League of Gentlemen

(Part Two of This Series)

The League of Gentlemen (1999, 2000, 2002) are Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss, and Jeremy Dyson (who writes but doesn’t perform).  I remember seeing commercials for the first series on Comedy Central a lifetime ago and being completely put off by the title and by how ugly the show looked.  Boy, did I miss out!

The name of the show has nothing to do with the content – that’s just the name of the troupe, and the name is a joke.  British comedy has traditionally been dominated by Oxbridge types (which these guys are not).  They all grew up and were educated in the North of England (which is Hicksville to Londoners) so they call themselves “gentlemen” and perform in tuxedos as a kind of rebuke.

As for the show, the best way I can sell it is to say that it’s the closest you’ll get to new Kids in the Hall until the new Kids in the Hall project (Death Comes to Town, which Dave Foley compares to – you guessed it – League of Gentlemen) hits the internet:

There are, of course, key differences.  For one, there’s a strong element of horror to LoG projects, and for another, while the structure is essentially that of sketch comedy, the characters don’t “recur” in the usual sense (to circle around the same ideas and make similar jokes in different ways) because these aren’t static characters.   LoG uses a sketch comedy format to tell long stories, full of twists and reversals and development of characters and relationships, some of which span the three series and become really quite moving by the end.  It’s not a show to dip into – you really have to watch the entire thing in order (9 hours, total) but the more you get to know the people of Royston Vasey the more rewarding the show becomes, and the payoffs are enormous.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

Of course you won’t take my word for it right away – especially because the first series takes its time to get in gear, and, worst of all, series 1 and 2 have a (dreadful and incongruous) laugh track.  The best way to see if this might be your kind of thing would be to watch the very funny, quite scary, and seasonally appropriate Christmas special – which is an hour long and, along with their three series, available for streaming on Netflix.

BONUS:  This sketch has actually replaced the KiTH poker one as my favorite sketch about cards.  I am so crap at games that this barely registers as parody:

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