Yes, The Fast Show was brilliant. The characters, the catchphrases, the sheer machine-gun delivery of laughs. Paul Whitehouse clearly has an eye for a comic grotesque, but there’s more to it than that. Many of the best characters touched on a fundamental truth relating to their primary characteristic – we could relate to them, in some way.
That’s clearly the thinking behind this seemingly neverending set of adverts for Aviva, which does insurance or something. Whitehouse has appeared – it seems to me – as about eight hundred different characters all talking about the benefits of some sort of insurance.
One of these – the dead Dad looking after his family from beyond the grave – I find genuinely obnoxious. The others? A weird mix of irritating, try-hard surreal and just wrong.
Take the pasty-faced Welsh goth with a fixation on chintzy ornaments. Eh? All I can manage to take from this grotesque creation is a genuine sense of discomfort looking at Whitehouse’s jowly face grinning in trowelled-on make-up; something somewhere between The League of Gentlemen and Silence of the Lambs.
And the Plymouth fan. “Green Army!,” may have had idiots LOLing on Twitter, but it made me want to throw my cat at the telly. Then there was the Scottish ballroom dancer who had recently purchased some cuban heels. A bloke who enjoys fishing and a feller who likes metal detecting.
Now we’ve got even more: the northern bingo-caller, who seems to be based on Ted Robbins; a yoga instructor (Neil Innes); a toff with a wrinkled retainer, not unlike Rowley Birkin; a Geordie miser; the worst Scottish accent ever. There’s a pattern developing here, I’ll explain it thus:
Stupid accent + affliction / weird appearance x unlikely obsession = Paul Whitehouse advert / Paul Whitehouse holiday villa
Based on that we can create our own Aviva characters. First we need an accent. We’ve not had scouse yet, so let’s go for that one. Second, something that’s apparently an amusing or offbeat pasttime. Let’s say… stamp collecting. Yes, that will work. Thirdly, let’s suggest that Albie (they all appear to have daft names) has one leg. A one-legged Liverpudlian philatelist.
A-ha, but there’ll need to be a reason to reference Aviva here. Let’s suggest that the recent wet weather has caused the roof to cave in at Albie’s house – while he was out getting ‘legless’ – and ruin his prized Penny Black (Albie will say ‘arlarse’).
But – a-ha! – he’d insured his stamps with Aviva! Hooray! Albie will probably hobble towards the camera saying “That’s dead boss, that is!”. Proudly, Albie will show off a new stamp that’s in some way strange (ummmm… it’s got Donna Air on it; Albie will fancy her) and praise Aviva for sorting it all out. He is “made up”.
Want to make your own Aviva / Paul Whitehouse advert character? I’ll start you off with a few options – all you have to do is stick them together. Then, like Paul Whitehouse, maybe you can make hundreds of thousands of pounds for a load of old fucking rope.
• Name: Cyril, Cecil, Roderick, Anton, Fergus
• Accent: Norfolk, Cockney, Teesside, Manc, Irish
• Obsession: Newt-breeding, ferret-trousering, traction-engine restoration, taxidermy, divining
• Affliction: Stutter, Lucifugous, Crohn’s Disease, agoraphobia, Cerebral Palsy
Not convinced? Have a look at the following. You can practically see the base code running through it after three or four.
Paul Whitehouse adverts