The Day The Chuckles Died

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

By Ciarán Daly

All that remains of our dystopia are harsh edges and no options; no Europe; no Queen; no Chucklevision; no hope.

24 October, 1992. Two impossibly ageless brothers - Paul, and Barry - settle in for a lazy day in the caravan park they call home. It’s hot up north. The younger, larger, more dominant of the pair, Paul, tricks Barry into powering a fan using their bicycle. They make popcorn, badly. There are further mishaps. A nation of children chuckle away to themselves.


It was my 12th day on the planet, and the Chucklevision episode A Lazy Day very well could have been the first thing I ever laughed at - that is, if newborns didn’t have terrible eyesight and hearing. 


Purely reconstructed nostalgia trips aside, this was undoubtedly a simpler time. Back then, you could happily wait for hours as someone in a red jumper slowly unveiled an aerial Caravaggio made out of fuck all other than a couple of ropes and some cones. Back then, a man whose best friend was a badger could smear an entire bollard with mashed potato, solely unperturbed.


But in truth, the era belonged to the Chuckle Brothers. Theirs was an era when the sight of someone unintentionally drinking a cup full of sugar could unravel a smile on the tightest of lips - when a ladder had more comic potential than Simon Amstell. Barry and Paul Chuckle weren’t here to poke, point, or punch. They were here to transform the television into something brave, something different: Chucklevision. 


Chucklevision ruled the mid-afternoon airwaves at a time when something didn’t actually have to be that funny in order to make you laugh. That’s the problem with TV comedy in the 21st century: it’s too intelligent, too cynical. On our screens, chuckle is overwrought by wit. The panel format that dominates Britain today lends itself solely to a brand of ‘witty banter’ which can poke fun at how fucked everything all is from an inner circlejerk of cynicism. Today, laughter has to mean something. Today, the chuckles reside in the cracks. 


Never stop slacking


Throughout Chucklevision, Paul and Barry are constantly having their chuckles challenged by ‘Stop Slacking Man’, an uppity fart who bosses the brothers around and demands they ‘stop slacking’ at every twist and turn. Firm believers in the anarchist tenet of do-it-yourself, these proud, working class brothers taught us to chuckle in the face of the Stop Slacking Men. 


But yet, we let Stop Slacking Man win. ‘Stop slacking' is the nation's epigraph. 'Stop slacking' is the cruelty and derision we show for the most vulnerable in our society. 'Stop slacking' is the death sentence feeding the hyenas who have set to work on our most beloved institutions. 


In his life, Barry Chuckle didn’t set out to fight cynicism, wit, and hardness. He lived to make us chuckle; nothing more, nothing less. With each proverbial ‘to me, to you’, Barry and Paul volleyed chuckles, back-and-forth, for over seventy years and through 21 seasons of television. They were even able to cash in on their nostalgia cred by appearing alongside Tinchy Stryder on SBTV, and headlining Bestival. 


Perhaps, in passing, Barry Chuckle is the point of no return; the harbinger of a world more stark, more dull, and altogether more cynical than the one he entered. The simple joys of life in Britain have been left blunted. Battered by austerity for nearly ten years and led by the most feckless, catastrophically incompetent nimbys in known memory, all that will soon remain in this dystopia are harsh edges and no options; no Europe; no Queen; no Chucklevision; no hope.


“Oh dear, oh dear”


But perhaps there is hope. The generation that was born into a Chuckle world, my generation, owes every silent ‘lol’, every meme they have, to the Brothers Chuckle. And as Barry taught us, there is hope in an "oh dear”. After all, Paul Chuckle’s Snapchat has over 56,000 Facebook followers ready to shout "to you!".


The Radical Art Review is a non-profit cooperative platform fuelled purely by people power for those who think art holds the potential for social transformation. We publish the thoughts, philosophies, and stories of all who dare to dissent. We seek to inform, to empower, and to dream collectively of a better tomorrow.

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