As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year over on BBC Two, Thursdays are funny. Now that the first series of The Life and Time of Vivienne Vyle and The Peter Serafinowicz Show have come to an end, two classics return to the screen. At 10.30 there's Lead Balloon, very enjoyable understated comedy starring stand-up comedian Jack Dee as, well, stand-up comedian Rick Spleen.
More eagerly awaited still, however, at least as far as I'm concerned, is the return of Never Mind the Buzzcocks at 10 pm, BBC's outrageously hilarious (and notorious) pop quiz (its name, incidentally, is a blend of the name of British punk rock band Buzzcocks and the famous Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks).
For many years Never Mind the Buzzcocks was presented by Mark Lamarr. After he left there was first a period with alternating guest hosts, until one of those, Simon Amstell, took over as permanent host. While team captains Phil Jupitus and Bill Bailey and their team members are often very funny, Amstell is the real star of the show -- he's young, gay, Jewish, and incredibly witty. He first rose to tv prominence on Channel 4's programme Popworld, where he was famous for taking the piss out of his celebrity guests in mock interviews in which he would, for instance, dress up as a horse, or shout questions through a megaphone across a car park, or do the interview in the style of a psychiatrist. Here's the YouTube video of his notorious "Si-Chiatrist" (again, a blend of "Simon" and "psychiatrist") interview of British band The Kooks, in which he really goes quite far in confronting lead singer Luke Pritchard with his failed relationship with Katie Melua (apparently also a singer), asking at one point whether he never called her Katie Manure:
There is a lot of YouTube footage of the first series of NMTB hosted by Amstell which, if you're interested, is well worth checking out. Some of the most memorable guests in the previous season include Amy Winehouse and Preston. In the episode with Amy Winehouse Amstell kept referring to her drugs and drink problems ("this isn't even a pop quiz anymore, this is an intervention Amy, we care about you", with Bill Bailey adding in the nice rhyme "stop! step away from the Chardonnay!") which, to her credit, she took in her stride:
(There's Katie Melua again in the excerpt: asked if she shouldn't collaborate with her rather than with alleged drug addict Pete Doherty, Amy doesn't need much time to answer in the negative: "I'd rather have cat aids".)
Preston is the lead singer of some insignificant boy band known mainly for his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and the (short-lived) marriage to its winner, Chantelle Houghton. When Simon Amstell kept reading excerpts from this then-wife's autobiography, Preston got increasingly annoyed and in the end walked out. At this point team captain (and comedian) Bill Bailey got up and walked into the audience to find a suitable replacement for Preston. Quite a memorable day for audience member Ed Seymour, who was unsuspectingly enjoying the show until he was suddenly thrust into the job of panelist.