The Kenny Everett Video Show brought the anarchic radio DJ to a television audience and set the standard for sketch show comedy. Running from 1978 to 1981, the series and its New Year specials come to DVD courtesy of Network.
Featuring Everett at his creatively most surreal, he’s joined by the likes of David Bowie, Bonnie Tyler, The Boomtown Rats, Suzi Quatro, Thin Lizzy, David Essex, The Police and many more.
There’s plenty in this series that may fall flat to those of a sensitive disposition, the humour is bawdy, but Kenny Everett is a disarmingly over-the-top character who can get away with it all, and more. Some of the comedy is very much “of its time” and may not appeal to modern audiences as much as it would to those who remember the TV series. That’s not to say it feels outdating, there’s plenty going on that keeps the series feeling fresh and funny even in these “post-modern” times.
Everett’s method was to be daft and outrageous, but playfully so. With assistance from British comedy writers Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, they took everything that made Everett a captivating presence on radio and made him a true superstar. It was the blend of the surreal, wacky, ridiculous, honest and experimental that made the series worth watching. It was genuinely funny and Everett was a master of the wild whilst still maintaining a sense of tongue-in-cheek observational humour with more than a hint of mockery of his peers and contemporaries. It was a style that would influence the likes of Graham Norton, Alan Carr and even Ant & Dec; the ability to push that fine line between appealing to an adult audience and a young audience without alienating either and the be funny without being cruel.
The sketches were zany, with recurring characters like Angry of Mayfair, Marcel Wave, Captain Kremmen (The World’s Most Fabulous Man), Sid Snot and an ever-growing repertoire as the series grew in popularity. The presentation mixed Everett playing up to the camera interspersed with Monty Python style comedy and studio sketches that took a sly swipe at everything from authority figures to the man on the street, modern media and commercialism. Gender and sexuality were often featured, but rarely truly overt. Everett was openly gay and whilst there was the occasional suggestion in some of the humour, it wasn’t an important feature of the programme or his personality.
For the whole run of the show, we see that Everett was at his best when he was being experimental, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable and appealing to children with his cartoonish array of characters and adults with his take on counter-culture and off the wall humour. The antics of Hot Topic, the tightly garbed dance troupe, would irritate the likes of Mary Whitehouse, but Everett wouldn’t back down, he’d mock them instead and do it all with his rapid-fire wit that was often an assault on the senses.
Hot Topic weren’t just there to titillate, though, the show had many musical interludes that would allow them to show off their not inconsiderable dance skills and even more musical guests, including the biggest names in British music at the time. It was a testament to Everett that he was able to get big names throughout the series. Add to this the Rock of Ages segments, which brought footage out of the television archive and it showed that, as he was when he was a DJ, Everett was as much about comedy as he was about music.
Presented in their original 1.33:1 ratio with a mono soundtrack, this six-disc DVD collection features all thirty-five episodes (including the three New Year specials) of the Thames Television series but nothing else, disappointingly. Everett passed away in 1995 and a retrospective of his career would have been a worthy addition to this set.
The Kenny Everett Video Show is available on DVD from 19th November 2018.