Almanac Comedy: Favourite Comedies #19-#15


#19 – Black Books (2000-2004)


A misanthrope is someone who has a general hatred, dislike, mistrust or contempt of the human species. That is a common thread with the shows and comedians I love the most and it probably sums me up as an individual also. I’d like to think however, that for every admonishment and outburst I deliver, there are 9 x hugs! Dylan Moran’s acerbic character Bernard in Black Books doesn’t hand out the love as much and is constantly clashing with Manny, played by the brilliant Bill Bailey who is his trusty assistant in the aptly named bookshop. Never far away is the gorgeous Fran, played by Tamsin Greig and each episode features some of Britain’s finest up and coming actors of the early 2000’s. There’s no connectivity to the episodes over the three series, just a variety of silly plots centred on the manic behaviour of the constantly drinking and smoking Bernard. Dylan Moran co-wrote the show with a few different writers, most notably Graeme Linehan who is also responsible for The IT Crowd and Father Ted. Moran thought a bookshop would be a good backdrop as it was most likely to fail given the internet was coming to prominence and would therefore render books obsolete. ( Lynda and I have always considered a letter opener shop as a viable option ourselves!)  We have been fortunate to see Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey perform their respective shows in Melbourne and they were both gut-bustingly funny. Thank goodness for Black Books bringing these two legends together.





#18 – Get Smart (1965-1970)


If I think of all the catch phrases used the most as a kid, I would attribute the bulk of them to Get Smart“I asked you not to tell me that”, “missed by that much”, “not the Craw, the Craw”, “and loving it”, “would you believe…”, “I love you Max” (Hymie), “This is KAOS, we don’t drrrrrrr here” (Siegfried)“I hope I wasn’t out of line with that crack about…”, are just some of the classic lines we repeated ad nauseum in the primary school playground and later on as adults! Don Adams was magnificent as the bumbling Agent 86 over 138 episodes and I had a massive crush on Barbara Feldon as 99. There were so many great supports such as the Chief, Larabee his dim witted sidekick, Agent 13, Hymie and a cavalcade of superb KAOS agents led by my favourite Siegfried and his idiotic over zealous henchman Schtarker. Many comedians of the era clambered over themselves to get cameos on the show, but perhaps the best was Don Rickles as Sid, Max’s sceptical ex-army buddy. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Get Smart was classy, stylish and full of adult humour in a children’s timeslot.








#17 – The Blues Brothers (1980)


Spawned from a sketch on Saturday Night Live, this film is a joyous tribute to rhythm and blues music and feels like it’s going to go off the rails at any minute. It has been well documented that John Belushi was in the midst of a serious cocaine addiction at the time and he attacks his role as Jake with absolute gusto. Dan Ackroyd as his brother Elwood is the perfect yin to Belushi’s yang and there is no question that both men had a genuine passion for the artists and the music. When Jake comes out of gaol after three years, they discover their old orphanage needs $5000 to be saved from creditors, so they decide to put the band back together after Jake has an epiphany at a James Brown church sermon. They then need to grab their old band mates from their existing mundane lives and get on the road. The journey is hilarious as they confront Nazi’s, get chased by cops through shopping malls and pretend to be a country band, The Good Ole Boys in order to earn some cash. The performances from Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and John Lee Hooker are timeless and I personally love the scene where Elwood brings Jake back to his ‘flophouse’, a tiny bedsit in Chicago adjacent to the railway line. (“How often does the train go by?”. “So often you barely notice ‘em.”) Interestingly you can still see The Blues Brothers on the big screen at selected cinemas, such is its cult following. For many years it was a late night staple at the Valhalla Cinema in Richmond where punters could come dressed accordingly and let their hair down. The film hasn’t aged at all and is one of the best things to come out of the 80’s.











#16 – The Royle Family (1998-2000)


One of the most fascinating comedies/studies of human existence I’ve ever seen. I’m convinced this is an anthropological study as opposed to a sitcom. I speak in jest of course, because this show about a poor Manchester family filmed inside their council flat and mostly in the living room, is as intelligent as it is minimalist. Written entirely by Caroline Ahern and Craig Cash who play daughter and son-in-law respectively, the ‘action’ is centred around the television, watched studiously by Denise and David (Ahern & Cash), Mrs Barbara Royle played by the wonderful Sue Johnston, her son Antony and the apathetic, cynical father Jim Royle, played by the brilliant Ricky Tomlinson. There are a few regulars like Jim’s mate Twiggy, a small time crim with a long history and an amazing Liz Smith as Nana, who ‘cops it’ from Jim constantly but returns fire just as effectively. It’s so hard to describe The Royle Family simply because not a lot happens in a physical sense. The strength is in the writing and what they actually leave out, allowing the actors to shine. The acting is superb and the camera work has you cramped up with the cast. There is a fair bit of pathos given the circumstances of where the series is set and again it’s beautifully written. The three series and Xmas specials won several BAFTA awards but sadly Caroline Ahern passed away in 2016. Fittingly, Noel Gallagher sang The Royle Family theme tune ‘Half a world away’ by Oasis at a TV cancer fund raiser in her honour. A gem of a show.





#15 – Lano and Woodley (1993-present)


I first saw these guys on a Monday night at the Prince Patrick Hotel in Collingwood during the halcyon days of live comedy in Melbourne in the 80’s. They were called The Found Objects and they had a third member named Scott. They sang songs about very Melbourne things like the shit traffic on Punt Rd and then they took us all out across the three lanes of Victoria Parade and performed along with audience participation on the nature strip. They were idiotic and I loved them. As Lano and Woodley they went on to win the prestigious Perrier Award for the best act at the Edinburgh Fringe and have their own TV series on the ABC. They also performed half a dozen stage shows, the most recent being Fly in 2018 and Moby Dick in 2022. The two of them inhabit all sorts of influences from Buster Keaton to the Three Stooges to Looney Tunes cartoons. They are also fantastic improvisors as you would expect after 30 years working together.  Amongst such a big catalogue of work I would highly recommend their 20th Anniversary DVD, Goodbye and the TV series The Adventures of Lano and Woodley. Now…if you want to see these two at their quirky, idiotic best using many of their trademark routines, check out the episode called ‘Star Quest’, 22 minutes of the finest Australian comedy ever!









Part 1: 27 – 20 can be read HERE



Read more from Ian Wilson HERE



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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. You have got me thinking about jewels to come. Get Smart was the 5.30 or 6pm post school/kicking the footy/pre-dinner habit of my childhood. Along with Hogan’s Heroes and F Troop. I watched an episode of Hogan’s Heroes recently and it wasn’t as funny, clever and inventive as my 12yo brain remembered. I wonder which shows age well or are they the product of the times?
    The more adult/thoughtful comedies came after the 7pm news (always ABC in our house). Porridge, Mary Tyler Moore and Murphy Brown. Around the time of MASH and Seinfeld comedy takes on a more cynical/knowing edge. Did they change or did we?
    Love that these lists tell the story of our lives and times. Thanks IW.

  2. Thanks Pete yes it’s interesting to look at the timelines. There’s one coming up which all the Seinfeld’s of the world were influenced by that go back 50+ years as I’m sure they did for you. I loved Porridge and probably anything Ronnie Barker did. Appreciate the feedback Cheers and I hope its cooling off a bit over there.

  3. So many. Get Smart hard to topple for sheer lunacy and hilarity. Porridge – brilliant. Fawlty Towers – genius. Seinfeld had its own genius. Cheers was always a show to look forward to.

    Thanks Ian.

  4. Might be on on the money Dips. Stay tuned cheers

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