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What Went Right With… Felix Dexter?

A caricature of Felix Dexter by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?

Felix Dexter was one of the most talented comedians of all time but unfortunately his personality and comedic skill wasn’t recognised during his lifetime. He appeared in many classic comedies on British television throughout the 1990s and 2000s but for some unknown reason, Dexter was ignored and then almost forgotten by the masses despite contributing to some of the best sketch shows, mockumentaries, and sitcoms.

Felix Dexter was without a doubt, the standout talent in the 1990s sketch show The Real McCoy. On that programme, he created and performed some of the most memorable characters ever to appear on TV. For me, his monologues in The Real McCoy had the understated grandeur of an Alan Bennett play but with added laughs (and of course Jamaican slang). His reoccurring character of Babylon, the pro-black immigrant could easily be a Taking Heads episode (albeit with more laughs)…

His pastor character Brother Jeffers was an undisputed classic character with his catchphrase of “Mash-up Lucifer” being a fond memory of mine (unfortunately I can’t find a clip). Nathaniel the Accountancy student from Lagos was also a character that left an indelible mark on British comedy, paving the way for other public-interaction comedy by the likes of Marc Wootton and Jocelyn Jee Esien…

His posh, wannabe “roots and culture” lawyer Douglas, was also hilarious and it evolved into a half-hour special for TV. As a one-time Law student himself, the character of Douglas was possibly a comment on minorities losing their “blackness” the higher they get up the rungs of society…

While some Real McCoy sketches could be hit and miss, Dexter’s characters were all side-splitting. Floyd Honeybuns was an excellent parody and comment on boxers of the day…

…and Pirate Radio Disc Jockey DJ Carlton, another parody, brilliantly sent up UK pirate DJs from the 1990s…

Felix Dexter also appeared in The Fast Show, a sketch show which started in 1994 (during the midpoint of The Real McCoy‘s run). Like The Real McCoy, The Fast Show also aired for 5 series but it led to TV specials and even featured in the celebration of BBC Two’s 50th anniversary. Isn’t it strange that the white counterpart to The Real McCoy was and still is acknowledged every time the BBC hark back to the golden era of comedy but they neglect to mention the black version?

Having worked with Rhys Thomas (as Gary Bellamy) on the spoof radio show Down The Line on Radio 4, Felix Dexter then played one of many characters on Rhys’ follow-up mockumentary Bellamy’s People. Early D was a character that was transposed from Down The Line to Bellamy’s People and it worked both on radio and on TV. Down The Line is now out of print as a CD but there are a few audio clips on YouTube…

Just like The Real McCoy, it was Dexter’s characters that stood out in Bellamy’s People. For instance the Hotel Management student…

…the traffic warden…

…and Reverend Samson Archibald…

Felix Dexter also appeared in the often-forgotten but brilliant 15 Storey’s High, the classic spoof talkshow Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge, as well as the overrated Absolutely Fabulous. More recently, he starred as the Somali character Omar in the retrogressive sitcom Citizen Khan along with Bellamy’s People contributor Adil Ray. Regardless of these appearances however, it always bothered me that someone with such obvious talent wasn’t featured in more TV, if not film comedies. Most of his appearances in mainstream shows were either blink-and-you’ll-miss-him or simply overlooked.

I have previously written about the lack of black British comedy available to consumers. As an example, almost all of Felix Dexter’s contributions to comedy are unavailable to buy including the classic sketch show The Real McCoy. In contrast, The Fast Show and Bellamy’s People (which were created and headed by white comedians) are available to buy. Despite the former being a mainstream show and the latter having a smaller, cult following, both are available to purchase and yet we are sometimes told that The Real McCoy doesn’t warrant a DVD release because of the “small” audience it has.

While I’m discussing British comedy DVDs, it’s strange that programmes such as The Lenny Henry Show haven’t been released on DVD and neither has Bernard And The Genie (which wasn’t even mentioned in The Lenny Henry Birthday Show). It makes you wonder whether the BBC has some kind of prejudice against black comedy. Surely the argument for “demand” doesn’t apply to Henry, after all, he was a household name throughout the 1980s. But I digress.

After being largely ignored by the mainstream, we sadly lost Felix Dexter in 2013 after which a slew of understated tributes and obituaries made their way into the media. Having passed away at the relatively young age of 52, Dexter could have made so many more characters had the public and the press spoke favourably about him during his lifetime. Here’s the BBC Tribute to him in case you missed it…

Felix Dexter was never elevated to the status of a Paul Whitehouse or a Harry Enfield and yet he obviously had the writing and performance skills to outshine 95% of televisual comedy. He had the ability to crack up the audience at home and make his co-stars corpse. He was grossly underrated and yet massively talented, in fact Felix Dexter was without a doubt, a comedy genius and a comedy legend. He was the…

The Real McCoy.

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4 replies »

  1. I was so lucky that in my lifetime I got to see him live three times. On stage he was even funnier, as if that was even possible. Great comedian, shame he wasn’t regonised as one whilst he was with us. RIP Dexter. Beautifully written, enjoyed watching all the clips you managed to find.

  2. Felix Dexter was an underrated talent . May God Bless him and may he Rest In Paradise . He will be remembered fondly for decades to come . However , I find his stereotypical Evangelical Afro-Caribbean Reverend Samson Archibald character to be blasphemous . When I was in the hospital here in Edmonton , Alberta , Canada there was a pastor who was (originally) from Jamaica who helped me out a lot . I think the Reverend Archibald character was perpetuating an outdated and cliched cultural stereotype .

    Yes , Felix Dexter was an amazing talent . It just bugs me that that character is mocking Evangelical Christians . It’s easy for someone who’s an atheist like Bill Maher to mock Christians and sit on his high horse and be a cynical prick .

    I just wish Felix Dexter would have never done that character .

    God Bless and Rest In Paradise to the late , great Felix Dexter .

  3. Felix Dexter is a comedy legend, he had an amazing sting of characters to his name and he always put comedy and entertainment first. There needs to be a proper release of his epic output.

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