|Reeves and Mortimer|
The comedy double act of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer has been part of British TV for the past decade, taking them from cult status on Channel 4 to prime time success on the BBC. They aren't very well known in America, but their own unique brand of humor and a number of popular series make them worthy of attention.
Vic 'n Bob, as most of their fans (and Britain) call them, both started out in the North of England in the year 1959, growing up a mere 12 miles apart but never meeting. As soon as he came of age, Vic (real name James Moir) moved south with a group of friends interested in music and entertaining. Bob headed for Brighton in pursuit of a university degree, with no thoughts of getting into show business. Vic began doing stand-up comedy and chose "Vic Reeves" as just one of many different stage aliases he would use each night and for some reason it stuck. He quickly gained popularity on the South London pub circuit for his zany performances which were unique among of the fashionably trendy "political" comics at the time in the late 80s. Meanwhile, Bob became a solicitor.
Bob attended one of Vic's marathon three hour performances, which was part music, part satire of variety shows, some physical comedy; in other words, anything for a laugh, which he now admits was mostly "performance art" most of the time. They met, hit it off immediately and Vic and Bob began collaborating. Vic also made an early TV appearance on The Tube in 1986, doing the first of his send-ups of game show hosts.
Television came calling, namely Channel 4 which was making a name for itself with the sort of edgy, you've-never-seen-this-before type of entertainment which Vic and Bob were becoming known for. Vic Reeves Big Night Out premiered in 1990, with Bob taking 10 weeks off from his solicitor job to film the series. He never went back to work afterwards, confessing about his legal career, "I wasn't any good at it." Though an instant cult sensation, Vic Reeves Big Night Out was still too weird for mainstream audiences to get. It appeared to some people that two madmen had been let loose on TV to do whatever amused them whether the audience got it or not. Afterwards, they did a live stage show tour based on the show but knew they wanted to move on.
BBC-2 came calling, and with Charlie Higson (The Fast Show) as a producer, they created The Smell of Reeves & Mortimer in 1993 combining sketches with their "sitting behind a desk" host interaction. I said at the time, "Another series of BBC-2 double-act comedy, with songs, hi-jinx, and other non-sequiturs. Not every bit works, but the energy of the show is undeniable." Their partnership was now equal, both in the title and in realizing the various characters and situations.
In 1995 (after doing a second season of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer) they debuted their most popular program to date, the comedy quiz show Shooting Stars. It was created so they could have an on-air "gang" of co-conspirators, in this case celebrities who would be willing participants in this extended game show parody. It made household names of former weathergirl and Gladiator host Ulrika Jonsson and comic Mark Lamarr as the weekly team captains, as well as willing accomplices in pre-taped sketches. Each episode ended with a celebrity guest "winner" to have to perform some bizarre stunt, using involving very odd props. The nonsense words that Vic used like "eranu" became national catchphrases. They did three years of Shooting Stars and then a live stage show version (teamed up with The Fast Show crew) before again deciding it was time again for something new before the joke became stale.