Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

7. Ted ChippingtonMan In A Suitcase

Now every town’s got two or three comedy clubs and comedy is all over the place, but in the early days of alternative comedy it was really hard to see weird new stand ups anywhere. There wasn’t anywhere in Birmingham. What used to happen is that you’d see people opening for bands, and in the immediate post punk era you expected to see things on bills that were a bit unusual. So I saw Frank Chickens and Porky Poet, which was Phill Jupitus, opening for Billy Bragg and I saw Peter Richardson from The Comic Strip opening for Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and I saw Ted Chippington opening for The Fall.

Ted Chippington was a man who had one joke basically, which was, ‘I was walking down this road the other day and a bloke came up to me and said, "Can you tell me how far it is to the railway station?" "Er, one mile." He said, "One mile?" I said, "One mile, roughly speaking." And every joke would be, ‘I was walking down this road the other day and this bloke came up to me and said…’And he did them in quite a hostile way, as if they were beneath him and he hated the audience. About half the room were absolutely infuriated by it. And that was the moment which I thought, ‘I’d really like to do this.’ It just seemed hilarious. Ben Elton was like a big funny, confident personality and old school comics were old blokes leaning over their mic stand slagging off Pakistanis. With Ted you didn’t need any more stuff; he just had this presence.

So that night was recorded as a single – ‘Non Stop Party Hits of the 50s 60s and 70s’, I think it was called – and I’m delighted I’m in the audience shouting. Then the album came out, Man In A Suitcase. As I’ve been going through transcribing all my stuff, I’ve realised how it really went into my subconscious. It’s not that I sometimes write a bit like Ted Chippington, it’s that Ted Chippington is from the Black Country, and a lot of my elderly relatives are from there, so that when I lapse into solipsistic, nostalgic revelry on stage, the voice I tend to use is old ladies from the Black Country in the 70s talking to me as a child, but it’s also Ted Chippington. Sometimes when I’m talking about a modern phenomenon like rappers or computers, I’ll go, ‘You know these computers they have? You’ve seen them about.’And that’s a Ted Chippingotn phrase: ‘You’ve seen them about.’ But it’s also old aunty Gladys talking to you: ‘You know these chaps with the pink hair? You’ve seen them about.’

That album, Man In A Suitcase, has got the single best bit of stand-up that’s ever been recorded, I think. Ted Chippington is going down incredibly badly, he can’t get any stuff out, everyone’s booing him. And the audience are chanting, ‘Who the fuck, who the fuck, who the fucking hell are you? Who the fucking hell are you?’ And he goes, ‘I’m Ted Chippington. ‘And then they do it again and again, till he goes, ‘I’m Ted Chippington for the third time, right?’ Ive never copied that, but the passive aggressive monotony of it is totally what I do.

I made a little film about him for The Culture Show, and I don’t know if he really knows what he was doing. I think mainly he just got off on annoying people. Frank Skinner and Arthur Smith have both accused me of saying I like Ted Chippington as a kind of prank to see if I could get people to like him, because they can’t see why anyone would like him. But I think it’s the key to understanding comedy, Ted Chippington. If you listen to that record, he does everything you’re not supposed to do, and it’s still really funny, which would suggest that the rules don’t necessarily hold water. Luckily I did find my own voice in stand-up by the early 90s, but when I started out I was a third rate Ted Chippington.

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