The Top 100 People In Comedy 80 - 61
Tim Clark19 June 2012
The Top 100 continues the countdown of the most influential people in comedy, with some big names such as Fielding, Pegg, Brydon and Whitehall hitting the list between 80 - 61...
80. Ken Dodd
It's nigh-on impossible to attribute the influence of one comedy generation on another, but given that Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan are no longer with us Dodd seems an excellent representative from an age of comedy gone by.
Harry Hill is the most obvious modern-day inheritor of his chirpy one-liners, visual style and gags, but it's hard to imagine a lot of bright-eyed comedy would take its current form without the representative for Knotty Ash.
79. Johnny Vegas
His 'fat man flailing angrily' shtick is now being keenly taken up by Nick Helm (well, given the gout he didn't seem to have much choice but to shape up), but it's served him well so far, most notably with him helming Ideal, BBC Three's longest-running comedy that wasn't Two Pints.
One of the many obvious inheritors of Malcolm Hardee's anarchic stylings, he's also kept the angry rant a mass interest for the last decade.
78. Smith and Jones
The first of several Not The Nine O'Clock News cast members on the list. While their creative output is probably now most keenly remembered for their Pete-and-Dud style conversations, it was Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones' creation of Talkback productions that set the precedent of TV comics creating their own production companies - just look at the current growth of Graham Norton's So to see its potency.
The company has since created everything from Buzzcocks to Partridge, and QI to the Day Today. They and fellow co-owner (and now-ITV head honcho Peter Fincham) were made multi-
millionaires after its sale to Pearson a decade ago.
77. Paul Whitehouse
Forget Aviva: Whitehouse has built the most wide-ranging career in sketch comedy thanks to his range of characters and acting ability. Lesser comedians start and end with catchphrases, and while Whitehouse has them in spades, each character exists in convincing enough form to go the distance.
Most of Harry Enfield's most memorable sketches relied on Whitehouse's sharp acting, while the successful return of the Fast Show last year showed the strength in diversity of Rowley Birkin QC, Ron Manager, and the Suits You tailors.
76. Frank Skinner
Sitting on a sofa and talking nonsense: without it, half of the cheap and cheerful output we get on digital TV would fall off the airwaves.
Fantasy Football set the tone, and while cleaned-up Skinner has settled into an easier pace of life on Absolute Radio and columns in The Times, the success of his amiable everyman approach on the surprisingly
successful return of Room 101 shows he can still set the tone to illicit the laughs.
75. Simon Pegg
Once the fan boy's fan boy, Simon Pegg has managed to achieve the rare feat of taking his boyhood fantasies and play them out on the Big Screen. Like any kid with an over-active imagination he had perfected his spy-with-gun-looking-pensive look by the time he reached his teens, but now gets to use it on Mission Impossible.
The reason why Pegg doesn't sit higher on this list is arguably because he has been so successful. His jump across to Hollywood means that his day-to-day involvement in UK comedy is mostly limited to the red carpet round-robin of interviews with journalists eager to find out about his private life (which means they quickly learn way too much about his dog Minnie).
However, Pegg is firmly back in the UK in 2012 as the last installment of the Cornetto Trilogy - the provisionally-titled The World's End - sees him reunite with Hot Fuzz collaborators Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.
While based in the UK, it seems doubtful that Pegg will find much more to do in Britain workwise. But as an example of 'how plucky Brits can make it in Hollywood', he must have many admirers in the comedy world, and his path to the big films is arguably being followed by comic actors such as Richard Ayoade and Chris O'Dowd.
Read a full profile of Simon Pegg here.
74. Frankie Boyle
Some people might make a Freudian slip when pronouncing Boyle as a 'cult comedian', but despite his appearances on some of the biggest comedy panel shows and continued headlines in the press, he remains an act who strikes his own path rather than sticking to the mainstream.
Despite the fact that he is an arena-sized comedy pull, he will still get turned down by venues such as the Wales Millennium Centre (a decision which was taken last year by the venue when his tour company tried to book it). And like Daniel Kitson, he speaks to his fans directly through his newsletter to tell them how his new show will see him 'sing about rape in the style of Neil Diamond' (okay, that particular bit isn't so Kitson-esque).
His TV career may be in poor shape after failing to find a new format on Channel Four (at least until he tries out a new format with the channel's upcoming Funny Fortnight), but he remains so hugely popular with his fans that his most recent tour had to add new dates - and he remains one of the only major comedians whose material is off-colour enough to help shape the nation's boundaries of taste.
73. Mayall and Edmondson
Mayall and Edmondson pose another example of comedians whose influence on comedy in 2012 is difficult to quantify. The Young Ones (actually penned by Mayall, Ben Elton, and Lise Mayer, with no contribution from Edmondson) and Bottom are a touchstone of anarchic comedy, inserting chaos and violence into the traditional sitcom.
Its effect was undeniable, and everything from Little Britain to Phoenix Nights owes it a debt of gratitude. But thirty years on, the work is now so distant and remixed that its effects on comedy today are increasingly indirect.
72. Rob Brydon
While he's also now the go-to guy for panel show spots (even riffing on the topic on the difficult-to-quantify spoof show Annually Retentive), it's his heritage of character comedy, picking different combinations of dim, brittle and upbeat to play middle-aged men, that make Rob Brydon influential.
Marion and Geoff, Gavin & Stacey and The Trip all came to life with his characters; the fact he's the go-to guy to work with Ruth Jones, Julia Davis and Steve Coogan show an actor at the top of his game.
71. Sharon Horgan
It's taken channel commissioners about 86 years to twig that Pulling and Free Agents star Horgan deserves more air time (a quiz show pilot for BBC Three, a role in Bain and Armstrong's new pilot Bad Sugar, BBC Three prison sitcom Dead Boss, and even a two-part documentary on older women for Channel 4).
The bad news is that she's also been developing a show for ABC in America so we might have missed the boat on making her a real household name in the UK.
That's a real shame as her fans are dedicated - one contributor to this list was ready to lynch Danny Cohen for axing Pulling when he controlled BBC Three - but there's enough in the pipeline there'll be more Horgan for at least a little while longer.
70. Ed Byrne
As host of Radio 4 Extra's fascinatingly-scheduled comedy show Show Me The Funny (tune in at Friday, 7.30am), Ed Byrne has one of the best slots to look at the world of comedy.
Despite getting consistently good guests, it is in desperate need of a big push if it is going to get noticed.
Still, it's a solid show that just needs a BBC PR to give it a little bit of love, and then Ed is well-placed to become a real mover and shaker of people's views.
69. Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne
Taken at face value, there's something rather patronising about the naive characters at work in The Royle Family and Mrs Merton, but the writing and likeability of the characters by Aherne and Cash was so strong that they tended to work.
Their writing tends to be separate these days but still focuses on everyman troubles with everyday problems: Cash shone with Early Doors and The Cafe (directing the latter, which was written by fellow Royle Ralf Little), while Aherne is working on one of ITV's new crop of shows.
Fingers crossed there's still the deftness of touch to bring us a new Jim and Nana...
68. Dave Gorman
The comedy Powerpoint presentation has started to be taken up by the comedy circuit - just look at the fast growth of Bright Club and PLEB - as it provides an easy way to frame a lot of information or internet jokes for any comedian with a projector.
That's all thanks to Gorman, whose show Are You Dave Gorman? managed to spin out not just a new sub-genre of comedy, but also the many-tentacled career of former housemate Danny Wallace. While follow-up ideas haven't quite captured the same exuberance of that first show, he's still hunting through new adventures to find another that resonates so well.
67. Mark Watson
The nervous disposition and little asides have made Watson the likeable everyman of the middle classes. He might be struggling to find a TV format that sticks - the Mad Bad Ad Show the latest in quite a long line of shows which didn't quite live up to their potential - but he keeps getting commissioned because he has good ideas, something to say, and a connection with the audience.
His innovative standup work, from his 24-hour show to the birth of We Need Answers, means it's worth keeping track of what happens next - and fingers crossed we're due a success. Read a full profile here.
66. Noel Fielding
Though his latest vehicle Luxury Comedy hasn't proved to be the massive hit that the E4 marketing department clearly thought it was going to be, the sheer exuberance that Fielding brings to the show demonstrates why he's gone beyond his cult origins to become a joyful permanent fixture of British comedy.
If this list had been compiled at the height of the Boosh then there is no doubt that Fielding (and his partner Julian Barrett) would have made the top 20, but though he may have fallen in the pecking order, his style of comedy (and his return to stand-up) has had a resonance with a whole new generation of comedians such as Joey Page. The sheer size of fan site The Velvet Onion shows the extent that The Mighty Boosh has made a connection with fans, and if you throw in his cheeky presence on Never Mind The Buzzcocks then Fielding is straddling the cult and mainstream divide like no other.
65. Jack Whitehall
Whitehall's career is at a crossroads. If rumours are to be trusted, Hollywood is calling for Whitehall after his much-praised turn as arrogant JP on Fresh Meat; but he continues to do smaller shows, such as signing up to be a regular panellist on Sky 1's A League Of Their Own.
Still, he is a tender 24, so there's plenty of time to try everything that's going and learn some more comedy lessons: his early over-confidence seems to be settling in to stage presence, and what his stand-up lacks with originality, it makes up for with gusto and effective connection with the audience. Read a full profile here.
64. Lucas and Walliams
While the BBC comedy development route from BBC radio to BBC Three, Two and then One is now taken as the ideal development route for aspiring broadcast acts, it was the exuberant characters of Little Britain that set the mould.
The show was a peak of a slow-burning approach to character comedy for the pair, developing over a decade from Channel 4 sketch show Barking to UK Play's Rock Profiles, and descending afterwards with the widely-derided Come Fly With Me.
Still, while the larger-than-life pair may have gone their separate ways now, with Hollywood turns, primetime BBC One shows (with the Matt Lucas Awards) and absurd feats of swimming (Walliams and his budgie-smugglers), the same bold approach is seeing them maintain a firm hold on the British imagination.
63. Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood
Like conquering Roman Emperors, Underbelly's Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam have set up camp on the South Bank of the Thames and are casting their gaze across what they survey: a fresh new way of taking comedy to the capital and an area which was ripe for more venues.
The purple inflatable cow's appearance now heralds the beginning of summer every year with a packed schedule of populist and specialist comedy and is in a great position to benefit from the Olympics. What Underbelly have managed to achieve overall is shake up the entire Edinburgh Fringe and introduce the commercial brand concept which - though it did exist - had until then been stuck in a stuffy and out-dated format. The rest of the Fringe is still playing catch-up.
62. Bob Shennan
Bob Shennan may raise some eyebrows for his place in the Top 100 - especially considering the names he has bumped down the list - however BBC 6 Music is arguably the best place to hear about comedy outside of Radio 4. The DJ list has included Phill Jupitus, Russell Brand, Russell Howard, Jon Richardson and Jon Holmes since launching a decade ago, while comedians make guest appearances all over the schedules.
While the biggest hits were thanks to Shennan's predecessor Lesley Douglas, the astute Saturday morning scheduling of acts like Josie Long and Peter Serafinowicz in recent months shows that he's still got a keen eye for comedy.
61. Danny Cohen
The desperate need for new comedies at BBC One was quickly noticed by Danny Cohen, and while the fruits are yet to be borne, he's commissioned a lot of pilots to find something for the channel.
While the family comedy crown has clearly been stolen by Sky 1 in the short term, his previous work at BBC Three and E4 has shown he's got a good eye for new talent - and once he's found the new Miranda, he's got the biggest channel and audience in the land to bring it to.
Right, well we're two fifth's through the list and we've already put Connolly, Bailey, Fielding and Pegg down on the list. The third part will be published tomorrow.
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