It takes quite a lot to make me post things voluntarily on the likes of Facebook or Twitter.
My missives, as well as being infrequent, tend to be light-hearted reactions to other things posted by friends or fellow music forum fans, and I take care to ensure they’re not offensive.
However, in a year which has already seen a superabundance of celebrity deaths, the passing of a man referred to recently as our “greatest living comedy writer” moved me to post a line or two.
Last month, we sadly said farewell to David Nobbs, a first-class scriptwriter and comedy novelist, who did a mass of excellent work over a 50-year career.
His most famous and enduring creation was one of the greatest comic characters ever – Reginald Perrin.
If there’s one hope to be taken from his passing, it’s that more people may make themselves more familiar with his work, because he was, quite simply, superb.
Reggie was the hero of three brilliant novels and three corresponding television series in the 1970s.
The TV episodes – which reached a peak in season two with ‘Grot’, Reggie’s booming business in which he sold completely worthless goods – were a perfect combination of top acting, marvellous supporting characters with memorable catchphrases, great social comment and one quality above all – the pain of being human.
Reggie was basically having a nervous breakdown over the absurdity and banality of his everyday routine but it fed into something we’ve all felt at some time – the belief that having someone else’s life must surely be better than our own.
David Nobbs did much more besides, and TV tributes have been a bit meagre, in my biased opinion – although with so many ‘names’ jockeying for decent celebrity obituaries, I should maybe be grateful for what we’ve had.
Last Saturday saw a repeat of a 2004 edition of the ‘Comedy Connections’ history of Perrin, followed by the first ever episode of the series, while Radio 4 Extra broadcast the three-part 2012 series ‘With Nobbs On’ on successive evenings this week, in which the great man himself reflected on his career.
I remember when the Perrin series first started on the BBC in the days (1976) of only three terrestrial TV channels.
When the suggestion was made in our house that we tuned in to see the new programme, my dad declared something to the effect that ‘we’re not watching that rubbish’ – without knowing the first thing about it.
Then, during a family visit, his sister and brother-in-law told him it was very funny – so when series one began its first repeat run, we became instantly committed Perrin acolytes, with my dad now proclaiming that the series, and Leonard Rossiter, were great. Super, even.
The music journalist, comedy writer and satirist David Quantick, in his rather undeserved and self-indulgent Radio 4 series ‘52 First Impressions’ last year, rightly said Nobbs at the time was our greatest living comedy novelist/author.
Sadly, he can’t quite be called that any more, but he’s now near the top of an equally distinguished pantheon.
We wouldn’t have got where we are today without him.