Almanac Comedy: Favourite Comedies #27-#20



“Oh for God’s sake, have a laugh!” – Margaret Wilson (1922-2014)


This was the type of philosophical advice that our Mum would give us in the 60s and 70s! When you’ve looked after nine kids and fostered a couple more, time was of the essence so sitting down and workshopping our woes wasn’t much of a priority! Instead, it was “be grateful for what you’ve got and have a laugh!”


I saw what Friday night comedies like Dave Allen and The Two Ronnies did for my Dad, a tortured World War 2 veteran and that cemented my love for comedy and how profound an effect it can have. In the darkest of times it has always been those words (which are on our Mum’s gravestone) that have dragged me into the light.


To come up with only 27 comic influences on my life is tough, much like trying to pick a top 50 albums so I decided to go with those movies/TV shows/artists that I’ve watched and listened to the most over the past 59 years. I understand there are a plethora I haven’t seen that have huge raps, such as Veep and The Larry Sanders Show, but one only has so much time on their hands. I hope there is something here that might spark some interest if you haven’t connected with it in the past.


Sincere apologies to:  The 3 Stooges, Billy Connolly, The Club, This Country, Fleabag, Extras, The Late Show, Woody Allen, F Troop, George Carlin, Aussie movies Malcolm and Death in Brunswick, The Two Ronnies, Gavin & Stacey, Hard Quiz, What we do in the Shadows, The Thick of It, Yes Prime Minister, The Four Lions, The Marx Brothers, Stewart Lee, Lead Balloon, The Mighty Boosh, The Simpsons, Miranda, Portlandia, Broad City, Absolutely Fabulous, Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, The IT Crowd, Slapshot, Father Ted, Would I Lie to You?, Spaced, Flight of the Concords, Frontline, People Like Us, Man Down, Caddyshack, and Richard Pryor Live.



#27 – The Goodies (1970-1982)


The mere thought of The Goodies brings a smile to my face. It’s an instant flashback to a time of innocent joy as a kid in the 70’s, gathered in the playground with friends re-enacting what we saw on the previous night’s show. The Goodies, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graham Garden met at Cambridge University and were close friends of the Monty Python crew. The premise of the show is based on the three of them being able to do anything, anytime, anywhere. Their adventures take them just about as far as their imagination and writing would go. Episodes such as ‘Kung Fu Capers (Ecky Thump)’, ‘Kitten Kong’ and ‘Bunfight at the OK Tearooms’ are classics. The Goodies, like Looney Tunes, had that inexplicable ability to entertain kids and adults alike.





#26 The Young Ones (1982-1984)


In the early 80’s of post punk England and Australia, me and my friends were right in the thick of anti-establishment behaviour and driven by the exciting music of the time. The interesting paradox here was that we were all in the army, which was funny because had we been caught participating in some of those dubious activities we would have been booted out on our ear! It meant for interesting times and The Young Ones was the type of anarchic, cutting edge show that reinforced our foibles. Watching the Young Ones each week was very much an event for us, and we would gather around at someone’s house with a few drinks and crack up at the antics of the 4 x main characters, Neil, Vyvyin, Mike and Rick. They all live in a squalid pit of a house, sharing it with talking animals and objects whilst being visited by any number of reprobates and some great bands. Written mostly by Ben Elton at his creative peak, it was imaginative, aggressive and certainly a landmark in TV at the time.





#25 Fast Forward (1989-1992)


I’ve been bemoaning of late that TV executives are preferring pointless reality TV to quality satire such as what was delivered in the 80’s and 90s. I loved Max Gillies and especially the late John Clarke who didn’t just do sketch comedy but were superb actors in a longer format. It’s so sad that Shaun Micallef has now finished up as he was all we had left in terms of razor sharp observations and wit. What was probably more of a straight forward sketch show, Fast Forward spawned plenty of future stars including the entire cast of Kath and Kim. There was some terrific political satire in the show but fundamentally it was a refreshing, topical weekly piss-take with some hilarious characters.





#24 – Peep Show (2003-2015)


Written and performed by David Mitchell and Robert Webb, this uniquely filmed sitcom features two dysfunctional friends in a small flat and a number of peculiar acquaintances who enter their shallow existence. The ensemble cast are highly amusing including Matt King as Super Hans and Oscar winner Olivia Colman as Sophie. Ultimately it’s the relationship between the often drug affected, unemployed musician Jez (Robert Webb) and the socially awkward loan manager Mark (David Mitchell) that carries this brilliant show of nine series. The show is uniquely filmed with cameras being strapped on the actor’s heads and voice overs providing their internal thoughts.






#23 – Whose Line is it Anyway? (1998-2007, 2013-present)


The original US version of this improvisational show was hosted by Drew Carey and is now hosted by Aisha Tyler. The key to the show’s success is the sheer brilliance of the three actors Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie. There is always a 4th guest accompanying these three through improvisational games that range from breathtaking to utter disbelief at the level of imagination and speed of thought. We have never sat through a 20 minute show and not doubled over in laughter. Currently still showing on ABC2.





#22 – Norman Gunston Show  (1975-1979)


Norman is the only fictional TV character to win the Gold Logie and to this day is immortalised in so many ways, perhaps no less than appearing on the steps of Parliament House in 1975 as the Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was sacked by the Governor General. It’s difficult to describe Norman to this generation. I guess in terms of interview style, you could say he was the Ali G of the 1970’s?  Celebrities and politicians didn’t know where to look and Norman’s real persona, the national treasure Garry McDonald, was utterly fearless in his access and questioning. Interviews with Warren Beatty, Mohammad Ali, Paul McCartney and Sally Struthers spring to mind immediately. This one with Frank Zappa is also a classic. My sister Pam has a Norman Gunston record with hilarious versions of ‘Delilah’, a salute to Abba and many others that I love listening to. As a kid in the 70’s it was all about Norman!









21 –  Raising Arizona (1987)


Along with The Big Lebowski, this second feature from the Coen Brothers has a strong cult following. The story of a childless couple who steal a baby from a furniture magnate in America’s south and are subsequently hunted by a couple of lunatic ex-con bounty hunters takes you on a fantastical ride with plenty of rich southern accents, car chases and lashings of black humour. It’s without a doubt the best thing Nicholas Cage has done and that was due mostly to the brilliant support of Holly Hunter as his wife. John Goodman is excellent as always in the Coen Brothers films, but it’s William Forsythe as his half witted escaped convict partner who has the best lines.





#20 – Bull Durham (1988)


Along with Slapshot and The Club this is the funniest sports film I’ve seen. Its appeal is in the atmosphere of the baseball minor leagues where players are eking out a living playing 160 games a year in very average conditions unlike their counterparts in the major league who fly in private jets and stay in five star accommodation. The three main characters all do a great job. Kevin Costner is a brooding veteran coming to the end of his career who lands a contract to play  in Durham, North Carolina and Susan Sarandon is the sexy local school teacher and baseball aficionado who takes one player a year as a boyfriend to ‘mentor’ both on and off the field. The glue to the comic relief is Tim Robbins as the knuckle- headed pitcher hoping to make it to the big league. His performance is superb and worthy of watching alone. The supporting cast are terrific and the film feels very authentically ‘southern’ and real.





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. Love it IW. Bull Durham is my fave sports movie. Seen it a half dozen times. Inflicted on all the iterations of Mrs B. Commenced my life long love affair with Susan Sarandon but all downhill for Costner from there.
    Memorable bits were wily catcher Crash telling the kid pitcher “Nuke, you got a million dollar arm and a ten cent brain”. Crash telling the batter what pitches Nuke was going to throw to teach him to mix it up and follow the catcher’s strategy. Crash telling the manager to stop trying to improve the team “they’re kids – scare ’em” which leads to the manager throwing bats at players in the showers.
    Loved the Goodies puns. They built whole episodes around a single line. Pith helmeted planters in Africa where the natives are all small. “Apart – height”. “The jockeys are restless tonight”.
    And the episode at the height of the Evita craze that finished with “Don’t Cry for Me Marge and Tina”.
    If this is 20-27 can’t wait for the rest. Cheers.

  2. Thanks so much Pete glad it brought back some happy memories cheers

  3. george smith says

    They had one of these surveys on YouTube, and of course “Fawlty Towers” won the British one easily and Seinfeld won the American one.

    But then if you have twenty people at a party then you have twenty opinions on what music should be played. I was most irked that a piece of crap like “Keeping up Appearances” got a guernsey, whereas controversial classics like “Death us do Part” didn’t even get a mention, but hey, that’s my opinion.

    The problem is that so many shows are either forgotten, never seen or in the case of something like “Happy Days” jumped the shark, the origin of that term. So it is hard to remember exactly the magic moment when I just lost it watching something so funny. So thank you for bringing back the memories

  4. Thanks George. Another couple you prompted me to think of were Bread and The Lyre Birds. Hopefully some familiar ones ahead that you will enjoy. Many thanks

  5. I always loved the ‘Just throw it at the bull’ scene in Bull Durham.

    The old Norman Gunston clips are still hilarious. Thanks for reminding us!

  6. Many thanks Greg cheers

  7. I’m a bit late to this Ian.

    Clever of you to title this list as faves rather than best. Any list is gunna elicit disagreements (don’t even start me on the RS 200 Greatest Singers of All Time list placing Dylan ahead of Elvis! yep) so with that in mind I’ll go to the oh no’s rather than the majority that would be in or at least in consideration were I to attempt such a list.

    As an aside, I think a difficulty you have created for yourself and the reader is allowing films and tv shows to commingle. The results so far don’t seem to have been affected too adversely (methinks the deeper into the list the harder this will become – I’m already panicking for you thinking about what needs to be crammed in there). Whatever, this is a fun romp!

    Anyways, the oh no’s, for me are:

    #25 (hardly … maybe in a Top 100, but 25! Shirley you can be serious!)
    And #23 what the what! If this show was coming at me I’d say, run for the hills. Sir, they’re coming from the hills. Oh, then, run away from the hills. I have misquoted from a TV series that is definitely in your list.

    Other than those two chumps, many delights already and we have 20 more to go! Onya

  8. Yes Rick you’re spot on. I tried not to worry too much about structure and in a feeble attempt to cover myself I gave an apology to a heap of comedies/comedians that I had to leave off on the first chapter #27etc. There will be conjecture right the way through for you but as I said at #27, this criteria is entirely comedies/comedians I’ve watched or listened to the most. Not a Rolling Stone list. Oh you’re right about Flying High but I just didn’t watch it multiple times hence it’s absence. Thanks for the feedback mate. Much appreciated.

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