Belatedly, I’ve come to Athletico Mince: Bob Mortimer at his staggering best. It began as a football podcast in March 2016 (told you I was slow) and has been dropping regularly ever since, becoming broader and more anecdotal in scope. Sometimes Bob tells tales about real footballers, that may or may not have anything to do with the actual person or their life; he just makes up personalities and voices for people and creates a fantastic little story. Sometimes he sings songs (“Mr Fiesta. Face like the outskirts of Leicester”). Or conducts a “Crimefiles” interview with, say, a potter (himself) reluctantly complying with the shrinkage of clay on a military commode. He always finds incredibly Mortimerish ways of describing things, such as (memorably) the colour dark blue. “Like a family man.” Yes. Perfect.
TalkSport’s Andy Dawson joins him in his studio, a dry but generous sidekick who doesn’t ever try to be Rob Brydon (ie he fully understands when to shut up). The sainted Vic Reeves may well be a clown of conceptual genius, but Mortimer always had a slightly more brilliant brain. In the way that John is (probably) better than Paul (though they are generally best together). But every single episode of this says, “Welcome to the joy of a beautiful mind, just chucking stuff away on a podcast.” Peter Cook would throw it away every night in a pub, or ringing up radio stations in the small hours. Now, brilliant comics make podcasts. (Or stick things on Twitch, like Limmy does – the second funniest man in the UK and very probably the best actor too, making up techno tracks live in Glasgow).
The thing about Mortimer is this: his jokes never really come to a terminus. You know he could keep things spinning for ever. Each song, each character, each memory. Like the time he went to see Millwall play, and bought a corned-beef toastie, and was floored by nostalgia when it burned the roof of his mouth, making him think of Proust “and his biscuit”. You know he could keep such thoughts waltzing, on and on, because Bob Mortimer’s sense of humour is an endless thing. It’s Britain’s loveliest, babbling stream.
This article appears in the 16 Oct 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Syria’s forever war