Having It Off was Spitting Image’s answer to The Lover’s Guide, released in 1993. Unusually for the show, it mixes human and puppet sketches. Try and guess which are which. They are all themed around different aspects of sex, in what I assume to be a parody of the original. Yes, I said ‘assume’. Stop sniggering. ‘Having It Off’ is worth watching, but is somewhat inconsistent, with several well-intentioned but over-long sketches dragging the generally good shorter ones down. However, as it was created to be a reaction to the infamous advisory video, I imagine that the writers didn’t have much time to bang it out. Ahem. Thank you, John Hoare.
Anyway, it kicks off well, with a nasty synthetic theme punctuated with groans and illustrated with footage of animals shagging. The first section, ‘Attraction’ is introduced by Professor Percy, who cheerfully tells you the limited extent of his qualifications, and that he’s there because they couldn’t get anyone good. He then proceeds to point out and torment the viewer, who is trying to fast forward to the shagging. After showing him a brief rude bit, he declares the video to be over, and the viewer then storms out of the room. Percy turns to us and says “Well, that’s got rid of that wanker. Now, let’s have some fun, shall we?”.
The fun in question is an Adam and Eve sketch, in which God enquires whether the pair have had sex (ahem), to which Adam replies “Well, I have, but she keeps wanting to join in.”. God then encourages them to ‘get it on’, interrupted by his car alarm and the telephone. Eve ruins the moment by yelling “Malcolm!” at climax. Adam is so upset by this that God decides to introduce him to Clint…
Moving on swiftly, we come to the second section, headed by a ‘Seduction’ sketch by Jo Brand. Sadly, she decides to give us a half-arsed Jongulers routine, instead of something funny. It lasts six minutes, but feels like half an hour. This is one of the reasons the video is a bit patchy, which is a great shame. Jo CAN do better, as her recent repeated performance on Room 101 showed. But! There is a decent sketch by Mary Whitehouse about losing your virginity afterwards, so fast forwarding through Jo is worth the effort.
It’s also worth it for the four three-minute ‘Sexual Etiquette’ inserts by Robert Llewellyn, who, as you might imagine, is excellent. The first one instructs men on how to disrobe for sex without making their partner feel ill, and gives Rob the opportunity to show off what is, frankly, an magnificent arse. Well, it was in 1993, anyway. We are then treated to what is possibly the strongest section of the video (detailed below), before we leap, drooling, onto another gem; the second Sexual Etiquette insert, this time about oral sex. The sight of Rob simulating cunnilingus on a puppet is not one you’re likely to forget in a hurry. The third Sexual Etiquette insert, about facial expressions men pull during orgasm, is the reward for sitting through a rather mediocre bunch of sketches. It’s the only sketch that had me laughing hysterically the second time round, which is quite impressive by any standards. The last Sexual Etiquette insert covers the correct post sex behaviour. We get to see Rob messing about with condoms and a full frontal shot of him with a used condom hanging off his willy. Horray! Rob was an inspired choice for these sketches, as he has a suitably stretchy face, absolutely no inhibitions, and a suspiciously accurate feel for the mistakes some men make when getting their oats. As the guest stars are credited as writers, I am assuming all their sketches were self-penned.
The first ‘Sexual Etiquette’ is followed by a sketch for ‘The Lover’s Guide for Dogs’, starring a royal Corgi. There’s all the usual jokes, but the sketch is none the worse for it, as it’s still rather amusing. From here we move onto ‘Foreplay’, and we’re back with Percy, who is being filmed sideways. We soon find out why, as he is dragged off with his penis stuck in a car exhaust.
There’s then a few middling sketches, including one about the Pope trying not to have a wank by conducting confession on himself, before we come onto possibly the best sketch, ‘Masturbator’, a parody of Masterchef. It’s an obvious joke, but who couldn’t find the sight of a wanking competition between Jeffery Archer, Michael Winner and Nigel Kennedy amusing?
The middle of the video is obviously where most of the good stuff has been stashed, because here comes a rather good Royal sketch, with the premise of the Queen Mum using contraception to avoid having any more crap grandchildren.
Another ‘quite good’ bit is ‘Sex With Claire Rayner’; after a viewer protests, the caption is changed to ‘introduced by’. She gets excited by other people’s sexual problems, with John Major calling about his premature ejaculation. A couple of other sketches are based around John’s eagerness to get to the closing credits before introducing the main feature, which make bizarre viewing now we all know he was nobbing Edwina Currie throughout the late Eighties. I can’t imagine she’d stand for an early bath, do you?
There are a couple of other longer sketches, one with a suburban couple talking about their fetishist lifestyle, which is pleasant, but over-long (the sketch, that is), and ‘In the Kitchen with Mark Thomas’. Mark gets to be dirty, something at which he excels, but goes on a bit, in fact for almost 10 mins, but it does pass a great deal more quickly than Jo’s effort.
You get the distinct feeling that the writers used this video to get away with material that ‘Spitting Image’ would never have been permitted to broadcast. As well as a frustrated Pope, there are oodles of Royal jokes, a frankly disturbing David Coleman in ‘Question of Watersports’, a sketch about Falkland Islanders fucking sheep and a excuse for lots of porn jokes in ‘Porno Film ’94’. However, Having It Off isn’t simply an excuse to use lots of jokes that would have been rejected for the television show, as a pleasing short is based around David Attenborough looking for the clitoris, with a couple of Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman quickies proving conclusively that the strength of the video comes from its many short sketches. All the longer sketches in this video, although all nicely inspired, tend to run out of steam after the first few minutes. Rather like the subject matter itself, then.