writing team they may just have come up with something like The Smell 0f Reeves And

Mortimer. Whether they’d have had the inspiration or the nerve to attach their blacked- up faces to string puppet bodies and pose as ‘agony aunts Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye’ is more questionable. Vic and Bob are nothing if not inventive.

At the start of the first show our heroes burst out of giant black R and Ms and straight into a classic song and dance routine, grooving around a spacious set littered with classical pillars. The fact that the song concerns shrimps in suitcases, ice-arches for climbing over doves and sardines in haimets doesn’t detract from the trad feel. This is Vic and Bob gone mainstream, with pre- recorded sketches, film inserts and a closing theme that’ll have the nation singing ‘come on and have a sniff’ within weeks.

‘This will surprise a few people,’ says Bob. ‘lt’s so different from what we did before. Slightly shocking even.’ ‘The Big Night was me trying to contain these people within it,’ adds Vic. This has more of me and Bob just presenting ourselves.’

Not that it’s unrecognisably new. The key

The Morecambe and Wise comparisons have been made before,

and it’s ; . conceivable that if i Eric and Em had included Salvador Dali on the writing ; team they may just 2 have come up with : f something like The ; Smell 0f Reeves And Mortimer.

elements are still there, the Reeves and Mortimer product endorsements, the tricks with inflatable fruit, the knockabout slapstick, and the characters. Oh yes the characters.

‘There’s about 18 characters in each show, all very different.’ says Vic. ‘Le Corbusier and Papin are Jacques Tati types who solve problems by farting. We’ve got Slade at home. You know the family out of Sylvania Waters, well it’s like that but it’s Slade who live in a street where all the Birmingham pop stars live. It’s just them at home being very mundane. Then there’s Mulligan and O’Hare who dwell in the world of LP commercials, and two men who are convinced that people are looking at their bras. They’re very paranoid because they aren’t actually wearing any bras.’

Of course they aren’t, Vic. Reeves and Mortimer have consistently refused to admit that there’s anything bizarre about their comic creations, and it’s best not to argue the point. You get the feeling that if they ever became self- conscious about their ‘strangeness’ their comic gift would fly away like a light, fluffy thing, soft and yielding on the underside but with a deceptively gritty top edge.

. L.’:.:' r CHARLIE CHUCK: ‘Ile is a very frightening-looking man, although In reality he’s the nlcest bloke you could meet. I think he’s atop genius, a comedy greet.’

The riskiest thing about the new show is Uncle Peter, played by the disturbing comedy deity Charlie Chuck whose own catchphrases are already spreading like a particularly powerful strain of virus. Such is Chuck’s psychotic screen presence that Vic and Bob are in serious danger of being upstaged by the gravel-voiced loon.

a A ~-; Woof, bark, donkey.

‘He’s just a foil really,’ says Vic

unconvincingly. ‘He’s our uncle who’s recently been introduced into care in the community, and just because he’s our uncle he hangs about with us. We saw Charlie performing in Edinburgh two years ago. We went to see him in this tiny little place under a railway arch. He’d cancelled the gig because there was no—one there and put it back on again when six of us turned up. My girlfriend was in tears because she was so scared of him. He is a very frightening-looking man. although in reality he’s the nicest bloke you could meet. He’s got a brilliant face. I think he‘s a t0p genius. a comedy great.’ The last couple of years have seen Vic and Bob spawn a host of, if not imitators, spiritual comedy offspring, from Harry Hill to Trevor and Simon. Surrealism and applied daftness now enjoy several column inches in the mainstream comedy lexicon. They don’t see the connection themselves, but it is strangely appropriate that after Vic and Bob’s lucrative defection to the BBC, Channel 4 have filled the gap with a knockabout surrealist male bonding combo called mr don and mr george.

The BBC connection, cash considerations apart, has made little difference to the Reeves and Mortimer approach. ‘Funnily enough it was identical to doing it for Channel 4,’ says Bob. ‘We had no contact with anyone from the BBC whatsoever, we just sort of got on with it really. We thought they might be a bit more vigorous about looking at scripts and such-like, but it never happened. We just went into a studio. did it and left.’

Mind you there are certain advantages in

working for a broadcasting monolith the props department for one. ‘They can knock up a huge ? talking peach head in a day,’ says a clearly

impressed Bob. ‘Quite remarkable it was too.’ CI The Smell 0f Reeves And Mortimer begins on BBC2 on Tuesday September 21 at 9pm.

The List 10—23 September I993 11