And Away…

The Autobiography of Robert Renwick Mortimer

My earliest memories of Mr. Bob Mortimer were he and his strange accomplice battering each other with Frying Pans on stage. The program had a funny name – the Smell of Reeves and Mortimer – and i also recall a particularly hilarious sketch about Asparagus. Then came Shooting Stars – an outright bonkers panel show which involved taking the piss out of Ulrika Johnson (Ulrika-ka-ka-ka) and various random guest stars, most of which i didn’t know because my pop-culture knowledge didn’t extend beyond Star Trek and (cancelled) Dr Who.

I watched, avidly, Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased and my brother and I came to the conclusion that Bob was an awful actor. And i mean this in the nicest way, because his lack of acting talent was hilarious, and really added to my enjoyment of the show.

Anyway, despite his definite presence in my weekly Television consumption, i hadn’t considered him very much; i wasn’t really into my television celebrities if they weren’t in Star Wars or appearing in Noels House Party. He was a name and i would listen if he talked, but i hadn’t yet found my Mortimer awakening. That came only last year, whilst watching the masterpiece Tv show, Taskmaster. All of a sudden Bob was a source of great jocularity, and i was laughing out loud after each task. The man was so ridiculously funny it was painful.

So when i spotted this book on the shelf – without any fore-knowledge of its existence – it was a must buy.

He opens the book by describing his face as a pile of wet spaghetti and i was hooked. I love that kind of weird humour and descriptive nonsence.

But this is more than just a collection of funny stories and amusing anecdotes; this is a true story of a man’s journey through life, discovering friends, miracles and comedy in the most unlikeliest of places. Given what i knew about Bob i was blown away when he tells me he was an introvert, a lawyer and friendless; hopelessly loyal to his wee maw and struggling to survive in a cutthroat industry. Then of course he meets Jim Moir (Vic Reeves) and his life spirals into comedy national treasure status.

His little stories of his childhood and teenage years are heartwarming, and we are introduced to a wide plethora of distinctive characters. Its so…relatable.

One of the comedy comments on the book cover says “its starts when he’s young and finishes when he’s old”, reflecting the usual chronology of an autobiography – but Bob Mortimer here reveals another skill – his gift of storytelling. He crafts an excellent narrative, starting in the present with his sudden heart difficulties, before flashing back and delivering his origin story. He then weaves in time-jumps with clever segues and relevant explorations of his past.

I love the man even more now that i see his pathway through life. He began with the insecurity of a man in the shadow of a genius – but over the course of life has become a true celebrity in his own right. It isn’t the smell of Vic Reeves – its the Smell of Reeves and Mortimer. They are both of equal standing and rightfully so, because they are both comic legends.

I’m inspired to seek out Bob’s other prose, because i loved this book. The first autobiography i’ve become truly invested in, come to think of it. Thanks Bob.

Turning Red (2022)

Pixar’s latest is a thinly veiled educational video on hitting puberty. Mei-mei is a happy, dedicated little girl who is fantastic at everything, an a-class student and surrounded by awesome friends. However, her commitment to her mother is about to come into question when she turns 13. She starts to see boys, starts to have those strange feelings, and, oh, turns into a giant Red Panda.

You see thanks to a protective ancient ancestor, every member of her family is ‘blessed’ upon puberty to become slave to their heightened emotions and turns into a huge, fluffy, adorable pile of red panda shaped cuteness.

This interferes with Mei-Mei’s current plan though; a boy band she and her friends are obsessing over are playing locally at the end of the month. And her mother wants her to undergo a ritual to rid her from the soul of her panda…on the very night her boys are playing on stage. Whats a girl to do?

The film is packed to the gunnels with the usual Pixar magic; cute characters for the really little ones (and a clever bit of marketing as a fluffy Panda is now exactly what i’m buying my friends kids for thier next birthdays), a teenage boy band very reflective of todays cute-and-quirky-and-wholesome bands that girls (and some boys) have been swooning over since the 90s, featuring songs by modern talent Billie Eilish. Oh and i challenge you not to laugh out loud every time Mr. Singh gets his doughnut / pudding.

The mysticism that us foolish westerners have come to expect in the wonderful, ancient and mysterious history of the East finds itself expertly depicted here in the spiritualism of the Red Panda … i want to say religion, but thats not the right word. And actually that brings me to something else, something subtle. And once you realise just how subtle it all is, its heartbreaking and yet hopeful; inclusionism. There is a solid place for everyone in this world. I’ll pick two obscure examples and ask yourself if you noticed. Did you spot Mei-Mei’s ambiguous best friend who could easily be androgenous? Or even better, the message that even young boys can be obsessed with boy bands too? The world created in this movie has no place for racism or sexism – the primary antagonists in this are the parents, and even then their ‘villainy’ is just a perception of thier love as seen by their kids.

I guess my only issue with the film is its startling ability to make me hate Mei’s mother. She is so over-bearing (and she has her reasons) but its a cringe-worthy moment every time she interferes unnecessarily. She is the james corden / olaf the fucking snowman / jonah hill / zach gallifrey-analyst character that somehow sees how to make the worst of a situation, and then… does it.

However, kudos to the filmmakers for the Ghostbusters-esque finale that somehow came out of nowhere AND was entirely expected both at the same time.

My winner of the story was Mei’s Dad. He was just the best.

Keep em coming, Pixar, you and Disney at large are still light years ahead of the competition in terms of animated movies. One day i might even forgive you for the Cars Trilogy. But not yet. 🙂