Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Do you remember a Scottish variety act called The Krankies? Jeanette and Ian Krankie were a husband-and-wife double act. Their comedy routine involved Jeanette cross-dressing as a naughty school-boy called Jimmy, who would get up to all sorts of trouble. They were staples on children's shows like Crackerjack in the 1980s, and had their own programme at one point. Jimmy's catchphrase "Fandabbidozy!" was in vogue for a few months.

But time hasn't been kind to The Krankies. By the mid 1990s their careers had taken a down turn. Mainstream comedy was out and alternative was in. The Krankies were forced to reinvent themselves. Trading on their naffness, they appeared in several episodes of the sketch show French and Saunders, notably playing comedy villains in parodies of Silence of the Lambs and Batman. In the Silence of the Lambs parody, Jennifer Saunders, playing Clarice Starling walks down the long prison corridor and is taunted by The Krankies, locked in a prison cell. "What did The Krankies say to you Clarice?" asks Dawn French, playing Dr Lecter. "Fandabbidozy!" says a horrified Jennifer. "I'm sorry," says Dawn. It was funny, and showed that The Krankies were good sports.

But a few nights ago, with the new series of Japanese betting gameshow Banzai, I got the impression that self-parody had been taken a step too far. Almost a decade along again from French and Saunders, the Krankies have had to resort to an even more attention-getting device. This time, a voice-over tells us that Jimmy was a girl all along. Dressed in school uniform, Jeanette Krankie appears onscreen. Close-ups reveal that she's now old. Very old. We are then asked to guess her bra size from a number of options. Once a time limit has passed, Jimmy unbuttons his school uniform to reveal his/her bra.

It makes me wonder what The Krankies will be doing on tv in another ten years time. At this rate, they'll be having bukkake sex.

Despite the rather Daily Mail-ish tone of this, I like Banzai. But I am a bit concerned about a current trend with celebrities. It appears that they're prepared to undergo more and more extreme forms of humiliation in order to get on our screens. Celebrity Big Brother, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Reborn in the USA, Banzai. Once upon a time, celebrities had the choice of uttering the magical words "I want to be alone" and lapsing into respectable obscurity in their hill-top mansions. Now it seems that Baby Jane has a twisted currency of her very own. That's not a very encouraging message for starting out actors and pop stars of today. In ten years time they'll be enacting out Salo 100 Days of Sodom in front of a live studio audience. And they'll be so grateful.

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