Monday, 2 March 2015

Sunday 1st March, 2015: Somebody Up There Licks Me – Count Arthur Strong on Tour ****


Count Arthur Strong started his career in variety just as variety was on its last legs, which is probably just as well as he seems to have no discernible talent. What he does have is inordinate quantities of self-regard, so much self-regard in fact that for him, other people are simply an irritating impediment to his bumbling progress through life.

Quite why this bumptious and bumbling old idiot is so excruciatingly funny is hard to explain. And hard to describe. Like trying to describe the colour red to a congenitally blind person. Think Harry Worth meets Tommy Cooper (without the conjuring) and you would still be a long ways from describing Count Arthur. Mercifully, in this day an age we have You Tube.



The alto ego form of comedy has produced some wonderfully grotesque characters over the years. Dame Edna, and Alan Partridge spring to mind. It’s a ‘marmite’ form of comedy. You either love it or you hate it. Initially let loose on the public on Radio 4 where he has steadily built a cult following, Steve Delaney’s creation has had two series on TV. The move to TV brought a collaboration with Graham Linehan who says:

"I remember seeing him turning around like someone you see in the street who’s a bit mad, thinking someone’s behind him and telling people to get off, and then you realise he's left the coat hanger in his jacket. Things like that blew me away because they seemed to come from a place you can't really get to through writing. It was such a completely inhabited character."

Those of us who ‘get’ Count Arthur feel as if we belong to an exclusive club We feel slightly smug and superior and have genuine pity for those who don’t. One suspects that the schedulers on BBC TV fall into the second category – series 2 was moved from its original 8.30 slot to 10.30. But the great thing about the live show is that everyone has chosen to be there. It was wonderful to see people almost weeping with laughter, as Count Arthur gave us amongst other things the story of the Bible (“God said let there be light – I don’t know who he was speaking to...”) and a history of the Beatles with "John Lemon, Macha, Dingo and that other one – the short one."

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