Before we launch into this, let’s just see if we’re all on the same page, shall we? Pretend you work in a launderette. Somebody walks in through the door carrying a cover for a bed. What’s your reaction? If it’s ‘Certainly love, pop it over here and it’ll be ready for you by Wednesday’ then you may not have a clue who I’m about to talk about. But you might be perfect for working in a launderette of course, so don’t feel too bad…silver linings and all that…
If, on the other hand, you said ‘We don’t doooo duvets!’ then you are definitely in the right place. Trev (Trevor Neal) and Simon (Simon Hickson) provided the giggles for many children and teenagers (myself included) who spent Saturday mornings glued to the television, beginning with sketches on Going Live in the late 1980s and continuing, after a fashion, with its successor Live & Kicking in the 1990s.
They invented many amusing characters; some for one-off sketches only, but plenty of others made recurring appearances - complete with their own comedy catchphrases - and it’s these which got the kids giggling the most. (It was the interestingly –coiffured Draper Brothers who got angsty about any star guests from the Live and Kicking studio entering their dry cleaners with a duvet under their arm.)
Saturday morning television was going strong in the late eighties. Swap Shop and Saturday Superstore had been immensely popular, and in 1987 up popped Going Live, first presented by Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene and the squeakingly irritating furry sock Gordon the Gopher. The show added a specific comedy strand to its magazine style output by introducing the talents of Trev and Simon. Their brief was to be funny (obviously) and to keep it smut-free, but to not exclusively write for children. This gave their material that extra edge that made it appeal to teenagers as well and, dare I presume, quite a lot of parents watching with their kids as well?
My best loved duo had to be The Singing Corner – a 1960s inspired folk pair (cardigans, floral long collared shirts and bowl haircuts) famous for their pant-swinging antics in time to their music. Don Singing and Bob Corner spent their time reinterpreting classics in their own gentle style - ‘Purple Haze fa la la la la’ anybody? – with a particularly memorable cover of Donovan’s ‘I love my shirt’ topping my favourites list. I have to admit that I had no idea that a song with lyrics like ‘Do you have a shirt that you really love, one that you feel so groovy in’ and ‘I love my jeans, I love my jeans, my jeans are so comfortably lovely’ was actually real in the first place…it fitted so perfectly with The Singing Corner’s swinging pants style that I presumed they had written it specifically. I must find the original and see if it’s as catchy as Don and Bob’s version.
Ken and Eddy Kennedy were unhygienic barbers in an unhygienic salon – like the dry cleaners that were to come later they would be visited by Going Live’s celebrities and comic mayhem would commence. DJ Mick McMax and Moon Monkey saw Hickson sheathed in a lurid lycra onesie, emulating the rave scene. This peculiar pair was ‘sponsored’ by the tempting delights of Pot Fish (‘Britain’s number one instant fish snack in a pot!’) – a nod to both the crap snack value of Pot Noodle as well as the in-your-face advertising and sponsorship deals that started booming around that time. Neal explained later that Moon Monkey was a caricature of The Happy Mondays’ Bez, whilst Mick was almost a straight copy of Pat Sharp (Fun House). What’s not to love there then?
World of the Strange saw more interesting hairstyles as the boys experimented with what looked like highly back-combed badgers on their heads. Their ‘oh so spooky’ personas took the view that everything they came across, however small and ordinary, was occurring through supernatural forces that couldn’t be scientifically explained. The Sister Brothers were ‘wheelin’ and dealin’, duckin’ and divin’’ market traders who introduced a competition during each show. Trev and Simon didn’t appear in the 1991-92 series, but returned for the final one in 1992-93 before transferring their skills to new Saturday morning show Live and Kicking (starting off with Andi Peters and Emma Forbes as presenters) in 1993. Whilst their appearances never quite hit the same comedy heights as during Going Live, there were still a few stand-out moments (the Draper Brothers made their appearance here) including ‘Sofa For Two With Three’. This saw a celebrity guest sitting in between the pair on a sofa, which had been weakened in the centre, so that they would sink and get trapped and thus not be able to get away from having the mickey taken out of them. During the final series in 1996 Trev and Simon had their own smaller show within the main body of Live and Kicking; this didn’t seem to fit as well as them popping up every now and again throughout the show as in previous series, but it did include ‘Pickling Time with Pickling Jeff (And Jobe’s Here As Well!).’
I can’t give you any more details on that particular sketch as I don’t remember anything about it except the title. Which is fine, because that alone is excellent.
Hickson and Neal formed their partnership whilst studying at Manchester University after they found out that they shared the same madcap sense of humour. They formed their partnership there, taking part in live comedy shows, and, thirty odd years later, they are still performing together.
Although the two Saturday morning shows are what Trev and Simon will always be remembered for, their career continued in 1999 when they hosted what can be reliably described as an ‘Egyptian-themed quiz show based on video games’ (what television was crying out for if you ask me) called Games Republic. Now, I can’t offer an honest opinion on this as it’s another one I don’t remember, but despite the ridiculous premise (and the apparent criticism that the questions and answers weren’t researched very well) it did include a hooded Charlie Brooker as ‘the Pundit’, offering advice and information, so that must have been at least one redeeming feature.
When 2001 rolled around, Trev and Simon embarked on a new live show, the first in three years for them. It was called ‘Trevor and Simon’s Circus of Evil’ and had them looking at some of the most unpleasant people in history. The media were less than complimentary about it, but the pair’s true audience, i.e. the children who had grown up with them, were far more enthusiastic about it.
Since then, Trev and Simon have popped up all over the place including Glastonbury (Trevor was with his band) in 2005, various appearances on such televisual beacons as Big Brother’s spin off shows, Celebrity Juice and Pointless as well as a couple of radio slots. They spent time writing scripts for a few children’s programmes (My Parents Are Aliens, Doodle Do and Dani’s House) and their website includes podcasts that they have produced since 2009.
Trev and Simon may not rule the comedy roost on Saturday morning television anymore but their legacy is strong; across the UK is spread a generation of ‘grown-ups’ who still like to occasionally swing their pants and will automatically respond ‘We don’t doooo duvets!’ to any conversation featuring talk of togs.