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Radio / The Mary Whitehouse Experience

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L-R: Robert Newman, David Baddiel, Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis.

You know the sort of people who want to know what The Mary Whitehouse Experience was? That's you, that is.

The Mary Whitehouse Experience was a British Sketch Comedy that ran on TV and radio in the late 1980s and early 1990s, named of course after the famous Moral Guardian. The format consisted of a number of sketches called 'The Something Experience' (for example, The Family Experience) and would feature one the performers making comments about a subject before cutting to a sketch revolving around the subject. Frequently, no attempt was made to disguise the studio nature of the show and props and costumes tended to be minimal. The team consisted of two writer performer duos, Rob Newman & David Baddiel (whose material tended to be about up to the minute trendy indie bands) and Stephen Punt & Hugh Dennis (whose material tended towards more mundane observational comedy). Newman and Dennis tended to be the more surreal and bizarre performers, while Baddiel and Punt acted as their Straight Man.


Frequently occurring characters included Hugh Dennis's 'Mr Milky' (a weirdo with a strange fascination for past its sell-by-date milk), Rob Newman's Ray who is permanently stuck in Sarcasm Mode (except when he's actually being sarcastic) and the History Today professors (two old men who trade Your Mom type insults).

Lovely. Tropey-tropey.

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Hugh Dennis plays the embarrassing dad: "Hey what's this? It's got a good beat!"
  • Black Comedy: The sixth "Things People Say to the Television" sketch features the main four watching Dad's Army and repeatedly muttering "He's dead... he's dead... he's dead..." every time a cast member who had died before or since the series ended in 1977 appeared on screen, a sardonic comment on the fact that just two of the core seven cast members (Clive Dunn and Ian Lavender) were still alive by 1991.note 
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  • British Brevity: The TV show ran for only two series.
  • Brick Joke: Often used. For example 'The Telephone Experience' began with two kids making prank calls to people with strange surnames. After a few other sketches, Steve Punt came on to wonder what the very first telephone conversation was. We then cut back to the same two kids mocking Alexander Graham Bell.
    "Is that a Bell? Can I hear a Bell? Well you'd better answer the door."
  • Catchphrase: Ray's "Oh no what a personal disaster." (said in a very sarcastic tone of voice obviously) as well as "That's you that is."
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Rob Newman's impression of Shaw Taylor's TV appeals for witnesses to crimes: "A bomber jacket style bomber jacket".
  • Fetish: Hugh Dennis's character Mr Strange has an unhealthy obsession with milk that's gone off, leading to lots of Perverted Sniffing.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: The team subverted this trope. A sketch noted that as the skills required to pilot a modern jet fighter in combat were converging more and more with those necessary to succeed in air-fighting computer games, the next generation of RAF aces were not going to be craggy manly Biggles types. Oh, no. A sketch followed through the recruitment and training of Up to Eleven spotty, geeky, teenage nerds into the Royal Air Force (played by Baddiel and Punt), who all became fighter aces in an unspecified war somewhere.
  • Lighter and Softer: Parodied. Goth band The Cure's attempts to go in this direction were parodied by Rob Newman who would portray lead singer Robert Smith singing novelty songs (such as "The Sun Has Got Its Hat On") in the same doom laden style as he always has done.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Rob Newman.
  • Soundto Screen Adaptation: the show began on BBC radio, as a rare digression into the spoken word for the music station Radio One.
  • Special Guest: Robert Smith!
  • Spiritual Successor: The Now Show for Punt and Dennis's take on current events.
  • Take That!: Frequent, including the very title of the show.
  • Unplugged Version: A nice in-universe invocation. Newman and Baddiel In Pieces had a series of sketches in which they would pretend to be a techno or synthpop band doing an Unplugged concert. They'd come on, shout or in the case of Kraftwerk robotically intone, the line from the band's big hit, and then shuffle off again in embarrassment.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: The tie-in book mentioned a piece of graffiti above an incredibly busy main road in London stating "M. Khan is bent." and wondered who precisely M Khan was. Two things about this particularly intrigued the team: 1) Why "M. Khan" was being so formally identified and 2) Why the "M. Khan" himself never complained despite the length of time the graffiti was up for.