Lived: 1965 – 1998
God Type: Grotesque Execution
In One Line
Alf Garnett is a dead bigot, a character that is still present, just cleverer, still a great creation, a monster that only lived because of Johnny Speight and Warren Mitchell.
What Alf Is…
“Alf Garnett” was the sad reflection of the outright and unapologetic bigot. Now we have comedy that rarely touches on subjects that polarises opinion.
The comedy came from how lame bigotry really is and everyone in his orbit constantly outdid ‘poor’ Alf.
Warren Mitchell became Alf and because of his performance and the argot ear of the writer Johnny Speight a hero was created. Yes the team working on the show knew what they were lampooning but bigots being bigots held ‘him’ in high regard.
“Jesus was English”
Outrageous comments like this shocked and made you laugh. Because this is how the golf club small Englander thinks in his world of house equity and asylum seekers. They are afraid.
Alf had it in for everyone. He was quite bright but not bright enough to succeed in his ridiculous intent, a bit like all that are extreme, you may have a point and you should be able to express it but it’s not my reality.
The Reaction against Reaction
‘Till Death do us Part’ was slated by some critics for bringing such a character into the mainstream. Why? Well critics have their uses (as paper weights, draft-excluders, ship’s anchors) but they miss the point as comedy like this affects everyone and brings the snide racialist intent of bigots into the light where it can be challenged.
Till Death do us Part
The poor ‘cow’ of a wife and the ‘Scouse git’ did get the better of him on almost every occasion. The title of Alf’s first show does mock marriage. The utter dependence on the marriage vow to keep and control the population that made misery and mockery of the human spirit was always at the heart of the show.
Where did Alf fall down?
He didn’t. Alf was the complete comedy character. There was the extreme views ripe for ridicule, the inept attitudes to wife and family and the prejeduce of the idiot who understands little.
Was Alf a ‘failure’ of the education system? That is true. Education eradicates prejudice.
Want to be a Comedy Writer?
Then find some passion. Create characters first then situations. Explore something different from the average ‘My Family’ team written ‘Terry and June’ dullness of middle BBC management.
Top Alf Comedy Moments and Clips
Watch the ‘Jesus was English’ Alf Garnett Christmas clip on YouTube.
If you buy one DVD go for the Death Do Us Part Christmas Specials first, to get a flavour.
Read the screenonline profile for more information on Johnny Speight.
See you Alf.
Jim Kinloch 2010