Finally, in 1995, I decided that I could not take any more hidden camera action. There are only so many times that you can see a car without an engine being pushed into a petrol station (with hilarious results) before you want to kick in the television set. I voiced my opinion and was surprised to find that they agreed with me.
"We thought we might let you watch a compilation of some of the comedians to find out if you want to see them in full" said my mother, as she inserted The Best Of The Comedians (a '70s show that featured stand-up performances from people such as Mike Reid, Frank Carson, Jim Bowen et al) into the video machine. "It might be a bit rude though!"
As I sat there listening to mother-in-law jokes and near-the-knuckle tales of fictional sexual encounters, I had to wonder when the rude bits were going to begin. What my parents didn't know was that I had been watching "grown-up" comedy in the privacy of my bedroom for a couple of years. I was particularly fond of The Day Today and was enjoying Knowing Me, Knowing You (amongst other shows) each week. BBC2 and Channel Four were my two sources of comedy and shaped much of my personality and humour. I also loved Tarrant On TV which gave an insight into the naughtier aspects of television around the world (as well as the mandatory serious bit about AIDS before the commercial break which would always be met with a solemn silence from the studio audience). In addition to this, I had been reading (and watching) people like Clive James and Stephen Fry who were not entirely wholesome.
In comparison to that lot, The Comedians offered nothing that I had not heard before. However, there was something quite appealing about the old-fashioned atmosphere that was conveyed and I eventually found The Comedians to be quite, well, pleasurable.
I never really embraced the "blue" scene as much as my parents, though. They once went on a weekend break to Bournemouth in order to catch a rare performance by Jimmy Jones. He even got them up on stage and had a drink with them afterwards. I must admit that I was quite jealous that I didn't go with them. It sounded like they had a great time. M and I were so thrilled by their tales that we even went on a little trip to Bournemouth ourselves. Unfortunately, comedy season was pretty much over by then so it was a choice between Danny La Rue and Joe Pasquale. We went with Pasquale, who disappointed us by doing the exact same routine that he had done on Des O'Connor Tonight for the previous six years (and the same routine that he still does to this day). Still, we managed to track down a rare copy of Alan Lancaster's Life After Quo in HMV, then stumbled upon a topless beach and spotted many pairs of (to quote M) "perfectly formed breasts." It was therefore well worth the trip.
However, just as I was considering crossing over to "the blue side" a major event occurred. I was dragged along to a Jim Davidson performance at Cardiff's St David's Hall. I had enjoyed Jim on Big Break but I could never identify with him as a comedian. He gave a terrible performance that saw him complain about the sound level for the first third of the show, insult people in the audience for the second third and then finish off with some ill-advised political rants. We drove home from the concert in silence. The following day, my mother asked to borrow my Alan Partridge videos "just for a breath of fresh air."
I never got them back.