COMMENT: Delboy Falls Through The Bar
First published March 30th, 2009
Delboy Falls Through The Bar
At the time of writing, Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle is in its second week. It's definitely worth a watch, if only for its valiant attempts to conjure up the spirit of old-style TV stand-up - aiming at Dave Allen At Large although more often hitting Ben Elton's The Man From Auntie (and that's intended as a compliment, whether he likes it or not!)

It's suffered something of a mixed response so far, from die-hard Lee and Herring fans and frowners alike. The main accusation levelled at the show (Mondays 10pm BBC2 - or YouTube thereafter) is that Lee's chosen targets are often a little on the 'easy' side: well-worn media gripes which, although potentially an eyebrow-raiser for your average Dan Brown reader or casual viewer of Ant and Dec, feel somewhat 'old' when placed in relation to the ongoing flux of opinions, debates and general hoo-ha which occurs naturally as a by-product of what is still laughably considered by many to be 'alternative media'. Others disagree. And that is their right. We live in a democracy.

That this discussion is so currently prevalent on TV discussion boards at all raises eyebrows though, particularly considering how difficult it was - just a few short years ago - to convince people that a truly healthy comedy climate would allow comedians to deconstruct, attack and ridicule the very industry which employs them (without them having to constantly look over their shoulders). "Well, I'm sorry," bleated the reactionaries and would-be comedy hacks, "but that's just ridiculous. If I worked in an office and suddenly decided to take the piss out of my employers, I'd expect get the sack as a result! And RIGHTLY SO!"

That those self-same, unapologetically (in fact aggressively) 'non-progressive' status-quo-gazers appear now to be among those embracing Comedy Vehicle (a few even fanfaring it as proof of the existence of the 'healthy comedy climate' they originally cited as unworkable and ridiculous) really should start ringing some serious alarm bells. Fancy watching another 'satirical', 'opinionated' show which targets high-concept, work-safe industry targets and tests well with the Right-Wing? Well, what do you think Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe is there for?

One thing all this has brought home though is just how long it can sometimes take for grass root opinions (about subjects so clearly in need of a kicking) to finally reach a mainstream audience. In the case of 'Delboy Falling Through The Bar', which took up a large section of Comedy Vehicle Show 2, about nine years. To illustrate...

The Fall of Delboy: May 2000 - January 2001

As some of you will recall, from April 2000 to September 2001, our original website, Some of the Corpses are Amusing was part of NotBBC. The site gave us an opportunity to finally exorcise all our personal annoyances with the current comedy world and attempt to provide an alternate voice to counter the increasing amount of PR bollocks and skewed attitudes which had begun to twist the genre we adored into something a bit unpleasant. It was probably a lost cause from the beginning, but we figured that even if placing a digital soapbox among the pigeons didn't actually change the world, at least it wouldn't just be localised despair. We wouldn't have to suffer alone!

And, if webmaster Rob's constant excited phonecalls about increased hitcounts and the subsequent emails we received were to be taken as any indication, it soon became a terrifically popular haunt, not just for comedy fans but also those in the comedy industry itself. David Quantick later described SOTCAA "quite a legendary website - people like Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci secretly read it, living in fear of what it says..." (Quantick Speaks, Resonance 104.4FM, 26/11/02) - and even if that last part was a slight exaggeration, there were still more than enough comedians, producers and journalists (and David Quantick) entering our field of vision to know that it was, overall, a worthwhile venture (whether they were pro, anti, or screaming blue murder and threatening legal action). Our bugbears concerning the malaise of modern comedy weren't simply consigned to a few faithful forum dwellers but had the potential, through basic osmosis, to air that alternate voice on a higher level.

Around the turn of the century, one particular bugbear involved clip shows. They really got our goat. Not clip shows per se, but the reductive, ever-decreasing nature of what the clip show had become.

"Play it again, until the rocks melt and the seas burn..."

Why, we asked ourselves, did all these comedy compilations unimaginatively showcase exactly the same clips each time. Fawlty Towers = Basil hitting his car; The Two Ronnies = 'Fork Handles'; Monty Python's Flying Circus = 'The Parrot Sketch'. Was it simply a case of lazy researchers reaching for the same paperwork / tape they'd used for the previous clip show? Or was it a deliberate and desperate act on the part of a wounded industry to reduce often complex shows to an easily digestible 'shorthand' - an attractive thumbnail to get the viewer to click on and view the rest?

Around this time classic comedy channel UK Gold even ran a series of commercials which took this idea to its extreme. Each ad involved the 'shorthand' clips in question being played in a loop (with a byline which went something like "Classic comedy you can watch again and again and again"). So, Basil Fawlty thrashed his car again and again and again. Captain Mainwaring said "Don't tell him, Pike" again and again and again. Victor Meldrew picked up a daschund and said "4291?" again and again and again. And Delboy fell through the wine bar again and again and a-fucking-gain.

So, we took the damn piss. It's what we do. When we're not writing articles full of opinionated bile, we like it give it some of dat ol' time parody. And we were quite pleased with this one:

"That's what you like..."

And man, the response was astonishing. It's actually difficult, in these post-Woolworths days, to fully convey the sense of stunned awe this send-up received, from insiders and women alike. With one poorly-designed spoof, we succeeded in sending shock waves through the entire BBC. David Jason and Michael Crawford were obliged to make a hasty public apology (over what is now sensitively referred to in hushed tones as 'Lookdavegate') and never worked in the industry ever again. BBC Enterprises were forced to change the name of their organisation to BBC Worldwide to avoid the sheer embarrassment we'd caused them. Even the concept of the 'double video' soon became obsolete, with DVD - and later Blu-ray - becoming the preferred format for releasing shite. All this through one simple and painless act of pointing out that the Emperor might have dressed somewhat casually that morning. The media landscape was now irreprably scarred for life. Nothing would ever be the same again...

Well alright, a few people smirked a bit. Maybe. I think some bloke might have sent us a quick email saying it made him laugh so he showed it to a mate at work - and he laughed too. Well, that's enough, isn't it?

It turned out to be a slow burner though. The parody clearly influenced at least one person posting on the TV/SOTCAA Forum at the time. The following month, during a thread called BBC Archives and a discussion about the possibility of the BBC making their entire archive public, a reader styling himself 'PJ' posted the following:

Posted By PJ on Sun Jul 2 17:30:24 BST 2000:

On screen 1: Basil Fawlty meets the Germans!!
On Screen 2: Del Boy falls through a bar!!
On Screen 3: "Don't tell him you name Pike"!!!
err.. that's it.

Cost - £10 per screening (£5 for students/OAPS)


Yes, it was the same gag, tweezed a bit. But people had noticed. That was good - and the first of many...

On Aug 9, 'Wsluit Snije' - evidently inspired by our own attacks on the UK's favourite listings magazine, took a barbed swipe with a thread called Radio Times: Look What They're Going To Do Next Week:

Radio Times: Look What They're Going To Do Next Week
Posted Wed Aug 9 21:59:52 BST 2000 by Wsluit Snije

Ahead of next week's issue:


1 DON'T TELL HIM PIKE (Dad's Army)
("I love the way that Mannering says that even though he's not supposed to be revealing Pike's name but he does by accident it's really really hilarious" - Jamie Theakston)
2 DEL FALLS OVER (Only Fools & Horses, last week)
("The look on Trigger's face is just unbelievable" - Mark Lewisohn, Radio Times)
("The audience laughed, because it was a very funny scene" - David Jason, probably talking about another scene in quite possibly a different programme. Never mind. You are all stupid and will not notice - even this sentence.)
("The most original thing I've ever pretended to have watched in my whole life" - Alison Graham)
("Everything about this programme is completely original - not least the title!" - Kathryn Flett, The Observer)
("Outrageous, but so much better than anything I'll ever do" - producer of Gimme Gimme Gimme)
("Viewers may - sorry *will* - be interested to know that "My **** - The Complete Jim Royle Rants" will soon be available as part of the BBC Radio Collection" - BBC Radio Collection)
("Puts Pay & Display to shame - my favourite's the dog" - Alison Graham)
("What? Oh, yeah - top! Top!" - Jamie Oliver)
("Please edit out the rest of what I say apart from this bit - it'll make me look as intelligent as your readers" - Ray Galton (who wrote Get Well Soon, and we all know how good THAT was, right?)
("Hello, I'm not available to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the tone." - Michael Crawford)
("Why oh why oh why can't we do comedy as well as the Americans?" - Kelsey Grammer)
("I can't even spell my own first name" - Phill Jupitus)
("I remember when we made this back in 1975, I... - [edited owing to space restrictions]

(Now turn the page to see Mark Gatiss or someone like that (yeah, young people, don't fall asleep!) name as many sitcoms as he can in 1000 words.)

On August 13th, 'Mike Parker' started a thread called Funniest Comedy Moment Ever??? after the debatable results of an 'expert panel' vote on that subject had been published. The Only Fools and Horses 'chandelier' scene apparently came out on top of the list on that occasion, with 'Delboy Falls Through The Bar' relegated to number two status. Note the 'I guess it was inevitable' tone of the latter revelation, suggesting that the situation may have been discussed further on the forum during the previous few weeks but not archived here.

Also note that someone called 'Joe' later posts something which suggests that the initial SOTCAA pisstake is still fresh in his mind also:

Subject: Re: Funniest Comedy Moment Ever???
Posted By Joe on Mon Aug 14 18:43:18 BST 2000:

OH god. I can't believe that Delboy falling through the bar has been voted as one of the funniest comedy clips - or rather, i can, but shouldn't have to. It is, lets face it, terrible. Perhaps the BBC should release a video of the clip on a continous loop for three hours. Just send a cheque for £17.50.

It certainly opened the floodgates anyway, with others soon joining in and tossing some more parodic firebrands into the hut:

Subject: Re: Funniest Comedy Moment Ever???
Posted By Mike J on Tue Aug 15 12:22:39 BST 2000:

> Perhaps the BBC should release a video of the clip on a continous loop for three hours. Just send a cheque for £17.50.

Once it's out on DVD, they'll be able to offer different viewing angles: "What Trigger Sees", "From Behind The Bar", "Delboy's POV", along with commentary from David Jason on "just how hard it is to actually fall over, whilst suppressing the reflex to save oneself from falling with an outstretched arm."

DJ got so good at this reflex-suppressing business during filming, that he now doesn't blink if you squirt vinegar in his eyes or gag if he gets something lodged in his throat.

Subject: Re: Funniest Comedy Moment Ever???
Posted By Jon on Tue Aug 15 12:42:54 BST 2000:

But as the actual hitting-the floor bit was obscured by the bar counter itself, why would he need to, eh?

Subject: Re: Funniest Comedy Moment Ever???
Posted By MM on Tue Aug 15 13:28:30 BST 2000:

His arm would have started to move before it went out of view.

I think that this was one of the Funniest.......Ever - until they decided to repeat it
as often as possible, loosing the surprise element and therefore the comedy.


Subject: Re: Funniest Comedy Moment Ever???
Posted By Jon on Tue Aug 15 13:32:38 BST 2000:

It was all done on a computer anyway.

Subject: Re: Funniest Comedy Moment Ever??? [ Previous Message ]
Posted By TJ on Tue Aug 15 13:32:47 BST 2000:

Endless repeats of TV's hilarious Del Boy falling through the bar.

Alexei Sayle's joke about his brilliant Mr Bean parody 'Monsieur Aubergine' being spoilt by the gushing announcer beforehand.

Spot the difference.

The first 'TV's hilarious Del Boy falling through the bar.' reference from 'TJ' there, who also brings it up two days later in a non-comedy-related thread called Best wishes to anyone getting exam results today:

Subject: Re: Best wishes to anyone getting exam results today
Posted By TJ on Thu Aug 17 11:36:07 BST 2000:

And good luck to the clip of TV's Hilarious Del Boy Falling Through The Bar. I believe it's in the running for a "funniest scene ever in Only Fools And Horses" award, so it needs all the luck it can get...

Proof that sarcasm is the best form of wit, if delivered from a passionate heart (or a Liverpudlian man with sideburns). 'TJ' also makes a reference to it less than two hours later in a short but sweet thread about The Innes Book Of Records.

"He fell through the bar, Stew, on Only Fools and Horses..."

The popular (and often hilarious) LIVE FORUM SITCOM! Add a line!, thread started on Sept 2 by 'Mr Griffiths' gave everyone a chance to take the piss out of the sitcom form - and 'TJ' mentions 'TV's Hilarious Del Boy Falling Through The Bar' three times in the space of a week. He also gets annoyed on Sept 5 about the scene being discussed by annoying people on the bus - in an excellent, passionate thread about the bfi's top 100 tv programmes.

The latter discussion is also interesting for being one of the first dual appearances within a single thread by 'jason hazeley' and 'Unruly Butler', better known nowadays as half of the team behind The Framley Examiner and contributing writers to That Mitchell and Webb Look. Not that we should necessarily hold that against them...

'Unruly Butler' also starts the next thread archived here: Forty years of BBC TV Centre, right?, which covered some then-recently-advertised evening of TV backslapping. Here, he takes it upon himself to remix all the shorthand classic telly moments previously mentioned by others on the site/forum into a kind of random comedy mash-up. He would go on to repeat this gag a few more times on the forum before finally selling it as part of a spoof article the Framley boys contributed to Viz magazine...

'Unruly Butler' isn't the only joke-thief in that thread, however. The delightful 'subbes' (aah, where is she now?) attempts to pass off the following gaglette...

Subject: Re: Forty years of BBC TV Centre, right?
Posted By subbes on Wed Sep 6 22:19:15 BST 2000:

Maybe if Del Boy were dyslexic, they could have made him fall through a bra. her own work and quickly gets busted by her mate 'Jo_ham' who actually penned it! 'PJ' is also back to give the whole affair another bashing, while 'george' contemplates watching the bar-fall frame-by-frame - with yet more allusions to video ads.

Perhaps ironically, on the same day, we were forced to take SOTCAA offline following a legal complaint concerning our notorious spoof Have I Got News For You transcript. The site didn't physically return to NotBBC until Dec 12. However, the 'Delboy falls through the bar' references continued on the forum, unabated...

A non-comedy-related thread on Sept 13 - These trucking slobs are really making me sick - includes a portrayal, by 'pleb sheep', of an ignorant person's reaction to William Hague's fuel tax promises ('It's great! Cheaper Petrol! Vote Tory! Hey, have you seen that clip where Del Boy falls through the bar hatch? That's the best comedy ever. I'd love to see it again.') while Sept 21 gives us a hopeful thread from 'Justin' about Channel 4's Next Viewers Poll in which 'sheep' (who may or may not have also been 'pleb sheep' but was certainly 'Radiator Head Child's favourite jail sheep) reiterates a point made earlier by 'MM' that - as per Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which often unimaginatively makes the Top 5 of such music polls - the Delboy clip isn't actually awful in and of itself but you don't want it force-fed to you quite so often. 'george' suggests much the same in the Sept 23 thread about Our Toon (part of C4's Animation Week) before indulging in a wonderful rant about C4 which Stewart Lee himself really should have delivered nine years ago:

I really don't know what the hell is going on. C4 used to be brave, innovative, and was daring. They didn't care if a film had male genitalia in it - it would be shown uncut, no pixellation. Animation? Well I have a booklet from 1996 where C4 boast about being the First in Europe to have a commissioning editor for animation, now they think they can get away with a few *popular* shows, and kill off anything that is intelligent, but it is so bloddy annoying because C4 used to handle animation and other subjects with intelligence and respect. They knew and understood their remit (as well as their audience), and the programmes displayed this. Of course C4 didn't get everything right, no broadcaster does, but they really are now so far downmarket and concentrating on their revenues and pay-channels we can all get lost.

C4 11.1982-09.2000 Aged 17 years. A bright young thing with promise. Now sadly missed.
Leaves behind an audience desperate for programmes that are thought-provoking and original. Remit reading will be held after the clip-show wake on Saturday 14 October.

(Sorry for a long rant, but I'm tired and my paitence with C4 has finally ran-out).

Yes, Channel 4 DID used to be better. It DID. Ironically, the C4 attacked by 'george' above was itself far more tolerable than the C4 we currently endure.

Oct 1 and a nice traditional list thread - All-time Favourite Top 10 Sitcoms? - features two Delboy/Bar refs from 'Al' and 'Matthew' (both pretty anti) while 'mr lizard' slips one into a risible pastiche of Chris Morris' Jam in the opening post of welcome on Oct 5 (a pastiche which features so many obscure site/forum references that, nine years down the line, it's rendered practically unintelligible to anyone who wasn't there at the time).

In Oct 9's Introducing myself... , 'Boring Shadow' gives a new forum member a numbered rundown of the current forum gripes, which naturally include:

5. Clip shows. The Nietzshean reoccurrence (sp?) of Delboy falling through the bar, Pike inadvertently giving his name away to the Jerries, "Don't mention the War!", etc. Paul Ross and his amazing insights into the completely obvious.

A brief word about SOTCAA.

This Forum was until recently attached to a wonderful, wonderful web site called Some of the Corpses are Amusing..... This was a vast repository incredible information about the censorship and producer politics that often screws up the best comedy shows. It combined trenchant and excellently written opinions on stuff with several archives of hard-to-find comedy gems, including unbroadcast Python scripts and, well, loads more. The site is offline at the moment due to a complaint and Rob S (the webmaster) has asked us not to speculate about who or what is responsible as this is unhelpful. This Forum itself was closed down briefly when speculation became rife and nobody wants that to happen again.

SOTCAA is due to return, soon.

No, we didn't have to quote that last bit here - but it's nice to be reminded that actual comedy fans did enjoy the original site and its anti-PR stance. Eventually however the notion of such a highly-hit forum (read by media insiders on a daily basis) being attached to such a critical, negative and spiteful website would considered a terrible 'wasted opportunity' by scummy little would-be writers with hack comedy projects to sell and media 'networking' to indulge in...

Sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent there. More, more... Try out your 'wacky' characters here!, also on Oct 9, initially a retread of the 'Live Forum Sitcom' silliness, with 'Jon' indulging in more Delboy-related humour (carrying the mantle of 'Unruly Butler's mash-up). Others, including 'Squidy' and 'Steven' soon join in the fun. The former also indulges in a mini rant as he notes that all the usual 'shorthand' clips appear in a BBC trailer at the start of a League of Gentlemen video, while the latter alludes to the UK Gold trails mentioned at the top of this article. Not to be outdone, 'TJ' returns the following day, posting a thread about The People's Choice TV Awards and suggesting 'Del Boy falling through the bar' as one of the nominations for 'best clip'. A Paul Ross parody from 'Sir Frederick Bumfish' puts the boot in further.

Thread from 1990 on Oct 13 kicked off a slew of fake 'historical' discussions created by forum-goers. Several further decades were covered - usually with excitable positive postings about things which later turned out to be rubbish or forgotten. A couple of obvious Delboy/Bar refs there ('Jon' and 'TJ' again), while an anonymous posting to a thread about the Dr Who: Robots of Death DVD on Oct 16, to wit...

Subject: Re: Dr Who: Robots of Death DVD
Posted By 'Anonymous' on Mon Oct 16 20:21:49 BST 2000:

I heard that the enhanced section of the DVD will feature a clip of Uvanov falling through the bar

...well, that could have been either 'Jon' or 'TJ', to be honest! 'TJ' does however definitely contribute another (very Lionel Nimrod-esque) DelBar gag to Facts you've learnt from comedy programmes on Oct 17, the same day that 'Unruly Butler' returned to the world of the freefalling Trotter in One Foot In The Grave - The New Series, praising the show under discussion and adding the now obligatory 'Almost as good as Del Boy falling through the bar. Don't tell him, Pike.' 'Sheep' also returns to let rip a gratuitous one into the middle of Speaker, a thread otherwise concerning itself with House of Commons tradition, on Oct 23.

It should perhaps be mentioned at this point that there is more than a certain relevancy here in terms of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle. It isn't just a case of assuming Lee might have accidentally strayed onto the board and read some of this stuff. The NotBBC platform also played host to webmaster Rob's original Lee and Herring website. As such, the duo regularly visited and posted to the TV/SOTCAA forum.

A thread on Oct 28 could, if you were thus inclined, be viewed as a spiritual leyline connecting the whole ongoing affair: Cheap Beeb reusing TMWRNJ props, which discussed the fact that children's show Live and Kicking had used the puppet of 'Pliny' (from This Morning With Richard Not Judy's 'Histor's Eye') as a prop in the background of some Halloween sketch or other. Soon, the discussion turns to the BBC's general attitude to prop storage:

Subject: Re: Cheap Beeb reusing TMWRNJ props
Posted By TJ on Tue Oct 31 09:16:44 GMT 2000:

>>I've just remembered that the BBC are spending £10 a week to store the costumes from Only Fools And Horses 'just in case'.
>On what planet does it cost £10 a week to hang some clothes up in a plastic bag?

Well, the special protective suit worn by TVs Hilarious Del Boy for the Faling Through The Bar scene has to be kept in rarified, atmospherically modified conditions...

Subject: Re: Cheap Beeb reusing TMWRNJ props
Posted By 'PJ' on Tue Oct 31 12:22:19 GMT 2000: soon to be recreated a the bbc experience, where you can actually BE Del Boy falling through the bar for FREE! (safety mat not included £10:00 for an hour)

Subject: Re: Cheap Beeb reusing TMWRNJ props
Posted By Stewart Lee on Wed Nov 1 00:31:34 GMT 2000:

What was the date of the Live and Kicking with Pliny in it? Anyone know? Rich & I own the copyright on the character and I would love to see what the legal position re this is?

Subject: Re: Cheap Beeb reusing TMWRNJ props
Posted By 'Jon' on Wed Nov 1 08:37:53 GMT 2000:

Huzzah! E-mail L&K with a Yoakum-style letter demanding the relevant items were banned and the tape destroyed!

Arf. Note 'PJ's amusement there, which isn't a million miles away from the 'Del Day' sketch in Comedy Vehicle. Oh, and Joseph 'alan strang' Champniss of TV's famous SOTCAA actually designed the 'Pliny' puppet under discussion. Ours is an elastic planet...

A thread about Series 3 The Royle Family, Right, I'm going to talk about The Royle Family down here now on Oct 31 perfectly illustrates the most worrying and far-reaching effects of the 'shorthand' comedy clip, as 'Squidy' quotes a review:

Subject: Re: Right, I'm going to talk about The Royle Family down here now.
Posted By 'Squidy' on Tue Oct 31 12:15:40 GMT 2000:

Life imitates TV Forum yet again. Bonus points for anyone who can spot a word of truth in this review. George Wood on Teletext page 124:

"There was a minor sensation in The Royle Family on BBC1 when Jim became separated from his armchair.

Shock turned to side-splitting hilarity when Jim and Twiggy started stripping wallpaper and wobbling their massive backsides to Mambo number Five.

It was a TV treat approaching the level of Del-boy and the chandelier or Basil Fawlty beating his car. A classic comical moment.

Ricky Tomlinson is just fabulous as not so slim Jim."

Elsewhere in the thread, 'Unruly Butler' continues to convince himself that he's the overall instigator of the anti-clip show stance while a few anonymous visitors crack some funnies about dropping Denise's baby through a bar. Also on that day, 'Ewar Woowar' starts a thread asking if there was ever a comedy show where you could say It was worse on the radio, leading 'Justin' to speculate that Radio 4's audio-only broadcasts of Only Fools and Horses didn't work because they lacked a certain visual element...

"...and then Trigger made a face."

Something decidedly odd occurs at the start of November. Out of the blue, a whole new thread, TV's Hilarious Del Boy Falling Through The Bar, is devoted to the subject, with all the usual forum suspects chipping in the usual gags. Why, it almost reads like a summary of 'classic moments' in itself. Once again we see, in essence, the beginnings of Stewart Lee's whole eventual take on the subject bubbling away embryonically as the Delboy scene is deconstructed from various angles, often with nightmarish undertones. Perhaps even more curious is the thread on Nov 5 where 'Unruly Butler' elects to repost something approaching his original cross-pollenated clip show gag in a thread called The most classic comedy moment ever (BBC). On the same day, someone posting as 'John Sullivan' begins a thread called INT. WINE BAR. DAY. and yet more post-modernist deconstruction ensues:

Subject: Re: INT. WINE BAR. DAY.
Posted By 'Gee' on Mon Nov 6 00:40:57 GMT 2000:

TRIGGER: Mind yourself Del that could be dangerous.

DEL: Cor, thanks Trigger. Couldn't gone arse over tit and gone down the apples and pears.

TRIGGER: Could have been very nasty.

DEL: Could of been classic telly Trig.

The following day, and a thread called Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha oh my aching sides. suggests the first inklings of a joke being taken a little too far and backfiring on its propagators:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha oh my aching sides.
Posted Tue Nov 7 17:40:41 GMT 2000 by TJ

OK, who sent me the MPEG of Del Boy falling through the bar?

Subject: Re: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha oh my aching sides.
Posted By 'Jane Root' on Tue Nov 7 19:34:45 GMT 2000:

*stifled giggle*

On the same day, 'Jeanette' begins a thread called New BBC Pub-Related Sitcom, bringing the TV transfer of World of Pub to everyone's attention - and including a gag about Chas and Dave falling through the bar. Meanwhile, the next day, a Goodies anniversary-related thread - It may interest you all to know... - from 'Bean Is A Carrot' brings forth some Jane Root-related hatred, particularly from 'TJ' (still seething about that MPEG).

Cut to Nov 22 and a thread about the BBC Talent finals displays more than a little weariness over the matter:

Subject: Re: BBC Talent
Posted By Justin on Wed Nov 22 09:26:24 GMT 2000:

>Did they show THAT clip from Only Fools and Horses?

In fairness, no. VT editor Chris Wadsworth has destroyed it forever. In my dreams.

But all the others you're tired of were there.

On the same day, 'Radiator Head Child' presents LIVE FORUM TANGENT, in which 'MM' alludes to 'a llama falling through a bar'. Nov 23, and 'Al' starts an Only Fools and Horses thread, evidently hoping to avoid the usual annoyances, called Not Del Boy falling through the bar.

Dec 14, SOTCAA are back and now have their own board, away from the TV Forum. The embers of the original Delboy annoyance are dying away in the grate, but are still occasionally poked and prodded - as in this Dangermouse thread where 'Unruly Butler' wonders why we don't get repeats of said cartoon rodent falling through the bar. Dec 18, and a personal observation about The end of this week's Time Gentlemen Please... leads to a discussion about comedy ideas, the number of basic jokes there actually are, a quote from Alexei Sayle's Stuff and 'TJ' pondering on 'TV's Hilarious Jelly Falling Through The Bar'

The final notable thread moves us into Jan 23 2001. Again, inspired by the awfulness of clips shows (of the I Love The 70s ilk), someone pretending to be 'Kate Thornton' begins Cartoons that we don't really remember at all. A page of whimsy for the most part, but 'Justin' raises the bar a little (so that a cartoon Delboy can fall through it nicely):

Subject: Re: Cartoons that we don't really remember at all
Posted By Justin on Tue Jan 23 18:08:10 GMT 2001:

>Only Fools And Horses - The Animated Series

Of course, they couldn't use a bar as it was ostensibly for children. So they used a precipice 2000 feet up a mountain. Every single week. Trigger (the voice of Jamie Farr out of M.A.S.H.) looks confused as Del (the voice of Tony Danza from Who's The Boss) falls to his temprorary demise, accompanied by Hanna-Barbera canned laughter. (And they didn't have a distant cloud emerging when David Jason hit the ground in the original, much-loved scene.)

"Burn it into the retina of my eye!"

At which point, it starts to go all quiet on the Delboy Bar front, at least in terms of the forum discussions we have archived here. The allusions and references did continue throughout 2001 however, even after SOTCAA left NotBBC and the lovely 'Unruly Butler' seized on the opportunity to put himself forward as its butter-wouldn't-melt uncritical 'alternative'. He still remembered to get in a few digs at 'Delboy falling through the bar' / 'Don't tell him Pike' every so often though, amidst his covert viralling of Look Around You, Framley Examiner and Dead Ringers.

Eventually, one voice on the board was heard to complain that the 'constant references to Delboy falling through the bar have now become more of a cliche than the thing itself'. The fact that this one voice belonged to Richard Herring is probably worth pondering over here. Surely this would make its inclusion in a BBC TV show written by his estranged comedy partner eight years after the event even more hackneyed? Or is it simply a case of it becoming such a cliche that, by the old law of Fist of Fun comedy physics, it 'goes round the back of infinity' and becomes a relevant target again!

Certainly, when we stuck our initial video ad parody back online in Dec 2001 as part of the lavishly-designed 'SOTCAA Christmas Book', one notable quibble from long-time TV/SOTCAA Forum regular 'Peter O' (who presumably hadn't noticed it as part of the original site) showed the strain:

One minor gripe is that I'm so fucking sick of hearing complaints about Del Boy falling through the bar as the architypal pleb laughter moment, I'm on the verge of undergoing hypnosis so that I laugh loudly whenever I see that clip, just to do my bit to irritate you further.

"C'est magnifique, Hooky Street."

'Delboy falling through the bar' is now 'out there'. It's no longer a cliche isolated on an internet forum nine years ago. And yet, as with many of the subjects covered in Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, it all amounts to a hill of beans. Although compelling enough to watch, the legacy of understanding why the 'heavy rotation' of the clip is so ghastly shouldn't involve Stewart Lee berating the public for voting it the 'funniest moment ever' while writhing around on the floor. As ever, there's a wider picture to consider.

Media insiders are always the first to indignantly squawk "I think you'll find there never was a Golden Age Of Comedy" in the face of the 'moaning minnies', and yet no-one did more at the turn of the centrury to perpetuate the myth of that 'Golden Age' than the TV industry itself with its constant self-fellation, gushing celebrations with Michael Parkinson, talking head shows and repackaging of bite-sized classic clips designed to induce a Pavlovian 'instant high' in the undiscerning punter. The BBC genuinely did attempt to 'bring everything down to their level'.

Having set that level as 'default', they then had a little trouble producing new shows which could adequately compete without being PR-spun as 'instant classics'. The selling tactics as a result become positively schizophrenic. It's always depressingly amusing to watch an industry so desperate to dismiss supposedly 'rose-tinted' viewer memories of the past while simultaneously pushing some ghastly new show as 'every bit as good as' some consensus-agreed 'classic' from yesteryear - often using the same hyperbolic media language hitherto reserved for watery-eyed retrospectives. When Ricky Gervais blethered on about only making two series of The Office he did so in full knowledge that John Cleese had already said the same (decades later) about Fawlty Towers. When Gervais created - and subsequently covertly sold - The Dance as a 'classic clip', he did so knowing full well that it would be repeated ad nauseam.

Mm... Ricky Gervais the 'comedy salesman'. That opinion took a while to catch on too. Wonder how long it'll be before some comedian with his own show on BBC2 gets round to doing a routine about it...

FOOTNOTE: Oh, and from 2007 - 2008, after Stewart Lee had performed an early version of the routine live, Chris Morris fansite Cookd and Bombd turned "Delboy Falling Through The Bar" into a depressing, apolitical meme.