As the pop quiz pandemonium known as Never Mind The Buzzcocks gears up for its new series, The List sits in on the fun and brushes up

on the finer points of sadism.W0rds: Jonathan Trew

Strop of the pops

MARK LAMARR IS unwell. In fact. Mark Lamarr is distinctly poorly. He woke up on the morning the first programme of the third series of Never Mind The lilriit'm‘ks was to he recorded and his neck felt as though someone had wrenched it around 300 degrees. He has spent the day in rehearsal and a neck brace. There are a million places he would rather be than in the studio doing this programme.

Naturally. Sean Hughes and Phil] Jupitus. the team captains of Never Mind The Buzzem-ks. couldn't possibly think of any other place they would rather be. especially since Lamarr has a sore neck. They find it amusing. l’unny. Absolutely hilarious. in fact. The studio audience would seem to he in agreement with Hughes and .lupittis. Lamarr is less convinced but is hearing the brunt of the humour stoically. At least for the time being.

‘lt‘s been ever so much fun spending all day in a white neck brace with all these comediansf he observes laconically. before shooting Jupitus the kind of look that Saddam Hussein reserves for l’.\' Weapons Inspectors and mimicking. ‘()h, look! Here comes Father 'l‘edl‘.

‘l‘ve had two series of fttcking fat jokes about me.‘ retorts .lupitus with the gleeful conviction ofthe t‘igltteous avenger. ‘so I‘m not

taking it on the chest: guest team member Cerys Matthews

20 THE lIST 20 Feb—S Mar 1998

going to shut up about your neck now. am l'." ‘M_\' neck feels great by the way.~ says

guest panellist Jonathan Ross by way of

nothing in particular. Ross is leaning back in

his chair and exuding a calm air of

dissoluteness while bearing an uncanny resemblance to Nicholas Cage in Leaving Lax Vegas.

‘Mv cock produces no pus.‘ says Lamarr pointedly. if somewhat cryptically.

And so it continues. Cruel attack followed by savage counter-attack. It‘s lewd. crude and the only thing that differentiates it from a playground slagging match is that all the

combatants have a finely honed sense of

timing. It‘s also breathlessly funny. Obviously. [TC guidelines will ensure that the version broadcast contains no swear words and no mention of suppurating penises. The underlying tone will. however. remain the same: find a chink in anyone else‘s armour and exploit it mercilessly.

Cerys Matthews. lead singer with Catatonia. bounces on to the set to find team- mate and comedienne Donna McPhail tweaking her own nipples while explaining that she‘s just ‘trying to get them as erect as Cerys‘s.‘ Matthews checks her chest. blushes and spends much of the rest of the recording with her arms folded. Of course. she gets her revenge by making pissing noises when McPhail announces that if she isn't allowed to leave the set and go to the toilets soon. then we‘ll all be surfing out of the studio.

The humour may be combative. but as Jupitus points out after the show. ‘neither me or Sean give a fuck who wins'. He continues: “In the case of something like They Think It's All Over. because there are sportsmen involved as well. then you get the silliness plus an element of actual competition. I don‘t think that Buzzeneks is competitive at all. whereas Lineker and Gower. right up to the bitter end. were both saying. “Right. how many programmes did I win overall?" Lineker was saying. “So did I win overall. David'.’ Did l win or did you win?" All along. he knew line well that he’d won.‘

If Never Mind The Buzzeneks gets its kicks through the humour of humiliation rather any ()lympian ideal of competition. then it's a sensibility that is shared by the three and a half million viewers who tune in for each episode. It seems there are an awful lot of people out there who share an appreciation of trash pop culture

mixed with a healthy dose of cynicism. courtesy of smartarse Lamarr and the more amiable Jupitus. Hughes provides the cute factor. sitting there all innocent and doe-eyed. saying little but hiding his thne untH he can unleash a spot-on observation. seemingly out of the blue.

What makes the programme work as a whole is the fact

that Lamarr. Hughes and Jupitus all know enough about

music to shoot their quips from the hip without having to rack their brains to try and remember whether Lieutenant

Pigeon released ‘Mouldy ()ld

Dough‘ in 1974 or 1972.

According to Jupitus. part of the programme's success is its format. ‘What the panel show does.’ he says. 'is it harnesses the group dynamic that you would get if you were out with your mates at a pub.‘

And if your mates aren‘t as scalpel-sharp as Lamarr and his cohorts. then you may as well stay at home and get your comedy kicks vicariously.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks is broadcast every Friday at 9.30pm on BBC2, starting on 27 Feb.