Did you hear the one about a new sketch show series which can induce nightmares and gut-busting laughter in equal measure? Pass the Pro-Plus and fasten your corset, here comes
THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN.
Words: Peter Ross
Imagine if. instead of making some of the most twisted films of all time. David Lynch had spent all his spare time down the boo/er with (iraham Linehan. Then. instead of being haunted by the disturbing images of Blue Velvet and liraserhearl. we might have been treated to the sight of one of the stare-out contestants from Big 'l’rain finding a severed ear in the grass or l'at/ier 'Ierl's‘ Mrs l)oyle serving up mutant chickens for Sunday lunch. If you can get your head round that. then you're well on your way to understanding the vibe of The League (2/ (ientlenten. possibly the most disturbing comedy ever to hit Britain's screens.
The League ()f (ientlemen are Steve Pemberton. Jeremy Dyson. Mark (iatiss and Reece Shearsmith —
four comedy actors and writers from the north of
lingland who scooped the coveted Perrier award at the lidinburgh l’estival in l‘)‘)7 with a sketch show which The List described at the time as ‘brilliantly judged and faultlesst polished’. ()pting out of the post—Perrier promotional treadmill. The League kept a relatively low profile in ()8 with a handful of London
gigs and ()n 'I'he 'Iini'n. an award-winning show for
Radio—l. They also spent the year crafting their debut television series. The League Of (ientlemen.
90 THE LIST / 2'; Jar i999
Sausage super: Hilary Briss The Butcher in The League Of Gentlemen
'The show is Take The High Road meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We are much more influenced by films and literature than by other comedy ShOWS.' Steve Pemberton
FundamentalIy. it's a sketch show. but one with narrative drive aitd character development so that it feels like a film or soap opera. Set in the small northern village of Royston Vasey. the show couples the straight acting in bizarre situations of Big 'l'rain with the offbeat feel of something like Twin Peaks. ‘lt‘s lake The High Rural meets 'Iexas Chainsaw Massaere.‘ laughs Steve Pemberton. ‘We are all much more influenced by films and literature than by other
comedy shows. We gave the director a visual sense of what we wanted by making a showreel of our
favourite clips from our favourite films. We put bits from The Shining. The ll’ieker Man and Night Of The Hunter on there.‘
If these titles seem to fall on the spine-tingling side of macabre then their influence is obvious on The League Of Gentlemen. Most of the plot comes from the characters of 'l‘ubbs and Edward. incestuous custodians of the Local Shop. who kill and burn any strangers who show an interest in buying their ‘precious local things‘. Royston Vasey seems entirely populated by such grotesques (over sixty characters in total) including the compulsive- ohsessive l)enton Family who love toads but frown on masturbation and Mr (‘hinnery. the local vet who is
the live show will recognize some characters. but there are new faces like Hilary Briss The Butcher who puts something sinister yet irresistible in his sausages. Perhaps most terrifyingly. a number of characters are based on real people.
'We were in a local shop in Rottingdean. a village just outside Brighton] says Reece Shearsmith. explaining the genesis of 'I‘ubbs and lidward. "l‘he owner was absolutely terrified that we must be trying to steal things or beat her tip just because we were four men walking in and picking tip her shells.’
Welcome to the weird world of the League Of (ientlemen. It’s an interesting place to visit. but you wouldn‘t want to live there.
The League Of Gentlemen, BBCZ, Mon 11 Jan, 9.30pm.
yet to save a patient. Fans of
Celebrity sofa surfing. This issue: Ed Byrne
Favourite TV show? It's got to be The Larry Sanders Show. It's so real Not just because everybody swears, but because Just ab0ut everybody in it is such a prick. It’s made by HBO so, unlike all the network sitcoms in America, people can do really shitty things and then not have to regret them or appear vulnerable by the end of the show. It will be sadly missed,
Favourite TV snack? I'm a big fan of anything you can take from the freezer and transfer to yOur mouth vra the microwave. Frozen lasagna is good but, of late, I've developed a thing for Ocean Pie. I like to drink White Russmns.
When did you last shout at the telly? I shout at it all the time because there is so much shit on_ I even shout at the news if somebody does something that riles me. The shows that really get me going are the ones like Kilroy or Ricki Lake where real Idiots get to have their say,
If you went on Stars In Their Eyes who would you be? Matthew Kelly’s assassin.
Which TV personality makes the physically sick? I can’t stand Russell Grant. He got on telly by being an expert at something I consider nonsense, Which TV personality did you first fancy? I was part of that generation of boys who slavered over Sally James from Tiswas‘ Without ever really understanding why but knowing the leather waistcoats had something to do wrth it.
Who would be on your dream Top Of The Pops? Well, I’d be hosting for a kick off. The Artist would be on and so WOuld Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Skunk Anansie and Bran Van 3000. Then Billie w0uld do a duet wrth Celine Dion and a lighting rig woold fall and kill them both. What have you got on top of your TV set? A clock, a vase and the lump of perspex they give Perrier Nominees. Who is the greatest cartoon character of all time? Excluding the modern classics like Homer Simpson and Cartman, I'd have to say Foghorn Leghorn, I say, I say, Foghorn Leghorn Warner Brothers always made better cartoons than Hanna Barbera or Disney. What is the greatest TV moment of all time? It has to be the elephant taking a shit on Blue Peter.