So, this is a primer on the works of Jeremy Dyson, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton who were collectively ‘The League Of Gentlemen’ By way of introduction, here’s an excerpt from an interview where they discuss their youth.
“Curtains drawn, Robinson Crusoe or The Singing Ringing Tree on the television, drawing and your mum coming in saying, ‘Why don’t you go out? They’ve come for you.'”
“Lovely sunny day,” Pemberton chimes in mumsy tones. “And you’ve got the curtains shut!”
“Morbid!” Gatiss pronounces. “That was the abiding word of my childhood.
I’d say that argues pervasively in favour of being a pop culture shut in. Which I thought might play well here. They have always worn their influences on their sleeves. Tales Of The Unexpected Hammer Horror, Quatermass….did I mention they are a comedy group? Here’s an example…
They’re masters of the ‘laugh while covering your eyes muttering ‘Jesus…’ joke. That was from The League Of Gentlemen : Apocalypse the big screen outing and is possibly a little unrepresentative of it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it is set in the thankfully fictional town of Royston Vasey and features a cornucopia of weird and wonderful array of characters running the gamut from freakish to disturbing to frightening and …..wait , come back, it’s also funny. Really funny. It’s one of the few shows that gets better as it goes on. The Christmas special is the scariest thing I’ve ever laughed at.
The first couple of seasons were very much sketches linked together but over the years they (or certainly Shearsmith, Pemberton and Gatiss) have become more interested in longer form stories. The final season focused on one story for each of the episodes. Which they revived again as a format for Inside No. 9 This was a series of vignettes connected only by taking place in a house at Number 9 somewhere. If I was going to recommend one, go with A Quiet Night In It’s almost entirely dialogue free and a masterpiece of ‘silent’ comedy.
(The whole thing is available at dailymotion)
Between these series, Pemberton and Shearsmith created Psychoville (Which is the title of ‘The League Of Gentlemen’ in Japan) , this was another show that it’s best not to recommend to your grandparents. The embittered hook-handed clown is only arguably the most disturbing feature of it.
It’s another show that starts with a disparate set of characters that eventually link into an overarching story. It doesn’t quite hit the heights of ‘The league..’
But it’s well worth your time if you like it dark and weird.
Mark Gatiss moved on to Doctor Who and Sherlock. You’ve seen them and after what’s happened to Sherlock I’m drawing a discreet veil over the whole affair.
So, moving on to Jeremy Dyson I can recommend Psychobitches. the premise of this show is a psychiatrist (Rebecca Front) meeting with various women of history. It’s a showcase of the finest female comic actors in Britain and it’s a great watch. Loads are on youtube as well so you can check out the quick little sketches at your leisure. Here’s Edith Piaf
And Catherine The Great for starters.
I’d be interested to hear how they play overseas. They’re very British which sometimes is a selling point and sometimes is just confusing. What say you? Are they a local act for local people?