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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Saturday Rave: Steptoe & Son.

Alan Simpson died earlier this month at the age of eighty seven. He was with his friend Ray Galton a writer of comedy, of which the most celebrated examples are probably Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

Steptoe and Son finished in 1974, but it's still remembered (certainly by me) with affection and awe. It wasn't the most hilarious comedy, nor the most ground-breaking technically, and it certainly wasn't the most varied. It was usually set in one room of a disgusting house attached to a rag-and-bone yard, and the two main characters, father and son rag-and-bone men Albert and Harold Steptoe, were mostly all you got (the series started out as a one-off play for a series called Comedy Playhouse: when the other plays in the series ran over budget, Galton and Simpson needed to write something cheap).

Steptoe and Son is full of bitterness and disappointment and poverty and thwarted hopes and revenge. Both main characters are crazily cobbled-together collections of flaws - one foolishly snobbish, one whiningly manipulative - and they should have been thoroughly dull and unlikable, but the magnificent actors (Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H Corbett) and the precision writing meant the audience couldn't help but care deeply for these two filthy, resentful, unhappy but never-quite-defeated failures.

Here's a shortish clip from YouTube. The large cast makes it not really typical of Steptoe, but it's wonderful, all the same.

Plus ça change...

Thanks, Galton and Simpson, and bless you both.

Word To Use Today: comedy. This word comes from the Greek kōmōidia, from kōmos, village, and aeidein, to sing.  

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