BAFTA-winning director Ray Butt (Only Fools and Horses) takes the helm for the final two series of Spike Milligan's anarchic sketch show, recorded in front of - and occasionally featuring - a wide-eyed studio audience. Q's 8 and 9 were made in quick succession in 1979 and 1980 after the BBC initially delayed re-commissioning the series until the 'Monty Python' team departed TV-land. This was despite the impact the original Q5 of 1969 had on the world of alternative comedy. At a time when Kenny Everett and 'Not the Nine O'Clock News' were further testing the limits of TV comedy, the former Goon leads a cast of co-performers including John Bluthal, Bob Todd, Julia Breck, Alan Clare and a self-parodying David Lodge in yet more surreal, outrageous and determinedly under-prepared sketches. Running gags and familiar tropes prevail, with Adolf Hitler, Arab sheiks, idiot Boy Scouts and the Royal Family subject to scattergun ridicule, while musical interludes from Spike, pianist Ed Welch and occasional guest singers age the shows a little more harshly than the main man s virulently anti-PC humour.
The Madcap Laughs (and occasionally so will you)
- Q.: Vol.2 review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 2
I tried to like this. I really did. But there's something horribly wrong with it. The acid test of comedy is how often you laugh, and I laughed a lot less often than I thought I would. The earlier series of Q in Volume 1, though not perfect, have many more memorably funny moments, and the Goon Show, recorded 20 or more years before, is still consistently funny today, with far more hits than misses. It's the other way round here. Constantly, Spike gets a much bigger laugh from pointing out that a joke didn't get a laugh than from the joke itself. I got the distinct impression that the audience were hyped up by the fact that, at the time, Spike Milligan was officially the funniest man in the world so they expected to laugh, and if a completely unknown comic had tried to win them over with material this weak, he'd have been met with stony silence and perhaps even boos.
Sketches often make absolutely no sense. By popular demand, the Idiot Boy Scouts return, but this time around they're not funny. A promising idea about a ridiculous British space rocket designed by a moron, which launches an unsuspecting working-class couple's home into orbit and causes them all kinds of confusion, forgets what it's supposed to be about halfway through, and suddenly the whole point of it is that firemen are so stupid that they sometimes try to put out fires in houses that obviously aren't on fire. We're supposed to roar with laughter because the Queen has a tuba on her head for no reason at all. And so on. The mostly very bad supporting cast, some of whom had a television career simply because Spike was their buddy (or, in the case of the huge-breasted and utterly talentless Julia Breck, he was sleeping with them), fluff their lines and laugh at their own wackiness, which gets bigger laughs than the script because laughter is infectious.
And the political incorrectness has to be seen to be believed, though it actually got worse in Spike's final series for the BBC, "There's a Lot Of It About", which I expected to be part of this compilation because it was Q10 in all but name. It's hard to laugh at a sketch in which Arabs are repeatedly referred to as wogs, and portrayed as obnoxious terrorists who spit in people's faces and have sex with goats. At one point, I had to rewind the DVD because I couldn't believe what Spike had just ad-libbed, but yes, he did indeed threaten to gas the studio audience with Zyklon-B and kill them like the Jews if they didn't laugh louder! Too often, this isn't so much comedy as a man who is starting his descent into severe mental illness saying and doing totally random things, and being indulged because he's famous. And the musical numbers weren't even a good idea at the time, though presumably nobody dared to say so in case Spike had one of his tantrums. Sometimes it's funny, but mostly it's just odd, and ultimately rather depressing.