1 9 9 0 – 1 9 9 3 (UK)
28 x 30 minute episodes
Almost undefinable entertainment featuring velvet-suited Vic Reeves (born Jim Moir) and ex-solicitor sidekick Bob Mortimer.
Developed from a stage show, Big Night Out‘s novel characters (Les, Wavy Davy, Graham Lister, the Slitherer) and cultural parodying ensured cult status with Viz readers home from the pub.
Reeves’ entrance each week, singing an unlikely song – such as The Smiths‘ Sheila Take a Bow or We Plough the Fields and Scatter – in cabaret style, was a tip of the hat to every male singer who ever had his own show from Andy Williams to Val Doonican.
In best chat show tradition, there was a house band (albeit dressed as jockeys for no apparent reason) and a gigantic host’s desk, bedecked with horse brasses.
The mock-talent show ‘Novelty Island’ was Opportunity Knocks‘ deranged cousin, with the brown raincoat-wearing voyeur and pervert Graham Lister trying week after week to score a victory.
There was also Judge Nutmeg’s ‘Wheel of Justice’, with overtones of Noel Edmonds‘ ‘Whirly Wheel’; not to mention the ill-concealed plugs for dubious meat products and dangerous gewgaws made by Reeves and Mortimer’s own company.
The high-pitched, mithering Stott brothers, Donald and Davey, returned regularly in a variety of guises: as inept magicians, chat show hosts and as the presenters of This Is Your Life.
Then there were the random “acts” or “turns” who cropped up, all played by Reeves and Mortimer. Among them were Talc and Turnips, the Aromatherapists, and a performance art duo called Action Image Exchange, whose long, pretentious introductions were followed by meaningless dances while wearing home-made Sean Connery masks.
Incredibly influential, Big Night Out gave the ailing alternative comedy scene a shot in the arm with its warm embrace of the surreal and absurd, giving traditional variety humour a postmodern twist.
Although thoroughly pointless it was also totally funny if you were atuned or intoxicated enough . . .
Catchphrases “What’s on the end of the stick, Vic?” and “You wouldn’t let it lie!” became playground favourites, and the nonsense continued in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer on the BBC, and the more accessible game show, Shooting Stars.