Saturday, January 3, 2015

Scottish Comedy Television

Falconhoof, your guide. Image: BBC
On Twitter, a comedian I follow posted a link to a funny video. I can't remember the comedian, but the sketch was about a call-in show where you pay to see someone enact what sounds like a text-based adventure from the early dawn of personal computing. An enthusiastic young man in goatskins named Falconhoof invited travelers to his show, Adventure Call. I saw the one about the troll, and then I compulsively binge-viewed every single available video.

Well, I had to know what show this video was from. It's Limmy's Show, written and directed by Brian Limond, a Glasgow comedian resembling a young Simon Pegg plus his own youthful idealism. He's pure magic, and I've been studying all the episodes YouTube can provide. (If you don't understand the dialect or certain jokes, the comments to Limmy's videos are uncharacteristically helpful and informative.)

Which is nearly everything. Users deeboi70 and John Gillooley have uploaded the bulk of Limmy's programming. Limmy himself uploads his own Vine videos and stuff like that, clips that may be funnier than what your friends provide. Likely.

Supercop (Rikki Fulton), Scotch and Wry.
That aside, after studying season after season of Limmy's Show, I became curious as to what other Scottish comedy was available. Turns out there's lots of stuff easily found by a halfway curious viewer. There's Still Game, a tame sitcom about two elderly friends, rounded with mild social observation and absurd escalation; Scotch and Wry, elderly comedians in a stilted, timeworn format performing extremely local jokes for a reliable audience (punchlines require familiarity with Glasgow businesses and political parties); Burnistoun, somewhat irreverent humor and wacky comedy that just doesn't go as far as Limmy's Show; Gary, Tank Commander, a skewed take on military reservists who can't live up to their potential; Scot Squad, a very slow-paced and meandering cinéma vérité comedy about hapless cops; Only An Excuse? and Chewin' the Fat, more conventional sketch comedy relying on dialect and awkward social scenarios. YouTube account Stans Scottish Comedy preserves the majority of these shows for global consumption.

I don't get most of the region-specific humor, and the majority of the time the brogue is too impenetrable for me to ingest, but I love it. I love that the Internet can provide the bulk of foreign programming like this. If I want to study Scottish dialect, I can watch all these shows and cross-reference Wiktionary's glossary of Scottish slang. I can see what's old and reliable or fresh and happenin' in Scotland (over the last five years), I can take it all in and put it all in context, without saving up to travel anywhere. And if I really want to immerse myself and mess around, I can take a virtual walking tour of Glasgow. Why not? We're living in the future and we have all this media at our fingertips.

I find it very satisfying. Obviously I'm alone in this journey, I can't reference my experiences with anyone else, but it still satisfies something within me. I still watch it all and drink it all in, paying attention to the interpersonal relationships and cultural mores, wondering if this is my home after all. I do that a lot.

UPDATE: Still finding more shows and episodes. So thankful something like YouTube exists (just wish it were a little freer with licensing). Currently enjoying the charming, saccharine Hi-De-Hi, aside from the unfettered if naïve racism in its Christmas episode, no less; Steptoe and Son, the inspiration for the U.S.'s Sanford and Son; the struggles and social observations of Rab C. Nesbitt.

A long time ago I got into Hamish MacBeth, now that I think about it, enjoying it quite a lot. But a friend of mine living in Scotland despised it for being "oh-so-fucking Scottish," pointing to the protag's name, the sweeping panoramas over grassy, lumpy plains or lochs in dismal weather, and other things. I could see her point.

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