I first saw the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch at a Cambridge Footlights ‘Smoker’ in the 1960s. That might have been its first outing. I have an idea that it was originally created by my old Thespian mate Bill Oddy (now better known as the birdy man. He won’t remember me. I was only the scene designer). Since then it has become one of the most famous British revue sketches of all time, endlessly repeated. For anyone – you must be a foreigner – who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, there are several versions of it on YouTube. Enjoy.
Recently there’s been a lot of stuff in the papers about how much worse off materially the new young generation are compared to mine. Few jobs, none of them secure; huge fees for college education; a diminishing chance of getting on the housing (ownership) ladder, and virtually none at all of being housed ‘socially’, so in the grasping hands of private landlords; benefits cut; the NHS failing around them; prohibitive seat prices at football matches, which used to be the working man’s one consolation… I could go on. Does the greater range of choice that late capitalism has brought us – iPads, flat-screen TVs, foreign takeaways, HBO – compensate for all that? We should ask the 20-odd year-olds.
In the meantime one could imagine an updated version of the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’. – ‘Free university education – aye, and maintenance costs too; full employment…’ etc. etc. And the punch line: ‘Tell young people that today, and will they believe you?’ In unison: ‘Nay.’
I’m not a comedy sketch writer. Someone else should have a go.