John Shuttleworth: With My Condiments

Originally published at The Skinny

I’m the chef from Sheffield. Gonna teach you how to eat. John Shuttleworth presenting a show about food admittedly sounded like a step too far, even to a fan. But within minutes, all cynicism was vanquished. With My Condiments turned out to be the pure brilliance we should have expected all along.

John Shuttleworth is played by character actor, Graham Fellows. His comedy roots go back to a 1978 record release under the alias ‘Jilted John’ and, even more interestingly, to the orbit of Frank Sidebottom’s Oh Blimey Big Band. Here at The Skinny we don’t like to use the expression ‘living legend’ lightly but it seems fitting to apply it to this Yamaha-brandishing Northerner.

The key to Graham Fellows’ brilliance lies in sincerity. Unlike Steve Coogan or Chris Morris, no attempt is made to deride his own character. Alan Partridge is framed as an idiot but John Shuttleworth is just a vulnerable dafty. Fellows’ loves John Shuttleworth for what he is – and so do we.

The food theme in the show is fairly tangential and as John points out, he’s not qualified to talk about it at all: his wife is a school dinnerlady but she’s mainly employed to anticipate scuffles in the queue. Instead, we enjoy a catalogue of new songs and the hallmark cod philosophies: “Some people say ‘tuna mayonnaise’ instead of ‘tuna mayo’ and that angers me”.

John’s audience seems to consist largely of bald men on their own. Some of them have furtively brought along their own interval snacks.

His best song used to be “We see Betty Turpin, only when she’s workin'” but in the new show he has twice surpassed himself with “I can’t go back to savoury now (I’m halfway through me puddin’)” and “Two margarines on the go (it’s a nightmare scenario)”. The two margarines situation is one that affects us all. Finally someone has had the courage to address this.

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