Satirical comedian Andy Zaltzman shares a few of his comedy heroes
The Day Today, Robert Newman and Aristophanes are among Zaltzman's comedy greats
I do not have a single comic ‘hero’, but The Day Today is the comedy that most influenced and inspired me. I chanced upon it in the communal TV room at university, halfway through the episode which culminates in war between Australia and Hong Kong. Its radio precursor, On the Hour, had escaped my notice (I grew up in Tunbridge Wells, where the local council blocked all potentially subversive comedy from the airwaves) (I assume), so The Day Today’s Molotov cocktail of satire, high-tech parody and serious silliness exploded directly and instantly into my comic soul, with its unrelenting comedic ambition and phenomenal sharpness of performance and presentation.
It lasted only one series, leaving six glorious half-hours of visionary, almost perfect TV comedy, before its extraordinary collection of the most influential writers, performers and producers in modern British comedy went their various ways, splintering off to create much of the best comedy of the last two decades.
In terms of stand-up, seeing Robert Newman do an hour and a half of unadulterated politics at Edinburgh in 2000 made me suspect that everything I had done in my year-and-a-half in stand-up to that point was pointless rubbish, and made me attempt to be less pointless and rubbish. I also studied the Ancient Greek comedy whizz Aristophanes at university. If the Dutch pioneered total football, Aristophanes was the master of total comedy, from high-end political satire and intricate literary parody, to puns, slapstick and a healthy smattering of cock jokes. His comedy spanned from war to wanking, sometimes within the same joke. He would have been sensational on a 21st century panel show. Sensational.
The Stand, Edinburgh, Sun 14 Oct; The Stand, Glasgow, Mon 15 Oct.