Character Assassination

Harry Enfield describes his new series for Sky One as experimental. So just what has he got planned for an unsuspecting audience? Elise Harris tries to find out.

Tim Nice-but-Dim, Wayne, Kevin, Tory Boy - Harry Enfield says they're dead. Probably. Gone to the great comedy heaven already inhabited by Stavros and Loadsamoney.

But he has more than 25 new characters waiting to take over, including a sports presenter obsessed with the voices in his head, a dying man who imparts Viz-tips inspired last words before making a complete recovery in time for Countdown, and a offensively tactless South African chemist. And there is a whole new set of supporting actors to help out, including Gwyneth Strong ( Cassandra in Only Fools and Horses) and Jason Hughes (Warren in This Life).

So why the move to Sky? "Everything was going to be all new and there was no Kathy and PauI. I wanted to do it more low key. People like what they know. If they don't know it takes some time to get used to it. Sky were very supportive of that."

The new series also features a number of real-life based characters, such as Paxman, David Beckham and "Chris Great" - a red-headed disc-jockey who takes delight in humiliating his sycophantic team.

Harry says, "Anyone I offend can get their own back. I mean the only person I really offend is Chris Evans and he can offend me relentlessly every day - it's not like it's a soft target."

Paxman, is based on Jeremy Paxman, obviously but not completely, "It's kind of what you'd like him to say. It's not entirely him because I'm not very good at impressions."

He also does a James Mason/Captain Nemo character. Only instead of a submarine the action takes place in a Renault Espace, and Nemo is obsessed with running Ford Escorts (blue ones) off the motorways.

The series also gives some historical insight into why Hitler was so obsessed with big blond Aryan boys.

So what was he thinking there? "That was Richard Coles from the Communards idea. But I'm a bit unsure. It seemed funny at the time," Harry admits.

"I enjoyed it at the time but then afterwards I'd think ah well. Maybe I'm not too good at camping. But that's what this is about you know experimenting."

Despite a reputation for "being political" sometime in the deep and distant past, Harry says that's all behind him.

"I don't really get accused of being political. I mean occasionally I'm political, but not very. But I don't really mind - I don't take a line. If I'm political I'm just horrible to everyone. I've taken the piss out of both sides."

There is certainly no political agenda in the new show. There is however the opportunity for more adult humour than he was allowed on the BBC. There is swearing, and one of the sketches features a bored couple having sex while doing crosswords, watching TV and making phone calls.

"I quite like that it's very black. It's what marriage is like. Not mine obviously," he says.

The Mancs features a gun-toting, drug-taking Manchester family. A cross between The Royle Family and Reservoir Dogs. And Cornish Ladies Man boasts about his many celebrity conquests (including Zoe Ball and Germaine Greer).

He's not too worried about shocking people, "If they don't want to be offended they can turn over."

Out of all the new creations Harry's favourite is "People -think-we're-sisters" a nightmare mother who insists on dressing like and talking for her teenage daughter. And sleeping with all the daughter's boyfriends. He also enjoyed Kenneth and Richard, in which he plays an angst-ridded actor who can't cope with decisions like "what coffee to have from Starbucks".

Whatever happens with the series, Harry's attitude is just wait and see.

"I'm not ruling out anything," he says. "Might do a film, might do another series might do a telly special. Might not."

Asked if it's flattering to be used as a benchmark for so many up and coming comedians, he says, "I don't know really. I didn't know I was. Oh well, that's nice."

Well, the self-effacing thing seems to have worked so far.

interview conducted in 2000

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