January 2nd, 2005

Top Comics

Here's a list of the top comedians of all time, as voted for by fellow comics in a poll organized by Channel 4.

1. Peter Cook
2. John Cleese
3. Woody Allen
4. Eric Morecambe
5. Groucho Marx
6. Tommy Cooper
7. Laurel and Hardy
8. Billy Connolly
9. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer
10. Richard Pryor
11. Chris Morris
12. Tony Hancock
13. Bill Hicks
14. Peter Sellers
15. Steve Martin
16. Ronnie Barker
17. Steve Coogan
18. Charlie Chaplin
19. Eddie Izzard
20. Paul Merton

I imagine a lot of these names are going to mean nothing on the far side of the Atlantic.

I've already written a couple of posts about Peter Cook; he seems to be dead fashionable right now. I don't get it, I really don't.

In the tall, manic Englishman stakes I prefer Cleese. Python and Fawlty Towers were much more fully achieved than any of the rather scrappy things Cook did for TV.

Woody Allen. OK, that's probably about right.

Eric Morecambe. A parochial choice.

Groucho. Yes, yes, yes. But where are Harpo and Chico? Those guys were a team.

Tommy Cooper... but I'm getting bored with this exercise already.

But how can Charlie Chaplin score less than middle-of-the road TV comic Ronnie Barker? And where are Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd?

It's a generational thing. The voters are largely middle-aged and so we have a list weighted to comics who were at their prime in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Older names are downgraded and today's comedy gods (guys with shows currently in the schedules)- Ricky Gervais, Walliams and Lucas, Larry David- don't feature at all.

Oh- and what a surprise- no women!


The start of the new year has me feeling anxious.

All that time ahead. 365 days. How on earth shall I fill it? What are my stratagems?

We are driving to my grandparents house- a journey of an hour and a half. I am 12. Somewhere on the far side of Tunbridge Wells I fall back on a tested stratagem for dealing with boredom; I will tell myself a story. The hero is a prince. He has black hair. He is on a ship and the ship is being attacked by flying demons and- a smell of hot leatherette, a growing ache in shoulders and jaw- I slowly realise he doesn't interest me in the least.

Let the demons eat him. What do I care?

The stratagem has failed.