The Mary Whitehouse Experience

The Mary Whitehouse Experience was a comedy show entirely written and performed by four talented and (at the time) young, new British comedians. It was a radical departure from the accepted norm as these guys held absolutely nothing sacred and would do the most absurd and amazing new material.

Mary Whitehouse herself, the president and founder of the Viewers And Listeners association in the UK, tried to have the series banned several times as it was, she felt offensive and not suitable for television.

The cast of the Mary Whitehouse Experience were:

  • Steve Punt
  • Hugh Dennis
  • Robert Newman
  • David Baddiel
  • So far as I can tell, Steve Punt now works mostly in advertising voice-overs, Hugh Dennis has gone solo, recently working with Jack Dee, Rob Newman has written at least one novel and David Baddiel still has a thriving television career

    This is somewhat ironic, since (IMO) he was the least funny of the cast members.

    For a small example of the Mary Whitehouse Experience at work, take a look at History Today, one of their most famous sketches

    A UK comedy series. Starting out on BBC Radio 1 and later moved to television due to it's increasing popularity. The main writers and performers were Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis, Robert Newman and David Baddiel. Other notable comedians appeared through the early radio shows, including Jo Brand, Donna McPhail, Mark Thomas, Nick Hancock and Jack Dee. The omni-present Armando Iannucci was a producer on the radio shows.

    The show grew out of an earlier Radio 1 comedy show, Hey Rrradio!!! which also stared Punt and Dennis and featured material written by Newman and Baddiel.

    Starting in 1989 it ran for four series before being transferred on to BBC2 on the telly in 1991. The show's format was a series of sketches, stand-up and funny songs. It was pretty topical but not exclusively so; there was childish humour, a fair bit of audience participation and some fairly surreal stuff thrown in for good measure. The TV shows had more character based sketches and catchphases thrown in, "Milky, Milky." Whether this was unconscious or a cunning ploy by the writers to help the show become talked about is unknown, but it worked.

    The show was extremely popular amongst young teens, such as myself at that time. You could listen to it on the radio in the privacy of your own room without any interference or comment from your parents. This made it feel slightly underground and hence cool, something it lost when it was on TV. If you weren't able to quote from the show you would be a social outcast at school. "See that M. Khan? He's your best mate, he is."

    The shows were divided into different "experiences" like "The Drinking Experience" or "The Decline of the English Murder Experience". The name of the show was apparently a play on the then popular show The Dame Edna Experience. Mary Whitehouse herself was a well known moaner from the UK known mostly for complaining about the morals and language on the television.

    After the second TV series the group split up, into their natural pairs. Rob and David went on to write and star in Newman and Baddiel in Pieces and take it on a very successful national tour, selling out to an audience of 12,000 in Wembley Stadium. They split shortly after that. Steve and Hugh created The Imaginatively Titled Punt and Dennis Show, which fared less well. The individuals (and Punt and Dennis, still working together) have had various degrees of success since.

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