Viz: An Unfeasibly Large Success
Is Viz profane rubbish or a bold rebellion? Nick Baker charts its controversial explosion from gutter rag fanzine to national success. Does humour have lines that can't be crossed?
Viz was born in a Newcastle bedroom during the Thatcher years. The profanity-laced and flatulence-filled comic took Britain by storm with its taboo-shattering humour. While its blatant disregard for political correctness turned many away in disgust, its gasp-inducing gags made it one of Britain's best-selling magazines. Nick Baker traces the comic back to its Geordie genesis to ask how something so shockingly vulgar ended up under the mattresses of countless teens and under the eyes of business men pretending to read the Financial Times.
Nick's journey begins in Tyneside with the creators of Viz. Brothers Chris and Simon Donald and best friend Jim Brownlow.
With the equally loved and hated Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist and Johnny Fartpants by his side, Nick tours the Newcastle underground that served as an incubator for Viz. The naughty and risqué content spread like wildfire in the punk scene. Soon each issue of the DIY magazine was consistently selling over a million copies.
As Nick tries to understand this rollercoaster success, he secures exclusive interviews with Viz legends Roger Mellie the Man on the Tellie and Billy the Fish, voiced by Harry Enfield.
Viz's outrageous satire got them in trouble with everyone from the United Nations to Scotland Yard. Accusations of racism, sexism, and insensitivity were part of the daily routine at the office. Comedians Richard Herring, Alex Lowe, Lucy Porter and Frank Skinner debate whether these boundaries should exist in the first place.
Today, sales of Viz have declined dramatically. Nick discusses its place in the pantheon of British comedy with current editors Graham Dury and Simon Thorp.
Produced by Anishka Sharma
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4
Image (c) Colin Davison.