Paul and Barry Chuckle were the most subversive double-act on children’s television. They looked like no-one on the box, with their dodgy ‘taches and the ’80s haircuts they maintained for more than decades – and sounded like they worked as odd job men on a caravan site somewhere near their native Rotherham. Yet their beloved show Chucklevision ran from 1987 to 2009, spanning 292 episodes in which they invariably endured a slapstick disaster with a pair of ladders, had a run-in with their boss and batted their catchphrase back-and-forth: To me! To you!”
Barry Chuckle, aka 73-year-old Barry Elliot, sadly died this weekend. A new show, Chuckle Time, broadcast on Channel 5, had introduced a new generation of young fans to the Chuckle Brothers’ brand of innocent, knockabout humour. Yet this wasn’t the first time Paul and Barry found a new audience (or the first time news of his death broke on social media – rumours circulated in 2008 and 2010, leading Paul to contend: “If it’s on the internet people think it’s gospel”).
Who remembers ‘To Me, To You (Bruv)’, the novelty rap single that they released with Tinchy Stryder in 2014? You know, it went like… Well, OK, it didn’t really go like anything, given that the track didn’t have much of a tune, despite having two sort-of choruses (“Oh dear – oh dear, oh dear and “To me, to you / To me, to you then”). This is no criticism – on the contrary. To Me, To You (Bruv)’ is a joyful blast of nostalgic pop brilliance, full out laugh-out-loud lines and palpable fondness from Tinchy, who was inspired to write it because, as a child, he used to rush home from school to catch the start of Chucklevision. Anyone born in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s can surely relate.
The unlikely alliance formed on the set of Celebrity Juice, comic character Keith Lemon’s cheap and cheerful quiz show. According to their manager Phil Dale, they “got on like a house on fire”. The collaboration came about, said Dale, from “the very fact that they were having fun with Tinchy, and he was having fun with them.” He added: “They still contact each other all the time.”
The song’s video, which boasts cameos from Jamal Edwards and Dirty Danger, has racked up more than three million YouTube views to date. And no wonder: it’s a bizarre cultural curio that, at one point, sees Barry break character as he corpses when he delivers his attempt at a rap: “Hippity-hop, bibble-be-boop-boop!” Well, he’s still a better rapper than Post Malone. The final minute depicts the Chuckle Brothers playing ping-pong in a garage for no reason whatsoever.
After the viral online success of ‘To Me To You (Bruv)’, Paul and Barry – in need of a comeback in the wake of Chucklevision’s cancellation (despite the fact that 200,00 fans signed a petition to revive the show) – were invited to guest star in the bawdy ITV comedy Benidorm and later began work on Chuckle Time. Even more than a novelty single for a good cause (the proceeds were donated to the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust), the track was a reminder of the Chuckle Brothers’ timeless appeal and subversive, anything-goes sensibility.