The excellent stand up Bethany Black tweeted
"Hey, do you remember Spangles?â€ YOUâ€™RE NOT EVEN ORIGINAL WITH YOUR NOSTALGIA.â€
Which prompted me to ask,
"Do you remember the first time you heard someone say â€œdo you remember Spangles?â€?â€
Which is the closest Iâ€™ve come yet in 2019 to a one-liner that might work in stand-up. But the tweets also made me consider who might have been the first person to ask â€œWho remembers Spangles?â€ and passed that off as material that people should be paying to see. Believe me, I am not against nostalgia comedy or the laughter that comes from remembering something from the past (even if no one remembers the things I do), I just donâ€™t think you should charge people to see it, unless you have a bit more to offer. Itâ€™s the sort of thing you should be doing with your mates in the pub - in fact I now remember doing something very similar with my 17 year old friends back in the early 80s and laughing myself silly, even though our frame of reference for nostalgia must have been very tight. Do you remember doing that with your mates too? What was that all about?
Boothby Graffoe would take the piss out of the trope by asking people if they remembered Spangles and Mojos and Blackjacks and have his audience laughing and remembering and then heâ€™d say â€œWho remembers Twingles?â€ (Or something) and then when people said â€œYesâ€, heâ€™d say, â€œThatâ€™s interesting because I just made them up.â€
That pretty much sums up the redundancy and laziness of that type of comedy.
Bethany said she remembered seeing the joke on the Danny Baker show in 1993, but I recall it being used as a piss-take of a hack joke well before that. I am pretty certain that it was a line we were taking the piss out of in the 80s at University. Indeed funnily enough a google of the subject brings up a 1994 review
where Stewart Lee is taking the piss out of the phrase (also a nice review of the original live TMWRNJ) and I think by then even using â€œWho remembers Spangles?â€ As a pastiche of bad observational comedy had become almost hack alreadyâ€¦.
So who was the first to do it? And how close to the disappearance of Spangles was it? And had Spangles actually disappeared by that stage?
werenâ€™t actually discontinued until 1984 so itâ€™s pretty incredible that only 9 years later someone could be mocking the nostalgia industry behind them. Itâ€™s possible that people were asking â€œWho remembers Spangles?â€ as an item from childhood even though they were still available. But if, as seems likely the first Spangles joke came out in the 80s, it must have been within 1000 days of them being discontinued.
And Spangles were reintroduced by Woolworths (Who remembers Woolworths?) in 1995, which means it is entirely possible that some comedian was doing the material non-ironically whilst someone in his or her audience was eating a Spangle.
Is it possible that no one actually did the Spangles joke at all, but it was invented as the kind of thing a comedian might say and became this trope? I donâ€™t know if I remember ever hearing anyone doing the â€œjoke" myself. Do you? Do you remember that?
I'd genuinely love to know the earliest incidence. Do let me know yours?
Itâ€™s the kind of material that is often associated with Peter Kay, though his TV work has shown he is capable of much more than that and his enjoyable Comic Relief videos (though accidentally packed with sex offenders) are a quite enjoyable way of presenting that kind of comedy. And Iâ€™ve read his autobiography and so know he has never had a bad gig, so he must be doing something right.
As unfair as it is to reduce his career to nostalgia, garlic bread and upstaging children who turned up to the rehearsal of the Wizard of Oz that he didnâ€™t go to, but not being able to bear not being the centre of attention for 2 minutes, I came up with this cartoon idea:
Cartoon idea-Frame 1 Peter Kay playing to an audience of goldfish. Stunned silence. You can hear a pin drop. Peter Kay says â€œI donâ€™t understand it. This stuff usually kills.â€
Frame 2 - 1 of the goldfish says â€œActually the idea that goldfish only have a very short term memory is a myth. None of us are laughing because this kind of nostalgia comedy isnâ€™t amusing. Another goldfish says, â€œAlso we are goldfish and our frame of reference is very differentâ€
Frame 3 -Kay says, â€œif youâ€™re so funny, you get up here and try it.
Frame 4 - A goldfish does and says â€œRemember that flaky food we used to eat in the 70s -what was that all about? Thereâ€™d always be one fish who tried to eat it all and then died.â€ Mimes floating upside down. Audience laugh
I am just jealous. Who remembers Quatro?
The weird thing is that I am one of the last generations that will remember Spangles (if you ignore ther 95 relaunch) and so it won't be long before "Who remembers Spangles?" will become as meaningless and unfunny as "Who remembers Twingles?" It would be a brave comedian who attempted Spangles material today, given that anyone under 40 would not know what you were talking about.
Which is why this year in Edinburgh I will be premiering my new stand up show, "Who Remembers Spangles?" Book now.