Lost Gems: Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee (1984)

TV sketch shows come and go with disturbing regularity. Often, they’ll disappear without anyone realising they were there at all. But quite often, they’ll be training grounds for later comedy talent. Look at The Kevin Bishop Show, which gave Karen Gillan from Doctor Who her big break.

Now let’s look at Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee, a sort of sequel to A Kick Up The Eighties which essentially launched the careers of two Scottish talents: Robbie Coltrane and John Sessions.

A BBC2 show, LINPMLF emphasised two things in its publicity: the fact it had a female lead (Louise Gold – not a well known name, but the only regular British puppeteer on The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, and one of the voices from the first three seasons of Spitting Image) and that it was Scottish. Yet the show itself was a more eclectic affair and largely revolved around Robbie Coltrane and John Sessions.

A success it was not. Today, if it’s remembered at all it’s for Coltrane’s Russian TV sketch, its diverse number of literary spoofs, ranging from Treasure Island through Edgar Lustgarten all the way through to the escapades of Dr Johnson (played by Coltrane) and Boswell (Sessions) – and for one character in particular, again played by Coltrane: Mason Boyne, a Scottish presbyterian orangeman, and his wife Morag (Gold).

But unfortunately, as with a lot of sketch shows, it was both hit and miss and didn’t get the ratings to support a second series. Did that stop Robbie Coltrane or John Sessions? Not a bit of it.