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The Comic Strip Presents...
In the early 1980s a group of comedians started appearing on a regular basis in Soho's Raymond Revue Bar strip club. For once, however, they weren't there to watch.
Instead they were laying down some of the foundations of so-called 'alternative' comedy and getting ready to dominate the British comic scene.
Each night three double acts: Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson (20th Century Coyote); Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson (The Outer Limits) and French and Saunders (er …French and Saunders) joined by legendary stand-up Arnold Brown and compéred by Alexei Sayle appeared under the title The Comic Strip.
Soon they were joined by scriptwriter Pete Richens and driven on by Richardson, were making it known that they were willing to listen to the blandishments of TV executives.
With their shows creating a massive stir on the comedy scene, TV executives were eager to swoop.
The BBC succeeded in sweeping up several members for The Young Ones, while Richardson managed to negotiate a deal for the newly-created Channel 4 to screen a series of self-contained films by the group.
And so The Comic Strip Presents… was born.
From the moment the first film Five Go Mad in Dorset: a hilarious and merciless Enid Blyton parody screened on Channel 4's opening night it was plain that there was a new force in comedy, concentrating on matters social and political and steering clear of the then comedic standbys of sexism and racism.
In the ensuing episodes and series (many written by Richardson and Richens), The Comic Strip Presents... would cover everything from criminals on the run (Gino – Full Story and Pics) and the life story of an evil South African chatshow host (Eddie Monsoon – A Life?) to a Hollywood portrayal of the Miner's Strike (Strike).
After several series and specials for Channel 4, The Comic Strip... moved to the BBC in 1990.
With the move came bigger budgets and more shooting time, both of which were used to the full by Richardson who had now taken on full-time directing duties.
It was this season that saw what was, perhaps, the best Comic Strip film of all: GLC.
Just as in Strike Richens and Richardson took up the idea of Hollywood stars playing the roles of British political figures, this time in a film about the abolition of the Greater London Council.
With Robbie Coltrane playing Charles Bronson playing Ken Livingstone, Jennifer Saunders playing Brigitte Nielsen playing Margaret Thatcher and Richardson himself as Lee van Cleef playing Tony Benn, plus an OTT theme tune from Kate Bush, GLC was a rip-roaring triumph that none of the team's later output for the BBC over three specials and a second series in 1993 could quite live up to.
As well as their TV work the Comic Strip team also produced two feature films Supergrass and Eat The Rich.
With most of its members now small-screen legends, Comic Strip output has become more and more sporadic but here's hoping something new turns up on our screens soon.
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