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Vic Reeves (born January 24th, 1959 in Leeds) and Bob Mortimer (born May 23rd, 1959 in Middlesbrough), more commonly known as Vic and Bob or Reeves and Mortimer, are an British comedy double act best known for their unique and innovative style of humour.
Vic Reeves' Big Night Out (1985-1989)Edit
After beginning to perform the Vic Reeves Variety Palladium in London, Vic Reeves, dubbing himself 'The North-East's Top Light Entertainer', and later 'Britain's Top Light Entertainer', moved the show to a more permanent location, arriving at the Goldsmith's Tavern in New Cross, Deptford, and christening the new show Vic Reeves' Big Night Out.
At one of the first nights, Vic met audience member Bob Mortimer and the two instantly became friends. Over the next shows, Bob contributed more and more to the writing of the show, and eventually was convinced by Vic to perform with him. Along with his assistant Les (played by Fred Aylward), Vic presented the three hour show, with Bob playing most of the other characters emerging from backstage.
The fan base of the show quickly grew and needed a larger venue, so in 1988 it was moved to the Albany Empire. The show by now was also attracting celebrity audience members (who were roped into a performance by Vic), including Jonathan Ross, Jools Holland, Glen Tilbrook, Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse.
Not many recordings of the early Big Night Out shows exist; the only known recordings are featured on two videos that were sent out to members of the Official Fan Club in the early 90s.
The Vic Reeves Big Night Out era (1989-1991)Edit
With such a large following, the show attracted the attention of the BBC and Channel 4, and with help from Jonathan Ross' production company, Channel X, Vic and Bob agreed terms with Channel 4 and set to transferring the live show to television.
Around this time, Vic and Bob began to make more prominent appearances on shows such as Tonight with Jonathan Ross and One Hour with Jonathan Ross, and Jukebox Jury (presented by Jools Holland) where Vic was introduced as "Britain's top light entertainer", despite the fact that he was completely unknown.
The First TV SeriesEdit
In May 1990, the first series of the Big Night Out aired on Channel 4. Because of the originality of the programme, Vic and Bob were allowed almost complete control by the producers who had no idea what they were trying to do anyway.
The show saw Vic continue the role of the host, who would sit behind his prop strewn desk, spouting nonsense and announcing the next strange guest. Although Vic appeared to be the man in charge, behind the scenes he and Bob were still writing the show together and received equal billing on the end credits.
The series quickly found a cult following from its late night slot on Channel 4, and Vic and Bob decided to take the show on its first national tour which took place in universities across the country.
The Big Night Out had impressed Channel 4 enough to give Vic and Bob a New Year's Eve special of the show, which was broadcast over midnight. The show featured celebrity guests such as singer Kim Wilde, and was 45 minutes long.
The Second TV SeriesEdit
Between the first and second series of the show, Vic had won an award for Most Stylish Man of 1990, and Vic and Bob had become hugely popular, beginning to appear on more and more shows such as The Word, Tonight with Jonathan Ross, Going Live, and their favourite daytime TV programme This Morning with Richard and Judy.
In February 1991, the second series of the show aired. Perhaps due to its popularity, this series had been extended to eight episodes, and saw quite a few changes from the first. Throughout the series, Vic was seen to be more of a fool, and found out that he was despised by most of the turns that appeared to like him. Another main story of the series made Vic into a more evil character when it turned out that he had stolen The Man With The Stick's children and had begun to loan them out to various organisations (such as to the territorial army, for target practice). Bob was also becoming less of a sidekick and more of a main character, foiling many of Vic's futile attempts to end the show (such as building an Airfix kit) and at one point getting his own smart desk.
After many years of performing the show and the same characters and catchphrases, Vic and Bob had become tired - especially Vic, who was finding it increasingly difficult to say "You wouldn't let it lie!" all the time. With this in mind, they decided to end the show for good, and at the end of the last show, a fight between a furious Graham Lister, an alcoholic Man With The Stick and an even more furious Vic ensued, resulting in their (apparent) deaths.
With his singing throughout the Big Night Out, Vic had caught the attention of record label Island, who decided to give him a recording contract. His first single, a cover of Born Free was released early in the year, and got to number 3 in the charts, also giving Vic his first appearance (albeit miming) on Top of the Pops.
After this success and a collaboration with the Wonder Stuff, Dizzy was released in October 1991 and shot to number one (knocking off U2's first number one in years after only one week), making Vic one of the few comedians to have acheive this. It also earned Vic and Bob another trip to Top of the Pops; this time singing live. A tradition with the Wonder Stuff was to down a shot of tequila each before every performance, and Vic and Bob happily joined in with them, despite the amounts of alcohol they'd had before. After numerous delays and mistakes, they were ready to record the final take - whilst all being extremely drunk. This led to Vic forgetting the lyrics, peering into random washing machines which adorned the stage, and having a microphone stand fight with the band.
The single stayed at number one for two weeks (and achieved Gold status by reaching over 400,000 sales), before being knocked off the spot by Michael Jackson's Black or White.
The Brown TourEdit
Despite killing off most of their characters, Vic and Bob took the show on another tour, this time an enormous nationwide tour dubbed The Brown Tour of 1591. This began in November, and continued through December 1991.
The tour was a complete success, and Vic and Bob were shocked to see how devoted their fans were. For the first time crash barriers had to be placed in front of the stage to stop the crowd leaping up, there were crowds outside their dressing room, and a lot of the fans decided to dress up for the occasion which was slightly worrying to Vic, who said to Jonathan Ross, "I think we should feel ashamed that we've convinced Britain to wear carpets on their heads".
All the crowd favourites were back - Lister returned to hound Vic throughout Novelty Island, Wavy Davy was pumelling tiny baby rabbits, Man With The Stick was back to his usual self, and Morrissey the Consumer Monkey was desperately trying to carry on with his consumer reports before Watchdog got to them first (little did he know that Vic was selling his reports straight to John Stapleton...).
With the characters came the return of the catchphrases, and much to Vic's dismay he was again spouting "You wouldn't let it lie" (now with ridiculous intervals between the words while Vic tried to find the will to say them) every night.
Two dates of the tour were recorded in Newcastle, and were released as one show for the Vic Reeves Big Night Out On Tour video in 1991 (which has not yet seen a DVD release).
Vic and Bob's decision to leave the show behind for good was set in their minds, and wanted to move on to other things. This meant the loss of Fred Aylward, who has said that he was told by Vic "I only want to work with Bob after this" before the last night of the tour.
I Will Cure You and Chelsea BootsEdit
Following the success of his previous singles, Vic released his debut album, I Will Cure You, in November 1991. The album featured Born Free, Dizzy and future single Abide With Me, together with songs from the show including Meals on Wheels, I Remember Punk Rock, a fantastic version of Summer of '75, and of course Oh! Mr Songwriter. Other tracks included a synthpop style Black Night (complete with Human League vocalist Phil Oakey), Empty Kennel, a song about a dead dog and the uses for its now empty kennel, and a fast rock version of the show's theme under the title Oh! Mr Hairdresser.
To celebrate the release of the album, Vic buried three pairs of Chelsea boots at various locations around the country, publishing Ordnance Survey grid references and polaroids of him burying the boots in the sleeve notes.
The last single to be taken from the album was Abide With Me, the classic church hymn given a dance backing track. Proclaimed by Jonathan Ross while interviewing Vic & Bob as "the worst track on the album", the single only managed to reach number 47 in the charts, made worse by the fact that it was aimed at the Christmas Number One slot.
The single met with surprising controversy on its release, drawing criticism from many including the vicar of All Saints, who was quoted in the NME as saying "I think this new version is slightly akin to dancing on people's graves". A phone poll was carried out on Simon Bates' Radio 1 morning show to decide whether they should play the track, a spokesperson was quoted as saying "The vote was 50-50 down the line, but Simon will continue playing the track. There's no question of banning it on ethical grounds as I'm sure Mr Reeves is a man of the highest moral fortitude."
Being interviewed on the radio in June 2006, Vic joked that the single did so badly because "they put the wrong side out", and the single's B-side Black Night should have been the single instead. He also made reference to the controversy, saying he can never go back to Ednam (the song's author's hometown).
Their next attempt to break into the charts would not come for another 4 years.
Trouble with Channel 4 (1992)Edit
With such a huge success in the Big Night Out, Channel 4 were reluctant to leave it behind, but Vic and Bob were adamant that they had ended it for good. Talks with the BBC had already begun, and while Channel 4 tried to change their minds, they thought about what was to come next...
Vic and Bob's next project was their first attempt at a sitcom, and the first time Vic would be credited under his real name. Channel 4 had plans for a series called Bunch of Five where five sitcom pilots would be shown by various comedy writers (including Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson) and the best would go on to become a full series.
The Weekenders was the result, a tale of two men (called Jim and Bob) with boring lives desperate to liven things up at the weekend by visiting a meat festival where they found themselves trying to outrun, and then help, a gang of aliens hunting a sausage.
During an interview on This Morning in 1991, Vic and Bob commented that sitcoms of the time had situations, but were short on the comedy, and as such were trying to cram in as many jokes as possible into every page of the script.
The show, broadcast in June 1992, was a fantastic example of what Vic and Bob could do with a format so completely different to the Big Night Out. Although some Channel 4 executives weren't too impressed (and the show wasn't chosen for a full series, which went to Frank Skinner's Blue Heaven), Vic and Bob were very keen to carry on with the series.
Still wanting to continue with the Big Night Out, Channel 4 offered Vic and Bob the deal of doing a full series of The Weekenders only if they would do a third series of the Big Night Out. With neither side willing to budge, talks advanced with the BBC and it seemed that Vic and Bob were ready to leave. The Weekenders was not their only reason for leaving, but it certainly sped the process up.
After Channel 4 thought that they could apppeal to more of a youth audience, Vic and Bob's next show was their take on a pop music show, filmed in December 1992. The show included live performances (interrupted by Vic and Bob sporting My Little Pony rucksacks), music based sketches, and interviews with musicians.
Channel 4 had been asking for a pop show from Vic and Bob for some time, and the pilot resulted in a show that Vic said he would have enjoyed to watch. Channel 4 were desperate for a series of Popadoodledandy to be filmed, and according to Bob they wanted fifty episodes (though the R&M biography claims that this is evidence of Bob's tendency to exaggerate).
By the time the pilot was complete, Vic and Bob were committed to the BBC and therefore nothing more could be made of the series. The pilot was never broadcast, and only a three minute clip from Naked City (another Channel 4 pop show) in 1993 has ever been shown.
The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer years (1993-95)Edit
After disagreements with Channel 4, Vic and Bob committed to the BBC in 1993 and began work on their new show.
The First TV SeriesEdit
Writing of The Smell began in 1992 (as seen in the Big Night Out Fan Club video where they are seen writing at their word processor) and started its run on BBC2 on the 21st September 1993. The show marked a radical change from the Big Night Out in that Vic and Bob now had equal billing. They had always been equal in the writing of the show, but until now Bob had been seen as Vic's sidekick on screen. For this series, Bob's name was in the title, a huge black "R&M" adorned the stage, and Vic and Bob sat together at their desk while spouting their nonsense in between the various new filmed sketches - another new part of the show.
- Dessau, Bruce. Reeves & Mortimer. Orion, 1998. ISBN 0752817817
- Thompson, Ben. Sunshine on Putty. HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 0007181329