We should shout from the rooftops that Bob Mortimer once attended The University of Leicester
Leicester’s greatest honour
Bob Mortimer is the funniest living man I know of on this planet. I'm funny too. Once I was wedged into the corner of a house party, surrounded by people who don't want to talk to me because they don't know me and people who don't want to talk to me because they know me. All of a sudden a girl named Hope storms out of the party after an argument with her boyfriend. I pierce the silence by saying 'I guess we're HOPEless now'. Everyone starts laughing, howling in fact. The muscled lads pick me up and start throwing me up in the air like a trophy. Girls in the corner pose a ravenous look as if they want to undress my brain. One of the girls in question is Beyoncé. My Nan's also in the opposite corner having her third cardiac arrest due to her laughter.
I then wake up alone at 4 am, fully clothed, warm Carling akin on my bedside table. Bob Mortimer's dulcet tones line my ears as episode 43 of 'Athletico Mince' reaches the half-hour mark. The last time I was awake the lager was cold and I was tuning in to Mince's 37th instalment. The dream was nice, but I can definitely think of worse things than a wakeup call from Bob.
Bob Mortimer was an alumnus of our very own University of Leicester. I considered asking if Bob would be available for interview, however, I read an article Vice did with him and apparently it took six months for him to respond. So in the end, I decided I couldn’t be arsed.
Most famously known as half of double act ‘Vic and Bob’, Mortimer paraded the beacon of surrealism through 1990’s telly, culminating in a prime time BBC 1 slot in 1998 with Families at War. The pair’s CV also boasts ‘Shooting Stars’, ‘Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out’ as well as ‘The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer’. These names may not mean much to you, but I implore whoever’s reading this to check out anything Bob Mortimer related. It may be considered as bottom line humour, or just simply too strange to be considered comedically intelligent by most. Mortimer himself spoke in his episode of 'Desert Island Discs' about how he’s “always liked clowns, idiots”. Mortimer’s comedy doesn’t aim to satirise particular public figures or politicians – it satirises everyone, and how we take ourselves way too seriously.
Bob has described his comedy as 'selfish' on multiple occasions as it requires the audience to give him the benefit of the doubt and try to step into a very peculiar world. I would argue that Bob’s comedy is in fact very inclusive. No subtext or knowledge of current affairs is required. You simply have to just allow yourself to enjoy extravagant silliness without the inhibitions or embarrassment of feeling childish. Take the clips 'Le Corbussier et papin' and 'Cottage Cheese' for example. You literally only have to have knowledge of what a fart is and what cottage cheese is to find the sketches funny.
It’s commonplace today for comics to ask the question "Isn’t it funny how…?”. This a technique that often taps into tribalism and stereotypes to get a select group of people to laugh at a joke based on their societal position or political leaning. To me, it also seems like a painful attempt at someone trying to demonstrate how intelligent and perceptive they are to compensate for a lack of actually being funny. As Mortimer further said in the 'Desert Island' discs interview, “I don’t think little groups of friends sit around in pubs doing observational comedy”. Contrastingly I believe that Mortimer’s comedy asks the question, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”. This question does not exclude and allows people to use their imagination rather than be spoon-fed opinions and social cues.
Last year my ex-girlfriend finally came to the correct realisation that she is a superior human being to me. Hence we mutually decided that she didn’t want to go out with me anymore. I don’t think you can really fault her. Coming to terms with a tangible event which confirmed my fears that I’m a sub-par human was obviously quite upsetting. At this point, I decided to cave into my best friend’s six-month insistence on me listening to a podcast entitled 'Athletico Mince'. The idea of having voices with me at the tip of my fingers to create the illusion that I wasn’t alone definitely seemed a comforting notion. Those voices not only comforted me, but they made me laugh until my stomach hurt. I’d sit up through the early hours of the morning engrossed in a world detached from reality. A world where former England manager Steve McClaren owned a yellow snake called Casper, Mortimer would engage in romances with the town Alderman, and Robert Mugabe’s knackers would be available for viewing behind a ‘mystery door’. As I write down these examples from the show, I realise they may not sound that funny if you haven’t listened to Mince before. Once again I encourage you to do so, as Mortimer’s oratorical skills obviously dwarf my already ropey explanatory ability.
I’m not the only person to feel alone at uni. “When I went to university I didn’t meet anyone, I was very lonely, I just sat in my room”. This is Mortimer’s summary of his time at Sussex University and his Master's studies at the Uni of Leicester. To go back to his 'Desert Island Discs' episode, Bob recalls his first day of university, where he was invited to a meet-and-greet with his course mates. He turned up in a denim jacket and Middlesborough Football top, thinking that would be socially acceptable. However, everyone at the function was in black tie. This kind of sartorial snobbery of jumped-up kids getting their parents to buy them a dinner suit to flex the muscles of their wealthy background is commonplace in almost every university this present day. The feeling of isolation Bob felt from this experience is also commonplace for a lot of students at most uni's.
“My shyness probably defined the first 30 years of my life really. It’s a crippling thing, it can be very lonely”. Like many students, Bob’s social anxiety and shyness prevented him from enjoying more than just university life. He believes the trigger for this to be the tragic loss of his father at the age of seven. At the time he did not believe this to have an impact on him, but in retrospect, he realised that his father’s death was the 'defining' moment of his life. “When something so precious is taken from you it makes you very insecure”. People’s fear of social expression may be rooted in something more, or less severe than Bob’s circumstances. At university, it can often feel for many that everyone else is part of something that they are not.
Granted, Bob’s comedy and humour may not be for everyone, despite my best efforts of encouragement. However what Bob may represent as somewhat of an outsider is key to the understanding of any sphere in life, especially uni. Bob eventually conquered his fears and began to speak his mind in public, and developed into a comedic cult hero with a career that spans nearly three decades at the time of writing.
Obviously only very few can hope to have a career on the same scale as Mortimer’s. But the success and adoration of a figure who once felt awkward and marginalised is one that should be triumphed by any university. If I were to put my own egotistical agenda into Bob’s shoes, I’d demand a massive fuck off statue, or a massive fuck off picture of Bob’s face onto the front of the David Wilson Library. Bob on the other hand, in his own understated, cheeky, gentle way, would possibly ask for a plaque in the lost property office, if anything.