Screaming Lord Sutch
November 10, 2009
If you grew up glued to a television set in England in the ’80s, as I did, nothing irritated you more than local and general election broadcasts, which your parents insisted on watching while you fantasized about The Sweeney, The Professionals and other cop dramas full of violence and swearing. The only ray of light peeking through this dark televisual cloud was provided by SCREAMING LORD SUTCH (1940-99) and his Official Monster Raving Loony Party. On election night, decked out in a gaudy topcoat, top hat, and a panoply of badges, rosettes, and other paraphernalia, he would take up position on the podium next to his electoral rivals and cause colorful uproar as the results were announced. He was the political equivalent of a loud fart emitted in a two-hour church service. It’s easy to write Sutch off as an attention-hungry nutter, but he was an influential enabler in the British ’60s music scene, nurturing the likes of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Noel Redding at the bosom of his schlock-horror combo, The Savages. He was also a catalyst of genuine political change: thanks, in part, to Sutch’s campaigning, 18-year-olds were given the vote, commercial radio was legalized, and Carnaby Street was pedestrianized. When he hanged himself in 1999, after a life spent suffering silently from severe depression, British music lost a grandfather and British politics lost a splash of technicolor.
HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God
READ MORE about the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).