Over ten days, I’m chatting about TV shows that have helped make me the bent, broken old ruin that I am. A week’s worth have already been logged. Today, it’s the angry God of television comedy.
Once there was a time when I was only allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch three things: the FA Cup final, the Wimbledon Men’s Singles final, and Dave Allen. Put simply, he was simply too brilliant, too funny, too ground-breaking not to share. And for parents who found Monty Python too middle class, the Goon Show too silly, and whose comic sensibilities could be enclosed within The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, and telling unbelievably racist jokes when drunk, Allen was as edgy and naughty as it got.
The truth is, of course, that Allen *was* edgy. He tore into the Catholic Church at a time when you simply didn’t, lampooned the Royal Family, made jokes at the expense of the IRA and any other dangerous social topic that crossed his precise, laser-focussed gaze. He engaged with the foibles of sex in a frank, knowing way– no sniggering, no winking, just straight sex jokes from adult to adult. He made death painful, and lasting, and *funny*. In an era where everyone I saw on TV treated adult topics as if they were trying to knock Ronnie Barker off his double-entendre throne, Allen looked his audience in the eye and said “Hey, we’re all grown ups here. Let’s be honest.”
As I type this, I’m listening to my children watching an Adam Sandler “hur hur, boobs, poo, hur hur penis” movie in the other room. It simply highlights how fortunate I was, at a young age, to be exposed to this master comic, with his brilliant timing, his perfect turn of phrase, his relentlessly acerbic and wise approach to life, and the example he set: that anything was fair game; that an audience can be treated as intelligent, knowing equals; and that an artist can reasonably expect his audience to rise to his level without compromising his vision.