Saturday, January 27, 2018

Alexei Sayle explains why Blair and Brown were like a comedy double act

Embed from Getty Images

Today's Guardian has an article by Simon Parkin about comedy double acts and how they break up.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Lee and Herring. Newman and Baddiel. They are all there.

I was reminded of an old column by Alexei Sayle, where he discussed the same subject.

It dates from 2005, and it contains an observation on the politics of the day so penetrating that I remember it today.

For Sayle wrote:
In trying to fathom the personal dynamic that exists between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, it occurs to me that the closest show business equivalent is that funny business version of the abusive marriage - the comedy double act.
Over the years I have studied double acts. Although I have always been a lone-wolf solo act, the original Comic Strip Club touring line-up was me, and three pairs of comedians. So I have always been well placed to witness the internal affinities and tensions that power these co-dependent comedy relationships. 
In the early days, they start out in hope and a deep and profound friendship. After all, the members of a double act will spend a lot more time with each other than they'll spend with their partners and families. In the early days there is also an equality between the two performers, but then, as they start to become successful, things almost always begin to go wrong. 
From my experience, one member of the double act inevitably begins to get more attention than the other. The neglected one may indeed be less talented, or they may just be less fashionable, or less adept at smooching journalists. 
Whatever the reason, they begin to sink into bitterness and rancour, while the performer who's regarded as the talented one starts to believe that they are truly better than their partner and begins to adopt a "I can't help it if I'm more talented" attitude. They start to waste a great deal of time fighting with each other, to gain tiny crumbs of status over their sidekick. 
But there is also poison contained within the unhappy realisation that maybe the two of them still need each other, they both fear and suspect that there is some gestalt that exists, that what they do together is greater than the sum of its parts. 
The result is that they are locked into working night and day with somebody they now hate.
As his short stories have shown, Sayle is a remarkably good writer.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

[Name-dropping alert] Courtesy of a brief appearance on a TV quiz show, I was able to ask Eric Merriman why script-writing teams broke up. He believed it was because their wives did not get on. Did the relationship between Blair and Brown turn sour after the latter got married?