This article is taken from the August/September 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.
It is a very long time since Rosie Cackle first appeared on our television screens. Cognoscenti sometimes put the date as far back as her fleeting cameo as Neil’s feminist girlfriend in The Young Ones; IMDb reckons that she may even have featured as “uncredited serving wench” in the second series of Blackadder.
As for the wider milieu, these were the very early days of what was sometimes described as “alternative comedy”, a sub-genre to which Rosie took with alacrity. She was known for saying “fuck” a great deal and for a good, but not outstandingly funny impersonation of the Conservative politician, Edwina Currie.
She was known for saying “fuck” a great deal and for a good impersonation of Edwina Currie
Styles change, of course, comedians grow old, and by the late 1990s, when everybody said “fuck” a great deal and Mrs Currie was long gone from the political scene, Rosie found it necessary to cast around for new ways of expressing herself.
She found them in the recently established medium of late-night shows on BBC2 and Channel Four, in which “celebrity comedians” were assembled with the notional aim of competing in quizzes, but in fact to tell jokes at each other’s expense, or at the more desperate end of the market, merely to fling insults around.
Swiftly inducted into the hothouse atmosphere of Who The [email protected]$! Do You Think You Are? and the marginally more highbrow Hoist By Their Own Petard, Rosie found herself in her element. You were still allowed to smoke in those days and she became famous for taking a drag on a cigarette, peering over the top of her thick, horn-rimmed spectacles and demanding of the person next to her in a voice once described by Clive James as “like gravel shaken in a bucket”. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re up to, son?”
This later reached Number 67 in a Channel Five compilation entitled The Hundred Funniest Comedy Catch Phrases.
Naturally, there are other strings to Rosie’s bow. Her novel Little Miss Lonelyhearts was a curious affair, set on a psychiatric ward and featuring characters referred to only by letters of the alphabet.
Its successor was declined by the publishers for being too gloomy. She has also toured, with considerable success, a one-woman show called My Life and Other Fucking Disasters that originated at a long-ago Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
At 62 and outwardly unchanged — the bird’s nest hairdo looks just as it was when she performed song and dance routines mocking Mrs Thatcher with Ben Elton back in the 1980s — Rosie is dimly aware that she is unlikely to be regarded as a National Treasure for at least another ten years.
Meanwhile, there is a new TV show with Jimmy Carr pending and her grown-up daughters to spar with over the telephone twice a week. Nothing has been seen of Mr Cackle, a meek-mannered civil servant, for decades. Close friends sometimes concede that outside a TV studio she has never made a joke in her life.
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