The Fast Show
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|The Fast Show|
Title card for the Fosters Funny series of The Fast Show
|Created by||Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson|
Caroline Aherne (1994–97, 2011)
Mark Williams (1994–2000)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||5|
|No. of episodes||40|
6-8 minutes approx (Web Series)
BBC Two (1994–1997, 2000, 2014)|
16:9 (2000, 2011–12, 14)
27 September 1994 – 29 December 1997|
26–28 December 2000 (Reunion Special)
10 November 2011 – 3 April 2012 (Web Series)
23–26 May 2014 (BBC 2 50th Birthday Special)
It was one of the most popular sketch shows of the 1990s in the UK. The show's central performers were Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Simon Day, Mark Williams, John Thomson, Arabella Weir and Caroline Aherne. Other significant cast members included Paul Shearer, Rhys Thomas, Jeff Harding, Maria McErlane, Eryl Maynard, Colin McFarlane and Donna Ewin.
It was loosely structured and relied on character sketches, recurring running gags, and many catchphrases. Its fast-paced "blackout" style set it apart from traditional sketch series because of the number and relative brevity of its sketches; a typical half-hour TV sketch comedy of the period might have consisted of nine or ten major items, with contrived situations and extended setups, whereas the premiere episode of The Fast Show featured twenty-seven sketches in thirty minutes, with some items lasting less than ten seconds and none running longer than three minutes. Its innovative style and presentation influenced many later series such as Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show.
The show was released on VHS, DVD and audio CD. Some of its characters, Ron Manager, Ted and Ralph, Swiss Toni and Billy Bleach have had their own spin-off programmes. It also produced two national tours, the first in 1998, with the cast of the BBC surrealist comedy quiz show Shooting Stars, and the second, their Farewell Tour, in 2002.
Charlie Higson announced on 5 September 2011 that The Fast Show would return for a new online only series starting 14 November. The premiere date was changed later to 10 November. The series was later shown as two thirty-minute parts rather than the original eleven short episodes as part of a 50th birthday celebration for BBC2, the channel on which The Fast Show originally aired.
Style and content
The Fast Show was the brainchild of Paul Whitehouse and friend and writing partner, Charlie Higson; Higson had previously enjoyed some success in the UK as a musician in the band The Higsons. After meeting through a mutual friend, comedian Harry Enfield invited Whitehouse to write for him. Whitehouse in turn asked Higson to help him out.
In the early 1990s Higson and Whitehouse worked extensively with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, writing for and performing in the series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and Bang Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer (both of which Higson produced). These series also featured numerous appearances by future Fast Show cast members Caroline Aherne, Simon Day, Mark Williams and Rhys Thomas. Higson made many appearances in minor roles, while Williams and Whitehouse had recurring roles (with Vic and Bob) in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, parodying the members of rock group Slade in the "Slade in Residence" and "Slade on Holiday" sketches.
Inspired by a press preview tape of Enfield's show, compiled by producer friend Geoffrey Perkins and consisting of fast-cut highlights of Enfield's sketches, the pair began stockpiling material and developing the idea of a rapid-fire 'MTV generation'-format based wholly on quick cuts and soundbites/catchphrases.[when?] After unsuccessfully trying to sell the series to ITV through an independent production company, Higson and Whitehouse approached the new controller of BBC2, Michael Jackson: Fortunately, he was then looking for new shows to replace several high-profile series that had been recently lost to BBC1, and their show was picked up.
Whitehouse and Higson, as co-producers and main writers, then assembled the original team of writers and performers, which included David Cummings, Mark Williams, Caroline Aherne, Paul Shearer, Simon Day, Arabella Weir, John Thomson, Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews (of Father Ted fame), Dave Gorman, Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Craig Cash (who went on to write and perform with Aherne in The Royle Family). Musical director Philip Pope was also an established comedy actor with extensive experience in TV and radio comedy, and had previously appeared in series such as Who Dares Wins and KYTV; he also enjoyed success as a comedy recording artist as part of The HeeBeeGeebees, the Bee Gees parody group.
The first series introduced many signature characters and sketches including Ted and Ralph, Unlucky Alf, the Fat Sweaty Coppers, Ron Manager, Roy and Renée, Ken and Kenneth (The Suit You Tailors), Jesse (of "Jesse's diets"), Arthur Atkinson, Bob Fleming, Brilliant Kid, Insecure Woman, Janine Carr, Denzil Dexter, Carl Hooper, Ed Winchester, the Patagonians, "Jazz Club" and the popular parody "Chanel 9."
Many characters were never given any "official" name, with their sketches being written to give their catchphrase as the punchline of each sketch. Examples include "Anyone fancy a pint?" (played by Whitehouse), "You ain't seen me, right!" (a mysterious gangster-like character played by Mark Williams), "I'll get me coat" (Williams) and "Ha!," a sarcastic elderly woman played by Weir.
Other long-standing running jokes in the programme included the fictitious snack food "Cheesy Peas" in various forms, shapes and flavours, in satirical adverts presented by a twangy, Northern lad who claims, "They're great for your teas!" and has since become a reality thanks to UK TV chef Jamie Oliver. The dire earnestness of the born-again Christian was parodied in another popular group of sketches where various characters responded to any comment or question by extolling the virtues of "Our Lord Jesus" and ended the sketch with the exclamation "He died for all our sins, didn't he?" or something similar; and most controversially[vague], "We're from the Isle of Man, " featuring a stereotype of weird, surreal, townsfolk in a setting portrayed as an abjectly impoverished and desolate cultural wasteland.
Some of the characters resembled parodies of well-known personalities: for example, Louis Balfour, host of "Jazz Club" was reminiscent of Bob Harris of The Old Grey Whistle Test and Ron Manager of football pundits Jimmy Hill, Trevor Brooking and Graham Taylor. However, the parodic intent of this character is broader, and portrays how often football pundits have little to say of any real substance and sometimes waffle. Paul Whitehouse said that Ron Manager was based on ex-Luton Town and Fulham manager Alec Stock. Arthur Atkinson is a composite of Arthur Askey and Max Miller.
The show ended in 2000, with a three-part "Last Ever" show, in the first episode of which Fast Show fan Johnny Depp had a guest-starring role as a customer of The Suit You Tailors, after three series and a Christmas special.
The theme tune was "Release Me", a song which had been a hit for pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck. In the first series it was performed over the opening credits by Whitehouse in the guise of abnormally transfiguring singer Kenny Valentine. In subsequent series, the tune only appeared in the closing credits, played on the saxophone.
List of regular characters and sketches 
The show featured many characters and sketches. Some of the more prominent recurring characters/sketches are:
- "Unlucky" Alf, a lonely old pensioner living somewhere in Northern England for whom nothing ever goes right. He often predicts an unfortunate, but obvious, event, only to encounter a worse event as he tries to avoid the first problem. His catchphrase is his resigned "Oh bugger!" as something terrible happens. (Paul Whitehouse, all series)
- Anyone fancy a pint? A man (Whitehouse) who finds himself in boring or bizarre situations, such as a dinner party where a woman is talking about how she was abandoned as a child and crying about everyone letting her down. Whitehouse then interrupts at the most insensitive moment asking "Anyone fancy a pint?", before he and most of the men in the room leave. One early sketch featured Higson portraying an earnest claymation animator (a parody of Nick Park) who describes the animation process in excruciatingly tedious detail by moving each feature "just a tiny amount" until Whitehouse's character sneaks away, whispering the punch line. According to an audio commentary as part of the extras in The Ultimate Fast Show Collection, Park loved the sketch and sent copies of it to friends and family that year as a video Christmas card.
- Archie the pub bore. Talks to people in the pub, and when they mention their profession, no matter what it is and however unlikely, he always claims to have had the same profession ("I used to be a single mother myself"), saying that it is the "hardest game in the world. Thirty years, man and boy!" He has an obsession with Frank Sinatra, almost invariably steering the conversation towards the singer and weakly singing the title line of "High Hopes", after mentioning how he and his friend Stan fared on a recent fishing trip. (Whitehouse, Series 3)
- Arthur Atkinson, parody of 1940s music hall entertainers such as Max Miller and Arthur Askey, played by Paul Whitehouse, introduced by Tommy Cockles (played by Simon Day), himself a parody of presenters of TV history. Atkinson delivers mostly nonsensical jokes, and repeats his two signature phrases "How queer!" and "Where's me washboard?" This never fails to make the audience laugh (indicated by stock footage of real 1940s comedy show audiences). The only exception was a huge scandal caused by Atkinson saying the word "shit" in public. Atkinson's long-suffering sidekick Chester Drawers (Thomson) also appears, usually to an empty theatre, only for it to fill again as soon as Atkinson returns to the stage. (Whitehouse, all series)
- Billy Bleach, tousle-mopped, interfering pub know-it-all who gets it all wrong, usually ending up with others losing money. His catchphrases include "Hold the bells" and "Someone's sitting there, mate". This character starred in his own series, Grass which was shown on BBC Three, later on BBC Two. (Day, all series)
- Bob Fleming, the ageing, incompetent West Country host of Country Matters, who has an extremely bad cough. His surname is a pun on phlegm-ing. Country matters is a Shakespearean euphemism for cunnilingus, from Hamlet. In addition to Bob, two of his friends - Clive Tucker, who can't stop shouting 'Arse!' (Whitehouse) and Jed Thomas, who can't stop sneezing (Williams) - make regular appearances on his show. These two characters switched names from series 2 onwards. (Higson, all series)
- Brilliant Kid. In the first draft of the script for the pilot, this character was called Eric and was described as "a young Yorkshire man" but in the series he is never named. He delivers an edited monologue listing everyday things, all of which he declares to be "brilliant!" or "fantastic!" as he walks through a series of random backgrounds (filmed in widely varied locations ranging from the Tees Valley to Iceland) during which the quality and format of the images also randomly changes (e.g., from colour to black-and-white). In one episode he expresses doubt about whether everything really is 'brilliant' or not, and as he's walking through one background, an abandoned funfair, he debates with himself half-heartedly ("Everything is brilliant... right? I mean... it might not be... nah, it is!") (Whitehouse, all series)
- Carl Hooper, Australian presenter of That's Amazing, a spoof of pop-science shows. Normally such a person would try to pass off an everyday animal or object as something magical. The one occasion where a guest had a truly amazing story to tell was unbroadcastable due to the guest's inability to refrain from swearing excitedly while relating the tale (Day, all series)
- Chanel 9, a low-budget television channel from a country known only as "Republicca", or full title "Republicca Democratia Militaria" ruled by "El Presidente" who resembles a stereotypical Latin American dictator. Chanel 9 parodied the sort of programmes that British people end up watching on holiday around the Mediterranean. The stars, usually Paul Whitehouse, Paul Shearer and Caroline Aherne, speak a concocted language loosely based on Italian, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese, mashed together with nonsensical phrases (e.g., "sminky pinky") and incongruous English names and words (e.g. footballer Chris Waddle). Early segments featured the Chanel 9 Neus, read by anchormen Poutremos Poutra-Poutremos (Whitehouse) and Kolothos Apollonia (Shearer), followed by the weather forecast with meteorologist Poula Fisch (Aherne), invariably reporting a temperature for all locations of 45 °C (113 °F) while exclaiming "Scorchio!" with apparent surprise. The map was of a country resembling Portugal, with a coastline to the west. Regions shown on the map included "Valle Porto", at the mouth of a river in the centre of the western coast, "Monto Blanko", a mountainous region in the southeast of the map, "Kosta", in the southwest, "Kuniatera Enterior", in the northeast, & "Kuniatera Exterior", in the northwest ("Enterior" referring to the inland region, & "Exterior" referring to the coastal region). In one episode, Kosta was "Nimbo Cumulus" (literally meaning "storm cloud"). Instead of the normal sequence, the show then cut to a special report, the title card of which displayed a coastal town with a sky all blue except for one small cloud with an arrow pointing to it along with stock footage of shocked elderly people. Sports news was presented by Antonios Gubba (Simon Day) – whose name is based on the commentator Tony Gubba – seated at a much lower desk and talking with a low voice. The news would be interspersed with parodic advertisements for the ubiquitous "Gizmo", a bizarre mechanical product which could be used with equal efficacy in the kitchen, garden or bedroom. Later Chanel 9 sketches consisted of several short segments featuring other Chanel 9 programmes, including a cartoon ("Willy Ton Bastardo"), a current affairs discussion, a quiz show, a soap opera ("El Amora Y El Passionna") and a variety series. The Fast Show Christmas Special featured the Chanel 9 musical nativity play, "Holy Sprog", which parodied the celebrity Christmas Special genre, and the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Key Chanel 9 catchphrases included the Republican greeting and farewell, "Buono estente" and "Boutros Boutros-Ghali" (the name of the then UN Secretary-General).
- Chip Cobb, the deaf stuntman, a TV and film stuntman who, because of his hearing problems, always mishears his instructions and proceeds to carry them out incorrectly before anyone can stop him, much to the despair of the film crew. In the East Midlands of England, a "chip cob" is a sandwich of chips made with a bread roll (known locally as a "cob"). (Thomson, series 3)
- Chris the Crafty Cockney, claims to be an incurable kleptomaniac ("I'll nick anything, me"). He is left alone with something valuable and invariably steals it. Because of how upfront he is about his thieving nature, most people tend to believe he's joking. In one sketch, he even alludes to being an actual clinical kleptomaniac and involuntarily steals from his friend Dan after Dan trusts Chris to watch his newspaper stall, after extensively warning him of the risks involved in doing so. (Whitehouse, series 2–3)
- Colin Hunt, unfunny and irritating office joker whose name gives an indication of his personality. Very socially inept, he compensates with humour by repeating catchphrases or making other extraneous cultural references ad nauseam (“The bells, Esmerelda, the bells!”), as well as multi-coloured clothing, and never being able to answer a question without adding one non-sensical remark after another. Found to be exasperating by everybody he encounters except for his co-worker Doreen, a punch/slap or strongly-worded insult are the only ways to get any sense out of him. (Higson, series 2–3)
- Competitive Dad, overcritical and demanding of his kids, this man always has to get one up on them. (Day, series 2–3). Day explained in an interview that he had based the idea for the character on a man he noticed in a public swimming pool who challenged his two young children to a race. Day thought he'd let them win, but instead he took off and stood on the other end of the pool waiting for his toddler sons to struggle their way across the pool. Day thought of it as "sick".
- Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior, a classic Essex geezer who, despite his get-up and rather lavish lifestyle, is improbably concerned about saving the planet (though this is often undermined by his wife's behaviour), Mike Oldfield records, and Swinging. "Moonlight Shadow" by Mike Oldfield and Maggie Reilly is used as the theme tune to sketches featuring this character (Day, series 3)
- Professor Denzil Dexter of the University of Southern California and his various bizarre scientific experiments; bespectacled, long-haired, bearded and highly laid-back. (Thomson, series 1–2, online series)
- Different With Boys, a woman who is assertive and assured (sometimes to the point of over-confidence or bullying) when in the company of other women, but becomes coy, giggly and childishly winsome whenever a man enters the room. The character debuted in series 1 during a small segment in the credits, but only became a recurring character later on. (Weir, series 2-3)
- The 13th Duke of Wybourne, posh, rumpled dinner-jacketed, lecherous cigar smoker, reminisces about finding himself in wholly unsuitable places, generally involving women, considering his "reputation". His only line is his signature phrase, which is always in the same format, but details vary – such as "Me, the 13th Duke of Wybourne? Here, in a women's prison at 3 AM? With my reputation? What were they thinking?" Based on the characters of Terry-Thomas. (Whitehouse, series 3)
- The Fat, Sweaty Coppers, a squad of police officers who cannot do their job properly as they are extremely overweight due to their constant eating and drinking. Some of these sketches would be preceded by a parody of the opening of the popular ITV police procedural The Bill. Two sets of legs would be shown walking down a street, dropping sweet wrappers, disposable cups and fast food containers as they go. Another sketch parodies the movie Speed (1994 film) (Thomson and Weir included, series 1-2)
- Girl Men Can't Hear, a woman who tries to put forward an idea to a group of men but is completely ignored, only for a man in that group to repeat what she has just said and receive congratulations from the others for having had such a good idea. This character was apparently invented by Arabella Weir to parody similar experiences she'd had with the men in the Fast Show team.
- I'll Get Me Coat, a socially inept Brummie, who is unable to make any appropriate contribution to a conversation, and disgraces himself with a faux pas before using the punchline and leaving. However, in one classic sketch his accent disappears as the character tries to upstage his friends as to how middle-class he is. (Williams, all series)
- I'm not Pissed, a family – mother (Maria McErlane), father (Williams) and son (Day) – who regularly point out that they are not drunk despite the fact they are taking regular swigs from gin bottles, beer cans, and the like. (series 2)
- Insecure Woman, appears in a variety of different locations, usually exclaiming, "Does my bum look big in this?" (Weir, all series)
- Jesse, a taciturn country bumpkin who exclaims his strange diets, fashion tastes and experiments, in a single sentence "This week, I 'ave been mostly..." - except for one sketch, where he says "This week, I 'aven't been 'ungry." (Williams, series 2–3)
- John Actor, who plays Inspector Monkfish, a tough uncompromising cop who often exclaims to the nearest woman, "Put your knickers on and make me a cup of tea!" (Day, series 2–3, online series). There were variations on the show's format, two examples being Monkfish as a tough, uncompromising doctor in "Monkfish M.D." and Monkfish as a tough, uncompromising vet in "All Monkfish Great and Small." One Monkfish sketch even crossed over onto Chanel 9 with a promo for a series named after him with his catchphrase spoken in the channels comedic language. Sometime between the end of series 3 and the last episode, John Actor dies yet the series is apparently continuing in the manner of Taggart after the death of the lead actor.
- Johnny Nice Painter, a man who paints a scene, describing all the colours. Whenever he or his wife Katie (Weir) mentions the colour "black", however, he becomes more and more depressed, eventually going somewhat insane and shouting wildly about the despair of mankind ("Where are we sleeping tonight, mother? Father's grave?", "You lock me in a cellar and feed me pins!"), despite the best efforts of his wife to prevent him from doing so. His appearance is allegedly based on bearded TV painter Alwyn Crawshaw. (Higson, series 3, online series)
- Ken and Kenneth, two tailors in a men's formal wear shop, who bombard potential customers with sexually explicit innuendo about their private life, frequently interjecting the catchphrase "Ooh! Suit you sir!," much to the discomfort of the customer. They become confused and even frightened in two episodes; one when they get a customer who is gay, and another with a customer (played by Day) who is as willing to talk about sexual deviance as they are. Due to Williams's absence from the online series, his character Kenneth was written out and replaced by Kenton, played by Charlie Higson. (Whitehouse and Williams: series 1,2,3, and Whitehouse and Higson: online specials)
- Louis Balfour, pretentious and ultra laid-back presenter of Jazz Club (a parody of The Old Grey Whistle Test), based on a blend of Bob Harris and Roger Moore. He also has a remarkable similarity to Geoffrey Smith, presenter of "Jazz Record Requests" on Radio 3). Seemingly having done his "research", he introduces his guests by comparing them to avant-garde jazz musicians or describing their style/technique by using complex musical phraseology. These guests usually turn out to be utterly talentless "experimentalists", generally to his bemusement. Although he also often appears to appreciate the music, he once followed his apparent appreciation with a look of disgust. His catchphrase "Nice!" was delivered by turning to a different camera for that word only. Later he delivered other words in a similar manner. His jazz characters often have ridiculous names of real places, such as Theydon Bois on drums and Stamford Brook on bass (both stations on the Underground map). (Thomson, series 2–3, online series)
- No Offence (also known as Pushy Saleswoman), a rude, orange-faced South African department store cosmetics saleswoman who has no qualms about informing women of their physical imperfections, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she looks like a dried-out old orange herself. (Weir, series 3)
- "Our" Janine Carr, a teenage mum with a unique world outlook. She refuses to reveal who the father of her baby is because "it's not fair to grass on your headmaster". (Aherne, series 1–2, online series)
- The Offroaders, Simon and Lindsey, despite their unusually high confidence and self-esteem, are useless at their hobby ("It's gripped!," "It's sorted!"). (Higson and Whitehouse, all series)
- Patrick Nice, a man who tells far-fetched, sometimes odd stories, usually containing an element of extraordinary fortune or success, such as his son winning the Nobel prize – followed by calmingly saying his catchphrase, "Which was nice." (Williams, series 2–3)
- Ron Manager, a football commentator who speaks in incoherent sentence fragments on randomly divergent trains of thought. He usually appears with interviewer (Day) and fellow Scottish commentator Tommy (Williams), and whenever a question is posed to Tommy, Ron Manager often begins one of his "stream of consciousness" monologues based on one of the words or names in the question, often finishing with youngsters playing with "jumpers for goalposts". Based on former football manager from the '60s and '70s, Alec Stock. (Whitehouse: all TV and online series)
- Rowley Birkin QC, a retired barrister, tells mostly unintelligible stories at the fireside. Occasionally, his speech becomes coherent for a short while, containing strange phrases such as "The whole thing was made completely out of matchsticks" or "Snake! Snake!" Almost always ends his stories with a sly "I'm afraid I was very, very drunk". In the final episode of series 2, his rambling anecdote appeared to involve a woman for whom he had great affection and ended with a close-up of faint tears on his cheeks, while the usual "very drunk" line was delivered in an unexpectedly moving, sorrowful voice. The character is reprised as a working barrister in the spin-off feature Ted and Ralph. Whitehouse revealed on the UK chatshow Parkinson that the character was based on Andrew Rollo whom he met on a fishing trip to Iceland; Rollo appeared in a Suit You, Sir! The Inside Leg of the Fast Show documentary in 1999, which revealed how closely Rowley's speech resembled that of his real-life inspiration. At the end of a Christmas episode the caption revealed that he has died. "Rowley Birkin QC 1918 – 2000"; however, despite this on-screen demise he appeared in the 2011 online specials. (Whitehouse, TV series 2–3, and online series)
- Roy and Renée, a northern couple, with endless chattering from Renée and subdued nodding from her quiet, submissive husband Roy, whom she expects to meekly agree with everything she says. Roy always embarrasses her at the end of every sketch, after which he gets a stinging reprimand from his wife. She makes her last appearance in the show during the 1996 Christmas Special, when Roy's mother finally gives in to holding back the resentment towards Renée's smug attitude. (Thomson and Aherne, series 1–2)
- Rubbish Dad, the father and opposite of Brilliant Kid who proclaims everything to be "rubbish." He is usually only seen in an industrial scrapheap area. The only things he does like are Elvis, Hitler and Des Lynam. (Thomson, all series)
- Swiss Toni, a car salesman who, usually in the presence of his bemused trainee Paul (Rhys Thomas), compares everything to seducing and making love to a beautiful woman. This was also the title of a short-lived spin-off sitcom, featuring Toni in the car dealership in which he worked. Swiss is the only non-original character in the show. He had previously appeared in the second series of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer in 1995, which was produced by Higson and featured cameos from many members of The Fast Show. Charlie Higson stated that the voice was based on his own poor impersonation of Sean Connery. (Higson: TV series 3 and online)
- Ted and Ralph – country squire Lord Ralph Mayhew attempts to strike up an intimate relationship with his introverted Irish estate worker Ted, by way of subtle romantic/erotic subtexts in his conversations with him (Whitehouse and Higson, all series). Also the title of a one-off, hour-long spin-off feature, reprising the characters, with cameos from a few other characters. (Higson and Whitehouse: all TV and online series)
- "You ain't seen me: right?", an unknown traveller who is probably a criminal who says "You ain't seen me, right?" to some minor characters in the show and sometimes the viewer. He comes up in the show in various locations, always wearing a sheepskin coat, and is at one point on Chanel 9 News sitting in the sports reporter's seat. He is also seen in the background when the Brilliant Kid walks past talking about the usual things. (Williams, all series)
Recurring characters and sketches
- Checkout Girl, a simple and chatty young woman working behind the till at a supermarket who passes comment on every item the customer buys regardless of the personal or sensitive nature of the product. (Aherne, series 3)
- Ed Winchester, an American reporter. He beams at the camera introduces himself, "Hi! I'm Ed Winchester!", in an upbeat voice. In his last appearance in Series 2 he appears to have been cut off as he then mentions Jesus straight after introducing himself. In one sketch, someone else introduced himself with "Hi! I'm Ed Winchester!" He later replied with "No I'm not. I don't know why I just said that." (Jeff Harding).
- Even Better Than That!, a slack-jawed, not too bright man who comes back from the shops with something ridiculously unnecessary instead of what his wife sent him out for. Written by Bob Mortimer. (Williams, series 3)
- Sir Geoffrey Norman MP, a politician who responds to all questions (however innocuous) as if he were performing on-air political damage limitation, refusing outright to answer the question, stonewalling or speaking in legal-ese to explain why he won't answer. His accent and delivery is very similar to that of future UK Prime Minister David Cameron (Higson, series 2)
- Gideon Soames, white-haired, posh-talking architecture and history professor, possibly a cross between Simon Schama and Brian Sewell, with some elements of Bamber Gascoigne. Despite the serious tone of his speeches, their content becomes increasingly ridiculous. (Day series 2–3)
- The Historian, a jubilant, but emotionally imbalanced man who patrols the corridors of an historic boys academy alone whilst telling tall tales about former traditions both cruel and unreasonable. (Williams, series 3)
- Six Hours In Make-Up an over-the-top thespian describes his character and mentions that he needs to spend six hours being made up when actually it takes a few seconds (Thomson, series 3)
- Monster Monster, a vampire who creeps up on a slumbering woman and gives her betting advice (Whitehouse, series 3). The set-up is a parody of a scene from the 1922 German classic horror film Nosferatu, while the vampire's voice and catchphrase of "Monster, monster" are based on Eric Hall.
- Roger Nouveau Football Fan, a man who seems to talk a lot about football as if a true Arsenal supporter, but makes it glaringly obvious he knows nothing about the game.(Thomson, series 3)
- The Hurried Poor, a father, mother and two children only seen in extremely short sketches in which they are rushing from place to place in a panic for no apparent reason (Mark Williams plays the father, who is constantly shrieking at his family to "run" or "come on!).
- Shagging Couple, a childless couple who are seen in the midst of sexual intercourse, much to the discomfort of their neighbours, in, among other places, a tent in a sports shop, a tree in the park, and even on a bed being carried by removal men as they move into the neighbourhood. (Higson and Ewin, all series)
- Inept Zookeeper, a zookeeper who is frightened and/or disgusted by virtually every aspect of his job (cleaning up elephant dung, feeding the penguins, for example) and is thus rendered unable to perform his tasks properly. (Williams, series 3)
- Young at heart, A group of outwardly serious and professional executives who converse in often complex financial terminology until one is distracted by an excavator at a building site or a cute picture in the company calendar, and start acting like little kids.
- The Unpronouncables!, a parody of the black and white Gangster film in which the cast have great difficulty with the 'lingo' and pronouncing their unusual nicknames.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Jack Sparrow quotes the show, the Rowley Birkin line "... and then they made me their chief!". In a deleted scene of the movie, Sparrow also uses the Mark Williams catchphrase "I'll get me coat." Johnny Depp is a major fan of The Fast Show and an ardent admirer of Paul Whitehouse, whom he once described as "the greatest actor in the world". In 2000, Depp made a cameo appearance as the hapless customer in the 'Suit You, Sir' sketch in the Fast Show farewell special, and in a 2015 interview, he commented: "It was absolutely one of my proudest achievements. No question. It was one of my favourite things, to have been on the last Fast Show." Depp's 2015 movie Mortdecai features Paul Whitehouse in a minor role and has been noted for alluding to Fast Show characters.
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A significant proportion of The Fast Show was shot externally, unusually for a sketch show. Early on in the series much of this filming was done in and around the North East of England; County Durham, Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, Teesside and also North Yorkshire. Locations included:
- Ashington, Northumberland – at least two scenes involving Unlucky Alf and one involving Brilliant Kid were filmed on Station Road there.
- Ormesby Hall – background in early Ted and Ralph scenes
- Blyth – at least one scene featuring Unlucky Alf on a bus
- Darlington – the childhood home of Jim Moir (Vic Reeves) whose long-term comedy partner Bob Mortimer was one of the writers. "The Running Family" were shown around various locations in the town centre, including the Cornmill Centre. The Cornmill and High Street were in scenes involving Brilliant Kid.
- Durham – the marketplace was featured in scenes involving Brilliant Kid
- Hartlepool – one Unlucky Alf scene had him sitting in the empty Rink End Stand of Hartlepool United's ground, Victoria Park. Also, one Ed Winchester scene was in front of the Mill House Stand. Some of the Brilliant Kid scenes were also filmed at nearby Seal Sands.
- Keld, North Yorkshire – the campsite was used in a Dave Angel scene
- Langley Park – Railway Street was used in Unlucky Alf scenes
- Middlesbrough – its docks were used in "Chip Cobbs" scenes, others scenes were shot on the Transporter Bridge and the Riverside Stadium
- Newcastle upon Tyne – including the "Shore Leave" sketch, the scene where Chris the Crafty Cockney steals the woman's suitcases (shot at Newcastle station), and some of the Sir Geoffrey Norman MP sketches, such as the one where he is pulled over by a policeman for speeding and the one where he refuses to pay the taxi driver after getting out of the car (which was shot outside the main entrance to Newcastle station). One Ed Winchester scene was near Monument station. One scene from the Brilliant Kid showed him in Exhibition Park. Many scenes involving Janine Carr, filmed in greyscale, used the backdrop of the concrete flyover and underpasses of the junction of the A167(M) and the B1318 of the Great North Road in Jesmond. A few scenes were filmed inside the Newcastle City Library (which has since been demolished and a new library building has replaced it).
- Redcar – scenes with Brilliant Kid walking along the beach. Also Mark Williams appears in a caravan park near South Gare, with the steelworks in the distance.
- Richmond – its marketplace was used in Ted and Ralph's trip to the shops
- Scotch Corner – its garage used in Swiss Toni's early scenes
- Seaton Carew – one "You ain't seen me, right?" scene had the main character sitting on a child's ride in one of the seafront amusement arcades.
- The Spanish City, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear – a number of scenes involving Brilliant Kid
- Stockton On Tees – Swiss Toni scenes, filmed at a car showroom on Norton Road
Also for the third series the production extended abroad to Iceland:
- Scenes with Brilliant Kid and Billy Bleach were shot with Iceland's volcanic landscapes, waterfalls and hot springs in the background.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes||Channel|
|1||27 September 1994||1 November 1994||6||BBC Two|
|2||16 February 1996||29 March 1996||7|
|3||14 November 1997||29 December 1997||8|
|4 (Last Fast Show Ever)||26 December 2000||28 December 2000||3|
|5||10 November 2011||3 April 2012||13||Fosters Funnies|
|BBC Two 50th Birthday Special||23 May 2014||26 May 2014||2||BBC Two|
A Christmas special was televised on BBC Two on Friday 27 December 1996.
At the conclusion of the third series, there was a one-off spinoff, Ted & Ralph which aired on 27 December 1998 on BBC Two. They were the first characters to have their own spinoff show outside the sketches.
In 1999, The Fast Show did a number of adverts for Holsten Pils. Ken and Kenneth, Chanel 9 news with Kolothos Apollonia and Poutremos Poutra-Poutros, a Mexican band, a Chanel 9 cooking segment with Mark Williams playing a chef, Jesse, Bob Fleming and The Unpronounceables.
In 2001, Ron Manager, Tommy and the interviewer fronted a comedy panel game show on Sky 1 called "Jumpers for Goalposts". The interviewer was the presenter while Ron Manager and Tommy were the resident team captains.
In 2006, Higson and Whitehouse produced and performed in Down the Line, a spoof talkback show for BBC Radio 4, hosted by Rhys Thomas, which featured many of the regular Fast Show cast, including Higson, Whitehouse, Simon Day, Arabella Weir and Felix Dexter. Further series were broadcast in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013. A follow-on TV series, Bellamy's People, was broadcast in 2010.
Speaking on the BBC Two show Something for the Weekend on 9 September 2007, Higson mentioned the upcoming DVD boxed set release and that a reunion of some sort to help promote it was being considered. This took place at the Dominion Theatre in London on Sunday 4 November, and was a collection of some new sketches, videos of cast favourites and performances of classic sketches (including the return of Ed Winchester). Higson and Whitehouse stated they were working on a film script which would feature the Fast Show team, but wouldn't have any of the characters from the show. A new online only series was commissioned in a sponsorship deal with Foster's Lager, and aired beginning 14 November 2011; the trailer was released on 9 November on Foster's YouTube Channel. New episodes featured the original cast with the exception of Mark Williams, who declined involvement in the project due to scheduling clashes.
- The Fast Show: Series 1 (includes cast interviews with Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson, Simon Day, Arabella Weir and Mark Williams)
- The Fast Show: Series 2
- The Fast Show: Series 3 and 1996 Christmas Special
- The Fast Show: The Last Fast Show Ever, Part One (this disc contains additional and extended sketches not found in the original TV broadcast).
- The Fast Show Live
- The Fast Show Farewell Tour
- A seven-DVD box set, The Ultimate Fast Show Collection, was released in the UK on 5 November 2007, which compiled nearly all their material, except the two live DVD releases and their spin-off series/specials.
"You Ain't Seen These, Right!"
"You Ain't Seen These, Right!" was a one-off programme, shown during BBC 2's Fast Show Night, featuring various sketches which were filmed, predominantly from the third series, that did not make it onto the final show. Some of these were:
- Mid-Life Crisis Man – an ensemble series of sketches made by the whole male team, as members of a golf club, in which Charlie Higson's character, initially appearing as a "henpecked" scruffy loser, leaves his wife and begins dating a beautiful young woman. The rest of the team are initially dismissive of him as a sad old man particularly when he begins wearing unsuitable clothes, getting tattoos and having his belly button pierced. They become much more interested however when his girlfriend invites one of her equally attractive friends to the lads night out.
- Ranting Man – a chain-smoking car driver played by Mark Williams rants about anything and everything through his wound-down window. "Shoe shop?! Shoe Shop?!" He drives around in Harlesden, London. A study in road rage.
- The King – a sketch about a medieval king played by Simon Day, who "loves being king" because he gets to boss everyone about.
- A sketch about a middle-aged man, played by John Thomson, who always finds an excuse to leave the room as soon as the conversation gets round to "women's things."
- Shagging Man – a Paul Whitehouse character responds to almost every question, accusation and situation with the phrase "Sorry, but I was up all night, shagging."
An extended 50 minute version of the original 30 minute special was included in the UK edition of the VHS boxed-set of Series 3 and on the seven-disc Ultimate Fast Show DVD boxed-set.
- Dewhurst, Keith (2007), "The Fast Show – A Personal View" (notes for The Ultimate Fast Show Collection DVD set, BBC)
- "charlie higson on Twitter".
- "Foster's – The Fast Show". Fosters.co.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
- Comedy Connections: The Fast Show (Season 4 Episode 1, 2006, BBC TV)
- "Food | Recipes (UK)". Jamie Oliver. Retrieved 31 Dec 2015.
- "Alex Stock | Bournemouth". ZoomInfo.com. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- liner notes to The Ultimate Fast Show Collection, (BBC, 2007)
- "Suit You, Sir! The Inside Leg of the Fast Show" documentary (1999, BBC TV)
- Mitchison, Amanda (26 September 2002). "'That was a joke I made'". Retrieved 8 October 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- Ashleigh Rainbird, "Johnny's Depp's favourite EVER role – his Fast Show cameo appearance", Daily Mirror, 20 January 2015
- Dalton, Stephen. "'Mortdecai': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- O'Sullivan, Charlotte. "Mortdecai – review: 'Johnny Depp has picked another flop for this misguided vanity project'". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- "Foster's". YouTube. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
- "Fast Show returns in Foster's deal". Offlicencenews.co.uk. 7 September 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
- TV and Radio. "The Fast Show returns". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
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