled “alternative” comedy isn’t all heavy social comment by any means, its roots going back more to clowning. What these comics are attempting is deliberately to shake off the influence of the Footlights clan who have shaped British humour for the past 20 years. Mayall himself has a talent for the merciless lampoon. One of his sketches, a punk commuter lamenting his daily lot, is the funniest invention since John Cleese’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

Last weekend he and The Outer Limits were playing to packed houses at the Three Horseshoes, a pub theatre in Hampstead, as if to prove that alternative humour is booming. The Comic Strip promises a varied line-up which this month includes Pamela Stephenson from BBC-tv’s Not The Nine O’Clock News. Entrance will cost a flat £3.

➢ 1980, A new decade demands new comedy
— Birth of the Comic Strip


1984 ➤ 2010, RIP Big Frank and Little Frank. You’ll be missed. You know you will, you really will

Frank Sidebottom, comedian, Little Frank, Timperley, Manchester
❚ TIMPERLEY COMEDY LEGEND FRANK SIDEBOTTOM IS NO MORE. The man in the papier-mâché head like a Max Fleischer cartoon has been revealed only in death to have been aka Chris Sievey. Almost entirely unknown to the effete south of England, Lancastrian icon Frank was unleashed on the world through a record given away with the video game The Biz, presciently created by Sievey for the pioneering ZX Spectrum computer in 1984.

Only last week, he launched a comedy song for the World Cup, titled Three Shirts on My Line. Campaigns to Make Frank No 1 in the pop charts have begun at twitter.com/MakeFrank1 and at the Facebook group Let’s get Frank Sidebottom in the charts, which is bursting with tribute images. The Manchester Evening News reports that Frank is facing a pauper’s funeral after dying virtually penniless, so visitors to this impromptu Facebook page have already established a fund, being helped by Guardian writer and former bandmate Jon Ronson who asks for donations to go via this Paypal account: jonelle1929@gmail.com. [Appeal now closed, see update below]

Frank Sidebottom, Three Shirts On My Line, World Cup, Nick Hilditch, tributes

Official unofficial World Cup song launch: Frank at The Salutation pub in Manchester last month. Right, Nick Hilditch’s concept for a statue in Albert Square, pointing to Timperley

Frank Sidebottom zoomed to cult status through comedy records on the Regal Zonophone label and his broadcasts on Radio Timperley for Manchester Radio Online. Within minutes his stand-up routine rocketed him to 80s superstardom, accompanied by Little Frank, a puppet who was his deadringer. From 1986 he had his own comic strip in an anarchic children’s comic called Oink! which was top-shelved by many newsagents. He regularly reported for the regional TV news programme, Granada Reports, graduating to his own ITV showcase, Frank Sidebottom’s Fantastic Shed Show.

Sidebottom, whose fame was greatest during the late 1980s, can truly claim to have put on the map such names as Timperley, St Helen’s, Altrincham FC, Mrs Merton, Mark Radcliffe and most notoriously Chris Evans. Among the final appearances of Big Frank and Little Frank was the living test card shown on late-night television in Greater Manchester on Channel M.

Sievey left a daughter, Asher, 31 and two sons, Stirling, 31, and Harry, 18, who still lives with Sievey’s ex-wife Paula. Frank’s catchphrase was “The Robins aren’t Bobbins”. Another one was “You know it is, it really is”.

Frank Sidebottom, Edwina Currie, Cheshire FM

Sidebottom the broadcaster: Frank meets Vicky at Cheshire FM . . . and interviews MP Edwina Currie for Granada TV

➢➢ Genuinely a genius – Manchester’s showbusiness stars lead the tributes
➢➢ Longtime friend Mick Middles recalls Frank’s creator, first encountered as frontman of The Freshies, an off-kilter power pop band
➢➢ “A curious line in daft Bontempi songs” – The Guardian obit, June 22
➢➢ VIEW ♫ ♫ Frank Sidebottom explaining Three Shirts on my Line, his unofficial World Cup 2010 song, at the Monarch in Camden Town last December

Frank Sidebottom, discography

Find the complete Sidebottom discography at Frank’s interweb site

➢➢ Frank’s World, the official official site
➢➢ Complete Sidebottom discography at Frank’s interweb fan site run by Russ
➢➢ Frank Sidebottom at MySpace
➢➢ VIEW ♫ ♫ Chris Sievey and the Freshies in the studio recording Bouncing Babies – a poptastic treasure from 1981
➢➢ VIEW The Magical Timperley Tour – Frank Sidebottom takes a load of people on an amazing bus tour through his home village of Timperley . . .

➤ Update: fan fund totals £21,240
for Frank’s send-off

Chris Sievey, Frank Sidebottom, funeral

Chris, aka Frank

❚ FRIDAY JULY 2 IS THE DATE for Chris Sievey’s funeral. A private service for family and friends will be held at Altrincham Crematorium to celebrate the life of the man who created the cult hero Frank Sidebottom. It is being funded by donations from an internet campaign. Within six days of his death from cancer, donations to the funeral fund saved Sidebottom’s creator from a pauper’s funeral. More than 2,500 supporters signed up to the Facebook group Frank’s Fantastic Funeral, with Twitter claiming 3,400 followers. The appeal fund closed on Sunday June 27 at £21,240.

His son Stirling, 31, said the private funeral would give those who knew his dad the chance to mourn the man behind the mask. “The funeral is for friends and family of Chris. We want to hold a celebration of Frank within the next couple of weeks. We are looking at venues, including Manchester town hall.” [More at the Manchester Evening News]

➢➢ UPDATE: A fresh assessment of Chris Sievey, the little-known creator of Frank Sidebottom

❚ IGNORED BY THE MAINSTREAM ALL HIS LIFE, the cult comedian cum cod pop star finally made headline news in death. Plenty of people didn’t get Sidebottom. The first time he appeared at Liverpool University, he bombed. “Did Sievey like being Frank? Yes. Would he prefer to have been a Beatle? Yes.” – Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian, June 26, 2010

➢➢ Radio Presenter Mark Radcliffe describes the “real affection” evident at the funeral of his close friend Chris Sievey

❚ THE END OF THE SERVICE for Sievey at Altrincham Crematorium, July 2, was marked by the Beach Boys hit God Only Knows. A celebration of his life, titled Frank’s Fantastic Farewell, is being held in Castlefield Arena on July 8, 7-10pm, admission free.

➢➢ UPDATE: 5,000 people pack into Castlefield Arena for a tribute evening of laughter and song – MEN July 9


1980 ➤ For an angry new decade a new breed of comedy puts trendiness itself within its sights

First published in Over21, January 1981

First published in Over21, January 1981

The satire boom of the Sixties chose as its targets politicians, church, unions. The world has moved on, and in 1980 so-called “alternative cabaret” is gunning for rock entrepreneurs, media manipulators and a pre-packaged youth culture inherited at second hand . . .

Click here to read on

alternative cabaret,comedy, Soho, Comic Strip,Nigel Planer , Peter Richardson, The Outer Limits, 1980

Airline disaster movie: Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson as The Outer Limits at the Comic Strip, Nov 1980. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

➢1980 ➤ Rik and pals detonate a timebomb beneath another kind of strip for Soho