Perhaps less well regarded than the wave of alternative comics that emerged from the Comic Strip a decade earlier, the people who surrounded one time BBC radio producer Armando Iannucci have emerged to provide some of the finest new comedy of the 1990s.
For Radio 4, the spoof news programme On The Hour expertly speared the floundering beast that is news and current affairs. This metamorphosed into a televisual treat, The Day Today, which did the same thing to pompous TV news and lifted the stone under which Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) had been hiding.
But more devastating than any of these was Channel 4’s Brass Eye, with undoubtedly the most dangerous British comedian of his generation Chris Morris
Early in his career, Morris was sacked from Radio Bristol for releasing helium in the newsroom causing a colleague to read the news in an increasingly squeaky voice.
At Radio 1 he got into hot water for announcing on air the ‘deaths’ of DJ Jimmy Saville and Tory minister Michael Heseltine.
Although Morris’s reputation preceded him it hadn’t reached Conservative MP David Amess, who was interviewed by Brass Eye about a fictitious drug called ‘Cake’. Amess tabled an official question to the Leader of the House of Commons, Tony Newton and tellingly, Home Office minister Tom Sackville replied that his department was aware of new drug threats, such as ‘Cake’, and kept an eye on such developments.
This all took place against the background of the so-called ‘cash for questions’ scandal where lobbyists had paid MPs to ask questions on their behalf.