Back in 1990 when I had yet to reach my teenage years, a new comedy show appeared on the BBC called The Mary Whitehouse Experience. This adult sketch show was named after Mary Whitehouse, a British campaigner against what she saw as a decline in television standards and public morality. Somehow, as a 12-year-old boy, I found a way to watch this late night show every week and each of the sketches were discussed and re-enacted in the school playground the next day.
Of all the sketches performed in the show, it is the History Today pieces that remain freshest in my mind, and for good reason, as you’ll see from this video:
History Today was a mock historical discussion programme presented by two elderly, scholarly professors, both well-spoken and well-groomed. The first of these professors, who introduces each episode and its topic of discussion, is played by David Baddiel although the character is never named. The second is Professor F. J. Lewis, Emeritus Professor of History at All Souls College, Oxford, who is played by Rob Newman. Each episode begins as a standard historical debate, but quickly degenerates into a playground-style quarrel with the professors exchanging childish insults. The humour lies largely in the juxtaposition of the professors’ formal tone of voice with their puerile words.
This sketch spawned perhaps the show’s most popular catchphrase “…That’s you, that is”, spoken after they had described someone/something supposedly pathetic and/or disgusting.
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