Skip to main content

The dark side of Footlights

We're used to the Cambridge dramatic society Footlights being a breeding ground for media humorists - the source of many of the UK's comedy greats over the years from Monty Python and the Goodies to the likes of David Mitchell and Richard Ayoade. But what's not quite so well known is the distinct lack of humour exhibited by some of its members back in the heady 1970s.

When I was at Cambridge, probably the most feted Footlights show was a frothy little number called Chox from 1974. The cast featured Clive Anderson (at the same college as me, though I don't think we ever spoke), Geoffrey McGivern, who played Ford Prefect in the radio version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Griff Rhys Jones. And amongst the writers was Douglas Adams himself.

Now I confess that I never saw Chox - to be honest, to most of us, the Footlights crew were considered a bit up themselves, though clearly some of them turned out okay. In fact it was much more trendy to go the Medical Society review, which was widely thought to be more edgy and genuinely funny. And this was never more so than it was that year. Because, in a stroke of genius, the Med Soc gang used a very similar poster to Footlights, but added a load of red spots, and named the show Pox.

Brilliant humour, yes? Only the funny guys at Footlights didn't see it that way and either sued, or at the very least threatened to sue. (It's a long time ago - details on that are a bit fuzzy.) Either way, it was hardly the right way to respond to an affectionate spot of snook cocking. The Med Soc show itself was mixed, but certainly had some decidedly funny bits. I've no idea if it produced any famous funny people - a lot do start off as medics - but I just think it's useful to put the glamorous associations of Footlights into context.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope