Rory Bremner… Who Else (Channel 4, 1993-1998)
The impressionist and satirist Rory Bremner first came to fame on TV in the mid-80s when he appeared on various shows including Wogan. A big fan of cricket, in 1985 he released the single “N-N-Nineteen Not Out” as The Commentators, a parody of Paul Hardcastle’s chart-topping “19”, which was an amusing comment on the then England team’s rather faltering performances.
In 1986 he joined the cast of the BBC2 comedy sketch Now – Something Else, although despite becoming known for his impressions around this time I’m fairly sure that he never contributed to Spitting Image. In 1988 he got a show of his own which now had his name in the title, and this ran until 1992, although I don’t ever remember watching this one myself.
In 1993, Rory was poached by Channel 4 and he launched the new show Rory Bremner… Who Else. He was now a big name and his channel move was much promoted at the time. Editions were usually 40 minutes long, and the show was recorded rather close to transmission, because there was always a political scandal or three to reflect on, wasn’t there. Shows would begin with Rory on stage doing various voices, and he always had a pair of glasses on standby in case he ever wanted to lapse into doing the Prime Minister John Major.
Rory would also have his mouth put over footage of real politicians, and sometimes even performed the voices for computer-generated versions of people. As well as politicians, Rory would take part in sketches where he did impressions of other personalities. Among the regulars were Des Lynam, Newsnight‘s Jeremy Paxman, Bob Monkhouse, News At Ten‘s Trevor McDonald, chef Keith Floyd, and a very bizarre take on weather presenter Ian McCaskill.
Another regular feature was when veteran double-act John Bird and John Fortune interviewed each other in an improvised sketch which often went off in some unusual areas, and this did well enough to be extended into a separate series in the mid-90s called The Long Johns. There would also be time for a comedy monologue that was usually performed by a female special guest.
Rory also showed off his fondness for cricket again by often dropping in impressions of various commentators and players, and he briefly jumped back to BBC2 in 1997 to host a few documentaries on the game. Rory Bremner… Who Else was shown a little past my bedtime, but as I was always interested in discovering comedy, I set the video for some editions. Some of the political content went over my head at that age, with the constant references to quangos and the like, but there was little doubt that Rory was a very skilled talent.
After a few specials, in 1999 the show was reformatted with the Two Johns now being given equal billing in the newly titled Bremner, Bird And Fortune, which was extended to an hour. From now on, the show was entirely political, and although there were still plenty of sketches it started to become more and more serious in its tone, and the Tony Blair impression that Rory had perfected by this point was put to much use.
Although there were many more series, Channel 4 did seem to lose interest in the show a little, and when it finally ended in 2010, not many people seemed to notice. Although all the variations of the show won several awards, I don’t think that any of them have had a DVD release. After this, Rory decided to try something a little different, and hosted the daytime game show Face The Clock, but this was something of a flop.