For many of us of a certain age, it’s disturbing to think The Fast Show is now 20 years old.
Yes, two decades have passed since the likes of Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Arabella Weir and Caroline Aherne burst onto our TVs and created a gallery of memorable stars, and sayings that still pop up in everyday conversation.
Try going to a hot country these days without some nostalgic British wag mentioning “Scorchio!” from the Chanel 9 sketches; or popping to a tailors without slipping into “Suits you!”.
And few nostalgic footy fans can’t avoid slipping into Ron Manager’s misty eyed “Jumpers for goalposts,” speech.
TFS also gave us the sublime Ted and Ralph, Arthur Matthews and Graham Linehan’s achingly sweet tale of the relationship between an aristocrat and his Irish labourer employee; Competitive Dad (who touched a chord with many fathers); the 13th Duke of Wymbourne (“With my reputation?”), Rowley (“I was very, very drunk”) Birkin, and countless other “Brilliant!” creations.
The first of a two-parter celebrating its 20th anniversary and BBC2’s 50th sees Whitehouse, Higson, Weir, Aherne, Simon Day and John Thomson reunite to perform a host of comedy sketches featuring characters old and new. Ted and Ralph investigate social media, and a veteran crooner with memory problems appears on Jazz Club. There’s also a Downton Abbey spoof.
One of Whitehouse’s favourite characters is wartime comedian Arthur “Where’s Me Washboard” Atkinson, a saucy Max Miller type who delivers a stream of incomprehensible gags to a tittering theatre audience.
“He has his little catchphrase ‘How queer, how queer’,” remarks Paul. “It’s a bit cheeky really. Truth is he’s a horrible, vicious and nasty man, especially when he upstages his mate, Chester Draws.”
Paul and Charlie’s lives in 2014 are a far cry from their early days, as a plasterer and a decorator. They met at the University of East Anglia, before Whitehouse went to work for Hackney Council. Paul’s friendship with Harry Enfield soon gave him his break in showbiz: “I knew Harry when he was first starting out. I used to give him the odd line for his stage act and he was always trying to encourage me to write with him. So when he started doing Stavros he insisted that I write some stuff for him and that’s where it all started.”
Which was nice.
THE FAST SHOW SPECIAL, BBC2, Friday 10pm