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The roots of alternative comedy? – the alternative story of 20th century coyote and eighties comedy

Peters, LH 2013, 'The roots of alternative comedy? – the alternative story of 20th century coyote and eighties comedy' , Comedy Studies, 4 (1) , pp. 5-21.

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Abstract

There have been many articles but too few rigorous critiques detailing the naissance and flowering of alternative comedy – a rather loose and undefined term for the brand of ‘non-racist, non-sexist’ comedy of the 1980s. The descriptions that do exist of the formation, growth and continued influence of this ill-defined ‘genre’ tend to be rather uncritical and more often than not, factually incorrect. The articles are often London-centric and rarely identify the origins of one of the more important roots of this comedy phenomenon to a jazz club in Manchester. For it was Band on the Wall in the run down northern quarter of Manchester in1976 that first played host to one of the key inspirations for character-led improvised sketch comedy. This brand of performance, which also tends to be under-discussed, transferred to the comedy clubs in the late 1970s and 1980s, including the original Soho Comedy Store and The Comic Strip. Formed by the author Lloyd Peters in March 1976 whilst studying B.A. Drama at Manchester University, his improvisatory character-led comedy troupe 20th Century Coyote was to become the resident company at The Band on the Wall. Peters recruited fellow thespian student Rik Mayall principally because they shared the same off-beat humour – anarchic slapstick mixed with a large dose of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Two further Manchester University drama students were press-ganged from the year below and rather late in the day (October1976) Adrian Edmondson to appear in Coyote’s first improv-based comedy entitled Dead Funny (1976). Six other shows followed before an Edinburgh Fringe Festival spin-off. The 40-minute live shows were self-contained narratives based on recognized comedy templates but worked, or more correctly warped, by improvisation and then re-improvised in performance. The shows were often loud, crude and grotesque. This article details the importance of the group, its techniques and the lasting influence of character-led sketch and ‘ imrov’ comedy that shaped a distinctive brand of ‘alternative comedy’ in the 1970s and 1980s and that would soon dominate the comedy mainstream.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Media, Digital Technology and the Creative Economy
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Journal or Publication Title: Comedy Studies
Publisher: Intellect Ltd
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 2040-610X
Related URLs:
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: Dr Lloyd Peters
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2015 13:12
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2016 18:20
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/34130

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