CHRISTMAS TV : comedy Knowing Me, Knowing Yule

Knowing Me, Knowing Yule...

The accidental humorist

His name will be on the credits of Steve Coogan's new show tonight. Lucky Coogan: Geoff Posner is Britain's most successful comedy director. By Robert Hanks

Is Steve Coogan the Sellers of the Nineties?

The interview STEVE COOGAN, COMEDIAN TALKS TO BEN THOMPSON: True comic genius, and a little bit of petty spite, have earned Steve Coogan the accolade of "the Peter Sellers for the Nineties"

Struck-off doctors given television treatment

DAVID LISTER

Comedy; Making size count

CEREBRAL vaudeville troupe The Right Size describe the show- business sensation they are trying to create as "Beckett meets the golden age of variety". Prospective audience members might ask themselves which Beckett is being alluded to here, Samuel or Margaret? There is no doubtwhich golden age of variety we are dealing with - the imaginary one that seems to hover before the eyes of an ever-increasing number of comedy performers.

To Paul and Mrs Merton: a son

Radio

REVIEW : Spoofing me, spoofing him... with Mrs Merton

After the chat show came the chat-show spoof, in which bland, lazy sofa opera was mercilessly ridiculed. Now there are no more chat shows left, and the only competition the spoof faces is from its own kind. We can shortly expect the chat-show-spoof spoof, in which those who mercilessly ridicule bland, lazy sofa opera are themselves mercilessly ridiculed.

COMEDY / I could have worked with Esther

THE KINGMAKERS OF COMEDY: In the last of our series, Jim White meets Jo hn Lloyd - the kingmaker of British comedy and Don of the television mafia

Forbidden fruitiness THE KINGMAKERS OF COMEDY

End-of-the-pier comedy was dying. Then Peter Smith had a vision of filt hy lucre. By Jim White

COMEDY / Hicks pics still kick: A new video celebrates the late Bill Hicks, scourge of the self-righteous. Ben Thompson mourns his fiery talent

IT IS nearly eight months since the death of Bill Hicks. The brave, iconoclastic American comedian would have been 33 in a few weeks' time. It might seem depressing to dwell on this, but it needs dwelling on. Death has cast an abnormally long shadow over the lively arts this year. Hicks, with River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain, forms a trio of prematurely departed icons who prove that whatever else you think of the grim reaper, he certainly has taste. Their passing has left a spiritual hole in the middle of each of their respective fields that is too big to walk around.

TELEVISION REVIEW / A bumpy ride in Britain's most wanted van

PERPETUAL Motion (BBC 2) is one of those witty ideas that would be as out of place on a popular channel as John Birt in a Ford Transit. Here and there, Channel 4 has paid homage to culturally resonant vehicles, but the BBC has now thrown a whole series at them.

REVIEW / It was, quite literally, the death of the chat show

IN HISTORIES of the chat show that have yet to be written, analysts will come to identify last night as the moment when the genre finally went belly-up. This is not necessarily because Knowing Me, Knowing You . . . with Alan Partridge (BBC 2) is the devastating body blow that TV natter so pointedly deserves, though it could be. It's more because the advent of Partridge on the same evening that Clive Anderson Talks Back (C4) returned for yet another series means that television now hosts more spoof chat shows than it does real chat shows.

TELEVISION / Personal services: Of course, things have never been the same since That Was the Week that Was . . . Oh yeah? Jim White says satire is alive and spitting

The comedian Victor Lewis Smith once reduced the production staff at That's Life to a pool of gibbering liquid with a particularly savage telephone gag. Posing as a disabled trombonist, Lewis Smith rang to ask if he might be auditioned for the show. A member of Esther Rantzen's team showed growing excitement as Lewis Smith played the trombone passably. But the mood altered dramatically as he pretended to collapse out of his wheel-chair in a death swoon.

COMEDY / Knowing him, knowing us, ah-haah]: Alan Partridge, smarmy master of the crass interview, is bringing his chat show to television. Ben Thompson meets the gauche celeb's comic creator, Steve Coogan

'WE DIDN'T just want to turn out an all-right comedy show,' says Steve Coogan, pacing intently about the office of his production company, a couple of weeks before his harrowing chat odyssey, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, finally reaches the small screen. 'We wanted to make something we'd tape if we weren't in it - something that's got a genuinely great quality about it. Whether we've done that, other people will have to judge.'

TELEVISION / A game of wo Calfs, and a funny old game too

IN THE end, everything becomes the butt of a parody, even when it doesn't merit it. Video Diaries, the BBC's generally laudable effort to hand the reins of creativity over to Joe Public, never did anything to harm anyone, but its solipsistic style - somewhere between a confessional and a fly on its own wall - was always begging to be taken off. Paul Calf's Video Diary (BBC 2), a squalid study of urban deprivation, social inadequacy and great hilarity, did so with a kind of loving vengeance.
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