When I was a somewhat sheltered teenager in the mid-90s, one of the most subversive things I could find to do was to watch Shooting Stars. To my parents (devoted fans of the Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and their ilk), the chaotic and “alternative” nature of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s comedy style, coupled with celebrity guests that hadn’t come close to their pre-Millennium sphere of consciousness (the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Johnny Vegas and Sara Cox), meant that it was as alien to them as enjoying an OASIS single.

I, however, loved it – and not just because my parents didn’t get it. I loved the air of unpredictability, the new comedy boundaries they were pushing, and the feeling that this was programming for fans who wanted a new type of entertainment. And I really loved Georgie Dawes – played by 21-year-old Matt Lucas, just starting out in TV, the character who kept the scores, and for some reason played the drums and dressed in a onesie. I won’t pretend that I understood all of it, but I did find it hilarious – even if I didn’t know why.

There was often a round in the quiz called “George’s Song”, and this was where Matt got to show off his emerging vocal talents (which are extensive nowadays, and he’s showcased in Les Miserables, among other things). One of the songs he performed was Thank You, Baked Potato. (If you’ve never experienced it, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPsY_nhTtxg) As you will see, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but there is something irrestibly humorous about a baked potato handing out life advice, along with a very catchy melody; and Matt giving in to giggles at one point only adds to the hilarity.

But what has this got to do with the NHS? Well, last week Matt wrote some new lyrics for Baked Potato; sound advice in light of the COVID-19 health guidance, with wise words such as “Wash your hands, stay indoors, thank you Baked Potato. Only go to grocery stores, thank you Baked Potato”. This cover version’s popularity on Twitter has been such that it’s being released as a single for download, today – and the preorder sales mean that’s it’s already sold thousands. And all of the money raised will be going to the new charity he’s launched with Damien Lewis and Helen McCrory: Feed NHS, which delivers hot food to NHS workers. The amount raised in JustGiving donations alone – before the song has even been released – is a staggering £500k.

I love everything about this – so many people have come together to raise money for this charity (that frankly, we shouldn’t never be needed in the first place), and the architect of it all is a man whose comedy has delighted me since he first brought us Baked Potato, nearly 25 years ago.

I still don’t fully understand why a Baked Potato is issuing this advice, but I am delighted to follow it, and support Matt, his friends and this incredible charity. Thank you, Matt Lucas – and thank you, Baked Potato.

Stay safe and well, everyone – and enjoy: https://slinky.to/ThankYouBakedPotato

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