"People talk about alternative comedy, but how it started was simple. We
were bored and knew we would never be part of the mainstream, so we thought, 'why don't we just do what we like?'"
That's Nigel Planer, who played Neil the hippy on the Young Ones, BBC's ground-breaking "alternative comedy" series. Americans were exposed to this program thanks to how much cooler MTV was back in the days where they didn't exactly know what was going to make the most money. The Young Ones is a glimpse into how crappy Britain is perceived to have been in the 1980's: Bleak, despairing, and run-down.
The 12 episodes, spread apart two series, follow the day to day lives of four flatmates attending university. None of them are particularly good students. Rik is a self-proclaimed People's Poets who always talks about others' first, but is always looking out for himself. Vyvyan is the metal medical student who wings up pregnant in one episode, despite being a man. Mike is the cool person, and Neil is the classic hippy, always eating lentils and pointing out how cruel everyone seems to be. All four are loathsome, but in British comedy, humor often flows from the despicable nature of the characters.
The show was one of the most surreal programs of its kind, with sudden segues into odd sketches that often only grew funny on repeated viewings. The show was a gigantic experiment along the lines of what Nigel Planer describes above. And, the show was a major milestone in the careers of what is now mainstream British comedy and light entertainment. The roster of actors who had cameos on the Young Ones is impressive: Robby Coltrane (Hagrid), Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders (half of Absolutely Fabulous), Hugh Laurie (now House), Elizabeth Thompson and many more.
But, the Young Ones is related to another odd program that MTV later showed as well. How many remember the Comic Strip presents? MTV began showing this as an alternative to showing the same 12 episodes over and over again. This program was different. They were more like short films, shot on location, with each installment being completely different to the next. In all, there are 37 films released by the Comic Strip Presents, which is apparently now available as a boxed set in the UK. Likely not here.
A 38th edition begins this upcoming Wednesday. It's described in this article in the Independent.
That's where Nigel Planer's quote came from. I'm posting it because I feel inspired by the idea of doing something you want to do, and then profiting from it.