During the Christmas holidays, at a play-date with one of her friends, my 12-year-old daughter was introduced to the Catherine Tate character Lauren Cooper. They watched clips from YouTube on a tablet. Lauren, as you may remember, is the 15-year-old schoolgirl whose catchphrase is based on not being bothered, or “bovvered” about whatever is going on around her. A few days later, on New Year’s Eve, part of our evening’s viewing as a family involved Lauren Cooper sketches through the YouTube channel on our TV. This was after “Mamma Mia! Here we go again” on DVD and before “The Graham Norton Show” on BBC1, which featured Catherine Tate as a guest. The children are now old enough to stay up until midnight to see in the New Year, so they also caught most of the live performance by Madness from Westminster Central Hall, also on BBC1, either side of the chimes from Big Ben and the fireworks from the London Eye.
We began with this sketch, set during a French lesson. The classic catchphrases “Am I bovvered?” and “Look at my face? Is my face bovvered?” are rendered in an approximation of French: “Suis-je bovvered?” and “Regardez mon visage? Est-ce que mon visage bovvered?” We saw the Comic Relief specials, with David Tennant as an English teacher (“Amest I botherèd, forsooth”) and Tony Blair when he was still prime minister, turning her catchphrases back on her. They have endured well, and we ended up watching every easily available Lauren sketch from YouTube, more than once in many cases. I had to explain the “Allo Allo” references and some of the words (“pikie”, “gippo”, “wino”), and advise my daughter not to use them, but we could enjoy every scene and have enjoyed using the “bovvered” catchphrase ever since.
Having exhausted the supply of “bovvered” sketches we moved on to Derek, the camp single man also played by Catherine Tate. He is consistently assumed to be gay, to which he responds with “Who-dear-me-dear-gay-dear-no-dear” and “How very dare you?” Fortunately, I was not called upon to explain his euphemisms (such as “he travels up the chocolate escalator” and “being a receiver of swollen goods”) but that won’t last indefinitely. Last month’s trip to the panto (“Snow White” at the London Palladium, with Julian Clary as “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”) saw an even more relentless barrage of innuendo and single entendres. Fortunately it was a live performance, no way of rewinding and having to explain what had just been said. I still regard Julian Clary as one of the funniest comedians around, partly because of the relentlessness of his act. One of the panto’s final innuendos was one of the best, Clary telling us that he once fainted at the Admiral Duncan (a well-known gay pub in Soho, not far from the Palladium) and was revived by a kind young man who gave him a large spritzer in the snug. I didn’t want to explain why I was laughing so much. With Lauren Cooper’s antics, mostly set in the classroom, we are on much safer ground.