Leading Article: It must be the way they tell 'em

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The Independent Online
SO FAREWELL then, Newman and Baddiel, the infant phenomena of 1993. Their catchphrase was 'That's you, that is'. Simple words, hysterical effects. At the Wembley Arena last week Robert Newman or David Baddiel had only to utter them and 12,000 people would be squealing in the aisles. These are the largest live audiences ever to attend the performance of a British comic turn, with the possible exception of those assembled in jungle clearings and airfields during the Second World War, and we may not see their like again. Mr Newman and Mr Baddiel announced after their last performance on Friday that they are going their separate ways. Reports suggest that their relationship was troubled. They are both aged 29 and Cambridge graduates.

A catchphrase is a very uncertain measure of a comedian's wit. It is difficult to imagine, for example, the audience's unconfined hilarity at the Holborn Empire 50 years ago when Jack Warner pronounced: 'Mind my bike.' That was perhaps in the golden era of catchphrases that stretched through the wireless age of the 1940s and 1950s: 'Don't forget the diver . . . After you, Cecil . . . I don't mind if I do . . . Stone me . . . It was agony, Ivy.' Often they signalled the entrance of a well-loved character to an unseeing audience. They remain mysteries without their context, and the context of the Newman and Baddiel line may help us understand the riddle of their success. 'That's you, that is' occurs during their sketch in which they play two crusty dons whose historical discussion descends into the trading of childish insults. Newman and Baddiel's largely teenage following loves the insults and thrills to the sound of rude words. A nation need not mourn.

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