Caricatures

What Went Right With… Burnistoun?

Caricature of Jolly Boy John character from Burnistoun with tagline For Real behind him by whatwentrightwith.com

Burnistoun was a fantastic sketch show. Centred around a fictional Scottish town, the show was a mix of the weird and the hilarious, if you’ve never seen it I can only describe it as the love-child of Chewin’ The Fat and The League Of Gentlemen. Now that the show is over, we can take a look back at the programme as a whole and say that Burnistoun was without a doubt a true comedy classic. In the same way that Father Ted got progressively funnier whilst remaining true to itself, Burnistoun was also a fantastic, side-splitting piece of television from start to finish.

It was annoying that the BBC never really broadcast the show outside of Scotland and this type of prejudice seems to be rife within Britain’s media. I mean, what do they think, that English, Welsh, and Irish people won’t understand the accent or relate to “Scottish Comedy”? If Britain can air every shite show the United States has to offer, then why not shows from around our own pissing island? It’s only a few hundred miles up the motorway for fucks sake. But I digress, Burnistoun ran for three series and it has to be said, the show, the characters, the writing, the acting, and even the atmosphere remained consistent throughout.

Written by Iain Connell and Robert Florence, the pilot episode kicked off with some great sketches, the most memorable in my opinion was the local newspaper whose editor kept yelling at the reporter “I don’t like it!” until the story was transformed completely. From that opening sketch, Burnistoun was an uproarious watch, if you were a fan of the pilot, you could watch all three series without fear of the show declining in quality.

Parts of the show were also brilliantly edited and this element added to the comedy. The Sensational Stud Brothers was one of the best edits in any comedy show and the DJ Jesus sketch was very well constructed. This Wooden Pallets ad was also an example of the fast-paced and disjointed editing…

The show sometimes featured great references to contemporary culture. The Wee Wardrobe Trailer was a hugely amusing horror movie parody…

The show was also home to some outlandish creations such as “James Jumpstyle of Jumpstyle Beds And Chairs”, a furniture shop which seemed to be filled with enthusiasts of the late nineties Eastern European dance craze. This mixture of the bizarre and the day-to-day also featured in this, The University Of Burnistoun Presents: Snide Looks 101…

The show wasn’t all juxtaposition and foolishness, there was the pure genius of the Dekebone Roundabout sketch, a political satire of single-issue politicians which followed the central character from local MP all the way to Prime Minister. This sketch in particular was up there in the annals of perfectly crafted, intelligent satire…

The show was home to hugely likeable, sometimes loveable, and sometimes off-putting characters (sometimes in equal measures). There was the “Burnistoun Butcher” a serial killer who hated being confused with an actual butcher from Burnistoun who then took issue with the local newspaper. There was also Dom & Tom Toms, the twin brothers who owned an Antique shop called Rustified And Ancient. The Dom & Tom sketch lampooned the idea of twin telepathy, and the Toms twins were incapable of finishishing each other’s sentences. In one scene, one brother began speaking; “life is like a box of”  when the other suddenly interrupted “condoms!”. Pure comedy genius.

Burnistoun also introduced us to the characters of Walter and Paul, the brothers who owned an ice cream-slash-snack van. The drama of the childish Walter and his parental sibling Paul was funny and at times slightly emotional, the storyline included their deceased mother on one end of the scale and Walter’s best pal “Reginald the Breville Toaster” on the other…

Names such as Gaunt & Whisper (the deaf psychics who pronounced the names of spirits incorrectly) were an example of the witty monikers some of the characters possessed. “Gavin Teeth-Whitened” a host of the game show “Fight Or Dirty Bit” was another example of the weird, humorous names. But this was nothing when compared to the ironically named character of Jolly Boy John, a strange type of person we all come across at some point in our lives. Sellotaping chocolate bananas to himself and occasionally sniffing planks, John was like Morgana Robinson’s Gilbert character on acid, and his various surreal antics were gut-busting to watch. With Jolly Boy Jon declaring; “Jolly Boy John wearing his dad’s old roller skates, his ma’s pants and bra and singing ‘Does your ma drink wine’ at a wee dog is for real!”, the catchphrase “For Real” gave each sketch a lively yet nonsensical conclusion…

The show also featured some decent music, and although bands such as Devine & Romane singing about their wank bank was a piss take, songs like “Ruin A Sock On You” were catchy as hell. Songs like “Downer” by a band called the Murderers featured a very clever paradoxical narrative. The retro 80’s song was performed for fans listening and watching in the future, and that being the case, the chorus “We’re All Dead Now” was quite poignant. There was also the sketch featuring the Father Of Folk Ronnie Dreech singing about poisoning someone and getting caught by the police as the very same plot unfolded around him. As always there were weird little details such as Ronnie’s beard being wrapped around his guitar. But just as a little taster of Burnistoun’s musical talents, here’s Phaze 1 & Phaze 2, a pair of rappers with a simple question…

There was also the Alex Ciderson adverts which featured various mediocre products such as the Alex Ciderson Sex Doll (a sex doll with a printout of Ciderson’s face stuck to it) and the Ciderson’s Screambox (just a box placed on the head to scream in). There was also the “Cut About In The House” range of clothes…

Dougie & Duggie Flapps who sell Dog Flaps as well as Flat Caps, was an example of the duo’s fast-paced comedy. This as well as the “Shoes are too big/too wee” sketch was reminiscent of John Hughes’ speedy conversation in Uncle Buck…

Friends Peter and Scott were constant characters throughout the show and were also the least bizarre. Their conventional life was usually in stark contrast with the rest of the creations on the show…

The best Peter and Scott sketches however, were where the conversation escalated until each of the characters were screaming “I hate you!” at the top of their lungs. One sketch for instance begins with one of them complaining about the rain and this develops until one character is left wishing the other’s death and also the death of humanity. Incidentally, some of these existential ideas transferred into quite an intelligent, philosophical show for children called “Enlighten Up!” also by Florence and Connell.

There were so many piss-yourself-with-laughter sketches that it’s pointless trying to fit them all in here, the only thing I didn’t find funny was Doberman Man. Aside from that single character, everything was side-splitting, from the Quality Polis to the Up Eh Road sketches.

It was pretty refreshing that a comedy show for once didn’t resort to offensive prejudice just to get cheap laughs at the expense of others (like many mainstream programmes seem to do) and for a sketch show, it was also pretty surprising that it didn’t go over old ground or repeat itself (as can be the case with the format) in fact it never felt like Burnistoun was using the same locations or even the same sets. Although the show featured reoccurring characters, they were only present for laughs rather than for popularity, this was proved when the characters of Walter and Paul were killed off at end of series 2, not a single creation became overdone or ever outstayed their welcome.

The show of course shared a kinship with The Karen Dunbar Show and Chewin’ The Fat since Florence and Connell were writers on both shows, but Burnistoun had many things in common with other classic TV comedies. If you’re someone who enjoys the fast pace of Not The Nine O’Clock News, the surreality and ludicrousness of The Micallef Program(me) and Father Ted, or if you love the weird and wonderful characters of The League Of Gentlemen, then Burnistoun is for you. The show was without a doubt a massively entertaining and hilarious piece of television, if you’ve never heard of it, I urge you to seek it out. Series 1-3 is out to buy on DVD and you can also purchase it on iTunes (series 1 is also available on Netflix).

There’s Sketch Shows, There’s Sketch Shows, And Then There’s Me…

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1 reply »

  1. This seems like an interesting show. Watching these clips did give me a few laughs. I never heard of that show before, but then again I didn’t care that much for British comedy these days because Russell Howard, Keith Lemon, and Jimmy Carr are constantly on TV. You rarely ever get laughs from crappy comedy shows on BBC, ITV, Channel 4, E4, and BBC Three. Filled with amateur “comedians”. Russell Howard is easily the worst comedian in Britain. He makes Pauly Shore look like Louis CK. The cunt’s entire routine is reading news stories and telling shitty PG-13 jokes. How on earth did he make it on Mock the Week and got his own show? He is painfully unfunny. That is a mystery that even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t solve. But at least there is Burnistoun feeling like a breath of fresh air.

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