Here are a couple of the latest press and web articles we have found on Absolutely
We did an interview with the Scotland on Sunday in advance of Pete and John’s show in Edinburgh. Here is an extract from the article:
“There’s something going on,” says Kennedy, when we meet in Soho along with Pete Baikie, the musical one, and John Sparkes, the Welsh one. Kennedy wouldn’t go as far as to call it The Great Absolutely Renaissance, but more and more these days, the troupe find themselves being referenced and remembered.
“Maybe it’s a generational thing,” says Kennedy. “I was doing an acting job recently and the guys in the crew were all 30-something, so I guess they watched it as students.” While high on Pot Noodles or potpourri or some such substance, no doubt.
Absolutely – these three, plus Jack Docherty and Morwenna Banks – were never god-like or even ground-breaking as comedians. But their timing was excellent.
“Even though it was still the Thatcher years when we first got on to TV, the public were tiring of satire,” says Kennedy. Ben Elton was so righteous we were scared to leave our homes. And Spitting Image, brilliant in the beginning, was running out of targets for its Latex lampoonery.
Docherty and Hunter actually wrote for the puppet series, but their jokes (then or since) never made political points. David Coleman was one of their spoofs, and the skit when the sports commentator’s head exploded during a 100m sprint hinted at what was to come from Absolutely.
Now, after so much character-based comedy, more flat-coms and rom-coms than you can shake a hand-held rocket-launcher at, and the return of satire of a darker hue, it seems that if nothing more, there’s nostalgia for their zany humour.
Certainly Baikie and Sparkes hope so as they’re teaming up for a Fringe show. It’s 15 years since the Absolutely crew made their small-screen debut, but 20 since any of them appeared in Edinburgh, and they’re apprehensive about their comeback.
Baikie says: “We haven’t done the comedy clubs for many a long year and I realise we’re quite… ”
“Old,” groans Sparkes.
“Well, that and old-fashioned. So we decided, after the initial panic, to make that a virtue and do a traditional variety show.”
Kennedy won’t be treading the boards this time but always had a kind of school prefect’s role within Absolutely, which developed into business manager, and today he’s trying to jolly the others into something vaguely approaching hard sell.
“These guys have been in Wales for the last 10 years making brilliant programmes which they can’t get on to the network,” he says. Sparkes mentions two of them, Barry White Is Coming and Pub Quiz, but it takes further prodding from Kennedy to elicit the fact that they’ve won four Welsh Baftas. “I suppose,” admits Sparkes, “that one of Absolutely’s faults has been a reluctance to blow our own trumpet.”
Also one of the group’s charms. Their origins can be traced back to George Watson’s in Edinburgh, where Baikie, Kennedy and Hunter press-ganged the younger Docherty into appearing in a sketch called “Scottish Poof of the Year”. That was about as politically incorrect as Absolutely ever got, and similarities with Monty Python’s “Upper-Class Twit of the Year” were entirely intentional.
Python were a huge influence on the quartet, who larked about on the Fringe as The Bodgers while studying for respectable Edinburgh professions like law and were Perrier nominated for sending up hoary Scottish institutions such as STV’s Crime Desk.
That was a different Fringe, a “do-the-show-right-here” Fringe, a more democratic Fringe. Audiences were encouraged to be more adventurous by lower ticket prices but, as Baikie recalls, they had little choice because there were no super-venues utilising quality control and promotional muscle.
Performing Macbeth backwards, The Bodgers made their debut in the gym hall at St Mary’s School in Infirmary Street. “We did everything: wrote, performed, painted the set and tore the tickets,” recalls Kennedy. Sketches were dreamed up in the pub, the Golf Tavern or Bannerman’s, and were only included in the show if they passed the “sober test” the next day. Getting the temporary theatre passed fit for performance was another matter. “The ‘Exit’ signs were made out of biscuit tins which shorted because they were metal. The fire brigade failed us three times.”
Sparkes: “Eventually they just said: ‘Let them burn.'”
The troupe then blazed a trail to London, turning their backs on careers as solicitors and social workers to transfer their Scottish surrealism to radio. It was too Scottish. “We got complaints from listeners who thought the four of us were one guy who talked to himself,” says Baikie. “In hindsight, a bloke from Edinburgh with a personality disorder wasn’t very funny.”
So Welshman Sparkes and Cornwall-born Banks were drafted in as the show moved on to Channel 4 for four series of inspired nonsense which, as Kennedy puts it, “pricked the PC movement and surfed the stupid wave”.
Regular characters included Don and George, the Little Girl, the Nice Family, Calum Gilhooley and Frank Hovis, but the best-remembered are the Stoneybridge cooncillors who would dream up tourism taglines like: “Stoneybridge has facilities and… facilities. So come to Stoneybridge.”
In the early 1990s, Absolutely obsessives tried desperately to get to Stoneybridge. Kennedy says: “We filmed those routines in Oxfordshire, although some of the still shots were of the civic centre in my home town Tranent and the dreich main street in Breich in West Lothian. We didn’t know there was an actual Stoneybridge until we heard that two Manchester students had hitch-hiked up to North Uist and were asking the locals to speak in funny nasal accents.”
Would they class their humour as public-school? Compared with their contemporaries on BBC Scotland’s Naked Video, it probably was. “We were much weirder and stranger,” says Sparkes. “I think we had a unique worldview,” adds Kennedy, hoping that doesn’t sound too pompous.
“That may have been influenced by the fact we were middle-class Edinburgh boys who enjoyed a huge amount of creative freedom but didn’t realise it at the time. When we said to Channel 4 we wanted tractors for a sketch and they had to be blue, we got them. If we’d demanded wildebeest we probably would have got them as well. We must have been real pains in the arse.”
Because they were such mad megalomaniacs, doing everything as usual, Absolutely got “pretty intense” by the end, according to Kennedy, and they were glad to see the back of it. He presented the National Lottery, Docherty launched Channel 5 with a five-nights-a-week chat show, Banks made films. Comedy-wise, there were spin-offs (Mister Don And Mister George) which refused to compromise on the madcap, and sitcoms (The Creatives) which gave in to the conventional. Absolutely became a production house (Trigger Happy) and then got a bit lost. “I was involved in meetings about why we should be changing the contract cleaner and that wasn’t why I gave up the day job,” says Kennedy.
So they paid off 15 management people and went back to Bodgering basics. New shows are about to be piloted and the best of Absolutely should soon be released on DVD. Life could have been oh so different for these well brought-up Edinburgh boys. “Basically,” says Baikie, “we got away with it.”
Absolutely Presents John Sparkes and Pete Baikie, Gilded Balloon (0131-668 1633), 8.30pm, August 7-28
… and we found this one about the history of Channel 4 shows
It does go on a bit but there is a very complimentary reference around 1989!