I’m lucky. I came of age in the 1990s, when Reeves and Mortimer were on a run of form so inspired they could occasionally make you fear for your sanity, when by cross-pollinating Richard Pryor with Monty Python, Eddie Izzard could tunnel logical wormholes that began at Robert Burns and ended at The Italian Job re-enacted by mice, and when the king of them all, Chris Morris, the rightful heir to Peter Cook, could by following The Day Today with Brass Eye improve on the unimprovable. Bliss it was to be a comedy fan when instead of twiddling our thumbs through The Russell Howard Hour we could rely on our comedians to meet their basic obligation of leaving us standing, or at least surprising us now and then.
In Different Times, his new history of British comedy from Charlie Chaplin to the present, the former Melody Maker journalist David Stubbs has a fair crack at accounting for the little comedy renaissance bookended by Vic Reeves Big Night Out and The Office – or, roughly speaking, by the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. ‘For [the] British and Americans at least,’ he writes, the 1990s were