Comedians do their best work when they’re miserable. It’s a cliche as truthful as it is hackneyed. Level-headed domesticity, moderation and sexual fidelity produces smug observational truisms that amount to nothing. Sexual incontinence, substance abuse and mental breakdown produces searing, insightful life-affirming comedy. And the reason Steve Coogan is still doing good comedy is because he’s made such a colossal fuck up of his personal life that all his energy is being sublimated into his art. Aerial Telly doesn’t make judgments but fathering a child by Courtney Love at this time of your life is a sure sign that things aren’t right. The whole point of fame and talent is that they allow you to trade up the nookie food chain, not end up balls deep in the grunge Yoko Ono while you pat the masturbating Michael Stipe on the head like the little bald man off Benny Hill.
"The whole point of fame and talent is that they allow you to trade up the nookie food chain, not end up balls deep in the grunge Yoko Ono while you pat the masturbating Michael Stipe on the head."
So the Chris Morris collaborator, Perrier Award winner and tabloid love skunk has briefly swapped self-destruction and Catholic self-loathing to unveil his latest creation, former roadie and present pest-control agent Tommy Saxondale. Like his creator, Saxondale has lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle but has now settled down into a relationship with young flagcracker Magz (Ruth Jones, last seen in Nighty Night) who designs those hysterically piss poor T-shirts you see advertised in the back of lads mags – the Pope smoking a joint, Prince Philip smoking a joint, (you get the picture).
“Tommy is driven by some of the same demons that plagued Alan Partridge – obsessive pedantry, need for recognition, dismay at turning into a relic of a former time.”
Coogan brings to bear the same obsessive attention to detail here that he brought to Alan Partridge, Paul Calf and the critically panned but actually rather wonderful Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible. The seventies musical references, vocal tics and gestures of the ageing rocker are faultless. Coogan’s characterisations are real works of art – nothing is left to chance. Tommy is driven by some of the same demons that plagued Alan Partridge – obsessive pedantry, need for recognition, dismay at turning into a relic of a former time. He attends an anger management course at his local library which seems to have the effect of just making him more angry – I’m not sure that that’s how this anger management thing is supposed to work.
Morwenna Banks takes time out from spawning mini-David Baddiels to spin an impressive turn as Vicky, the motormouth receptionist Tommy relies on for pest-control jobs. Banks totally nails the effortlessly patronising manner of the underworked receptionist, complete with unfunny wisecracks, single entendres and phoney concern for your private life. She’s one of the many random irritations that stack up in Tommy’s life – not enough by herself to tip him over the edge but the aggregate of the annoyances frequently see him spitting feathers at the sheer absurdity of it all.
"Coogan has an eye for human weakness and delusion that’s totally unerring."
He’s also often to be found lacing his conversation with references to Noam Chomsky and the like and the spectacle of the self-taught working-class intellectual dealing death to the urban rodent is one of the less obvious joys of the show. Like so much of his work, it’s terrifically well observed. Coogan has an eye for human weakness and delusion that’s totally unerring. Tony Ferrino is long-forgotten. He’s one of our best comic performers.
The best thing about it: Why, Jethro Tull, of course
The worst thing about it: References to flagcracker sex are unnecessary and hurtful.
The verdict on Saxondale: Simply the pest.
Marks out of 10: 8