Wednesday 9 October 2013

Top 10 Comics in Comics - No 6 Reg Varney

In anticipation of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's long-awaited second comic book "Goes To Hollywood" - buy it now for Christmas (NB that link will work as soon as the comic's ready) - we're looking at the Top Ten comics based on comedians. And at number 6 we find...

Reg Varney had his own comic strip in TV Fun in the 1960s, which came as a surprise to me when I discovered it. I didn't really know him as a comedian in his won right, though I did know he was the first person in Britain to use a hole in the wall ATM machine, in 1967. In Enfield, now you ask.

What I also knew was that he'd co-starred in one of the first funny comic strips that I'd devoured as a kid, the On The Buses strip in Look-In. Look-In's weekly strips ranged from adaptations of action series - The Tomorrow People, Kung Fu, Six Million Dollar Man, Space 1999 - to strip versions of sitcoms - Bless This House, Man About The House, Doctor In The House (if you had house in the title, you were onto a good thing) - and strips based on popular comedians and entertainers - David Cassidy had one, as did Benny Hill and Ken Goodwin. For me the outstanding humour strips were drawn by Harry North who, before he moved on to a glittering career at Mad magazine and in advertising in America, drew the strips Doctor In The House (and At Large and At Sea) and the above picture Varney-starring On The Buses.

If ever an artist added to the comedic impact of a strip it is North. The underlying plots are frequently quite simple, though a lot of the dialogue has a sparky charm (the authors of most strips in Look-In went anonymous), but North's characters, frequently grotesque and gnarled, have such beautiful boggle eyed expressions they are irresistible and invite repeated re-viewings. I would happily say Harry North's On The Buses comic strips are funnier and more worth reading forty years on than the original TV series is worth watching. (Check it out on cable, it's largely ghastly).

No 10 - Arthur Askey
No 9 - Jonathan Ross
No 8 - Ken Dodd
No 7 - Stephen Colbert
No 6 - Reg Varney
No 5 - Billy Connolly
No 4 - L****? & H***?
No 3 - H***? H**?
No 2 - T*? G*****?
No 1 - ?

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes To Hollywood is their second comic book, an 80 page bonanza of comic strip adaptations of some of their best sketches including Star Wars, Casablanca, Robin Hood, A Christmas Carol and many more. As soon as it's ready, click here to order a copy. Their first comic book, Sock, featuring Halloween, Torchwool, Life On Mars, Primarkeval and Romeo & Juliet is still available in print and on Kindle.

SOCKS IN SPACE - The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are on tour... NOW!

Oct 5 - Farnham Maltings
Oct 11 - Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham
Oct 24 - The Capitol, Horsham
Oct 25 - Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate
Oct 26 - Canterbury Festival
Nov 1 - Ace Centre, Nelson
Nov 2 - Leeds Carriageworks
Nov 14 - Hull Comedy Festival
Nov 15 - Ropewalk, Barton On Humber
Nov 16 - Chorley Little Theatre
Nov 17 - Lass O'Gowrie, Manchester
Nov 30 - Christmas Special, Camden Head, London
Dec 6 - Christmas Special, Ring O'Bells, Bath

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