Ted Chippington

Here’s a nice history lesson for the weekend. Stuart Lee talks about and to Ted Chippington who he considers the alternative father of alternative comedy.

While Ted’s from Birmingham he doesn’t live here anymore but he did do a gig at Atticus the other day as part of the Comedy Festival. The Atticus blog says it wasn’t that great but surely that was the point? Ooh, the meta-layers…

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  1. If any Ted Chippington fans are struggling to get a copy of the Boxset you can find it here:



    This is a brand new copy of the new four cd box set

    Ted Chippington (born 1960) is a British stand-up comedian and entertainer. His act is one in which the conventions of his chosen craft are routinely flouted. Assuming a diffident on-stage persona (in contrast to the self-confident aura of most comics) and delivering his material in a West Midlands monotone, he eschews observational comedy favour of anti-humour and jokes which are mostly variations on the same theme (see examples below), interspersed with his own versions of well-known songs performed in a similarly listless style. This approach has left many audiences bemused or even hostile (his legendary expertise at dealing with hecklers comes from frequent practice).

    However, Ted’s deadpan style has also won him a small but devoted following. Probably his most notable fan is Stewart Lee, who has often cited Chippington as the reason he started doing stand-up comedy himself, and has described Ted’s act as being “a mixture of surrealism and insolent provocation and uncompromising boredom”. Another admirer, Richard Herring, talks of Chippington’s “contempt for the very idea of jokes”. For his part Ted – who describes his own act as being influenced by Lenny Bruce and Owd Grandad Piggot – says he is an “anti-comedian” and that he only started doing his act “to annoy people”. He has even claimed that his main reason for retiring from the stage in the 1990s was that he was becoming too popular.

    Born Francis Smyth in Birmingham, Ted started performing in 1981 under the name “Eddie Chippington” before changing to Ted “due to maturity and baldness”. He first came to national prominence when a gig he had performed in Birmingham in 1984 supporting The Fall (his favourite band) was released by local record label Vindaloo on a 7″ EP entitled “Non Stop Party Hits of the 50s 60s and 70s”. The EP title refers to his penchant for performing his own versions of classic hits, including on this occasion his rendering of Ottawan’s ‘D.I.S.C.O.’. The record was played by John Peel on his BBC Radio One programme – a rare privilege for a comedian.

    In 1986 he released an album, ‘Man In A Suitcase’ – a collection of live recordings plus some more songs, included his celebrated versions of “She Loves You” and Alvin Stardust’s ‘I Feel Like Buddy Holly’ – which reached the Top 10 indie album chart. “She Loves You” received wider exposure after Steve Wright repeatedly played it on his Radio 1 show, which in turn led to the track being released as a single by Warner Brothers. It narrowly failed to make the Top 40 but Ted claims that the deal with Warners earned him “£1,000 and a nice curry”.

    Despite its failure to crack the charts, “She Loves You” raised Ted’s profile considerably and led to numerous media appearances, including a turn on the BBC’s lunchtime magazine show Pebble Mill at One, thus fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition. His performance on the show was rubbished by presenter Paul Coia, although some have theorised that Coia was just playing along with the concept.

    Ted also fielded interviews with the New Musical Express, Birmingham’s BRMB (where he managed to thoroughly baffle his interviewer) and, bizarrely, the colour supplement of The Mail on Sunday. He also performed at the Glastonbury and Reading festivals.

    Ted once again came dangerously close to mainstream UK singles chart success with a recording of his theme tune ‘Rocking with Rita’ which he performed with his fellow Vindaloo artists Rob Lloyd and The Nightingales and We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It. A further single followed with his reading of Dion’s “The Wanderer”, in which the boastfulness of the original lyrics was turned on its head: “I’m not the wanderer, I’m not the wanderer…not too keen on roaming around and around and around”.

    In spite of all this, Chippington’s ruthless disregard for the conventions of stand-up made him a perennial outcast from the 1980s comedy scene. At a time when politically right-on performers such as Ben Elton and Harry Enfield were at their peak, Ted (who once claimed his favourite comedian was Bernard Manning) struggled to break through to a wider audience. However his fans – or “good mates” as Ted likes to call them – remain convinced of his status as a neglected comedy genius, and regard him with an affection that is rarely afforded to stand-up comics.

    In 1990, feeling overwhelmed by the media attention, Ted retired from showbusiness to pursue a career in truck-driving in the US. This ended ignominiously when his lorry shed its load on the Pacific Coast Highway. After this he tried his hand as a cook in various restaurants in Mexico, before returning to the UK, getting married and settling in Torquay.

    In 2006 he started performing again. He now styles himself “The Reverend Ted Chippington” and has ditched his old Teddy Boy stage outfit in favour of a vicar’s dog-collar. He has also changed much of his material, meaning that Ted connoisseurs of old who are expecting to hear the “railway station joke” are likely to be disappointed.

    A CD boxset of Ted’s earlier work, entitled “Walking Down The Road”, has been released on Robert Lloyd’s Big Print label. A tribute to Chippington entitled “Tedstock” was held at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre in February 2007 in order to raise money to fund this release. The show included performances from Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, along with fellow Ted fans Simon Munnery, The Nightingales, Phill Jupitus, Josie Long and Stephen Carlin. (Simon Amstell also appeared but claimed never to have heard of him.) This event has led to a new flurry of media appearances for Chippington, including articles in The Guardian and The Independent and appearances on BBC Two’s The Culture Show and the Phill Jupitus show on BBC 6 Music.

    Examples of Chippington humour

    * “I was walking down the road the other day, this chap drove up beside me and said, ‘Excuse me, mate, I’m in a dilemma.’ I said, ‘Aye, good motors, Dilemmas. I was thinking of buying one myself. A red one perhaps.'”

    * “I was walking down the road the other day, this chap walked up to me and said ‘Do you want to buy some grass, mate?’ I said ‘No thanks, mate, I’ve got crazy paving. Haven’t got a garden, you see.'”

    * “I was walking down the road the other day, this chap walked up to me and said ‘Do you want to buy some LSD, mate?’ I said ‘No thanks, mate, We’ve gone decimal now. You know, pounds, shillings and pence – no use to me any more.'”

    * “I was walking down the road the other day, this chap came up to me. He said ‘I’ve just got back from Nam.’ I said, ‘What, you mean Vietnam?’ He said ‘No, mate, Chelt’nam.'”

    * “I look forward to when I’ve got a car and I can drive down the road, so I won’t get all these characters coming up to me.”

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