I've tried to like it ever since my son recommended it. He directed me towards 'The Thick of It' and I've found that hilarious at times, though he has been suspicious of 'Outnumbered', which is one of my favourites, with its usually interesting storylines, witty script and seemingly spontaneous exchanges between adults and kids ( in fact, a lot are improvised).
I ought to like 'Gavin and Stacey': I rate Rob Brydon highly as a stand-up and in quiz shows ; it's partly set in Barry where I used to live and on the Island, where I worked. Above all, it's a Welsh comedy which has actually crossed the border ( like the central romance) to ensure popular success.
Yet, the last episode with that appalling scene with the Welsh-speaking woman on the caravan site only vindicated my opinions further. It was truly insulting, prejudiced and also completely beyond credulity.The woman shouted out - 'Beth ydych chi'n meddwl chi'n wneud?' and then insisted it was her parking spot. To which Bryn answered ' Rdyw i'n hoffi coffi', obviously his only phrase of Welsh. What Welsh-speaker would come out shouting at English-speakers in such a way? It was absurd for all the wrong reasons. To make matters worse, when Gavin and his family arrive at the site later and he talks too loud, Bryn tells him to be quiet or the 'Welshies'
might hear an Englishman and want to lynch him. In the credits, this Welsh-speaker is defined as 'Welsh nationalist'.
All this is pandering to the English visitors' stereotypical view of Welsh-speakers i.e. they are being offensive in the native tongue just by using it and they are anti-English to the point of racism and are basically akin to the KKK! Does Ruth Jones have to ingratiate herself so much to English audiences in order to get a BAFTA or even an OBE?
Apart from these dreadful scenes, 'Gavin and Stacey' has little going for it. Its plots are non-existent, its script rarely witty and its catchphrases repeated far too often. Only the acting raises it above the many failed sitcoms produced in Wales over the years. Not since 'Ryan a Ronnie'......
Though we now have first class stand-ups like Rhod Gilbert and Rob Brydon, I really believe that we should look elsewhere for our comic talent.
The lyrics of the Super Furry Animals can be weirdly hilarious and the four funniest poets Mike Church, Peter Read, Peter Finch and Ifor Thomas are up there with those stand-ups. It's just a shame that poetry hasn't got its own programme on BBC Wales to prove it.
When I booked Ifor Thomas to read at my school in Merthyr in the 90's, it was his first ever gig at a school. They'd studied some of his work, including the 'cling-film classics'. In those days he was a full-blown performance poet, using all the props. I warned him not to go over the top, as he prepared for an audience which included all of Year 11, including one Smiffy (no relation) a fan of his, who also happened to be a National Front following Animal Rights obsessive.
Ifor soon got into his usual routine, tearing up Mills and Boons and taping them to a chair only to chainsaw it in half ( imagine getting that through Health and Safety nowadays?). Later, he launched into 'I like my clingfilm tight' and Smiffy was chosen to wrap Ifor in clingfilm as he recited. I thought he was going to pass out , as Smiffy wrapped it round his mouth and Ifor frantically tore it off!
Afterwards, Smiffy must've made a comment, because Ifor made out to throttle him and muttered the words 'You bastard!' The new Head of Upper School was there by now and looked ready to close down the whole proceedings. But Ifor carried on and the kids loved it, especially the finale
when he did 'Life is like a toilet roll' and Year 11, in tiered banks, were instructed to fling bog rolls at each other. The Deputy's face was something like Ifor's chainsaw had been earlier.
Welsh literature has produced many fine comic writers, including Gwyn Thomas, Alun Richards and Dylan Thomas (of the short stories), not to mention the wryness of Dannie Abse in both prose and poetry. However, this poem was influenced by Chaucer, who relished innuendo -
Wooing the farmer's
My friend contemplates chat-up lines
to woo the farmer’s widow.
‘Can I milk your cows?’
‘May I shave your sheep?’
He does say ‘shave’ not ‘shear’!
Better still – ‘Can I pick
the ripe cherries from your branches?’
‘Can we ride together,
or merely sit astride a gate?’
‘Can I examine your wheat
to see if it’s ready for harvesting?
‘Perhaps I can gather the eggs
from your cosy coop?’
‘Can I see the blossom
on your apple orchards?
‘Is it possible that we
could muck out together ?’
is his grimiest opening yet.
What about – ‘Do you keep a cockerel?’
I pertinently suggest.
‘No!’ he dismisses me,
‘I don’t want to be obvious!’