Times review of Tedstock
February 07, 2007
Dominic Maxwell at the Bloomsbury, WC1
It’s not often that the subject of a tribute concert is alive to accept the plaudits of his audience. It’s even rarer when that audience greets the ostensible object of their affections with such a muffled mix of curiosity and confusion. But then with the Eighties anticomic Ted Chippington as Tedstock’s inspiration and closing act, this was never likely to be an ordinary benefit.
Compered by Stewart Lee, the bill featured acts who had been influenced by Chippington’s mix of straitlaced absurdism, half-formed old-school gags and knack for baffling an audience. He was Vic Reeves without the palaver; Harry Hill without the fuss. Or much material.
Those acts who’d been around in the day revived their most Teddish old material. Simon Munnery’s the Security Guard was particularly Chippy — “Three security guards go into a pub. Nothing happens. That’s what we get paid for”. Richard Herring brought out an old student routine that cajoled the inner workings of the “my wife’s just been on holiday” joke; Phill Jupitus reprised, with amused embarrassment, his old routine as Porky the Poet.
But the big draw was Lee and Herring reactivating their double act, which conquered the world — or at least BBC Two — in the 1990s.
“We will attempt to crank in as many of the forgotten catchphrases as possible,” announced Lee, “like a kind of Jive Bunny megamix of your childhood.” They were magnficent, throttling through old material that had Herring as the horny idiot and Lee as the laconic know-all, while tagging on a glorious riff on the currently ubiquitous “I am a Mac” advertising campaign featuring double act Mitchell and Webb. “F*** off, you sell-out Oxbridge c***s!” raged Herring. “That should have been us doing those adverts!” Not everyone was Ted-fixated. “I don’t know who he was,” announced the star guest, Simon Amstell. Josie Long went down best of the newer acts, her mix of stand-up tropes and Heat magazine daydreams making a new kind of sense in this context.
As Chippington performed his short set to a startled crowd — “Ah, London,” he ad-libbed steadily, “you can’t beat London for silence” — the biggest laughs were coming from backstage. Was Tedstock just a glorious in-joke? Well, maybe. And maybe it was a reminder that comedy can take more forms than we sometimes suppose, so long as it’s done with conviction, intelligence and love.