Funny place, London. So much so, in fact, that we decided to work out which bits were funniest.
Armed only with an internet connection, an A to Z, and our 1998 vintage Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy, we’ve tried to track down the approximate address of every London-based TV or radio comedy show we could come up with, and pinpoint them on a single map.
To do this, we’ve followed a couple of ground rules. Firstly, we’ve only included those we can accurately place, either to a specific named locale, or to a fictionalised version of one: where a show is simply set, generically, in London, we’ve left it off the map.
In the name of sanity we’ve also ignored those that seem to be set in several, mutually exclusive locations. Men Behaving Badly, for example, is definitely set in London. But sometimes it’s Ealing, other times it’s south of the river. For our purposes, then, it’s nowhere.
Oh, and just to pretty things up, we’ve colour colour-coded our pins by decade. Red pins are for those shows dating to before 1970; purple marks the seventies, blue is the eighties, green with dots is the nineties, and anything post-2000 is yellow.
View London sitcoms in a larger map
To find out what we learnt from our comedic odyssey, you can have a play with the map. For those who prefer to trade in crass generalisations, though, three of them follow.
1) London’s comedic geography has changed over the decades. Back in the seventies , a disproportionate share of the sitcoms took place in the Surrey suburbs. Over time, though, they seem to have moved both north and east.
2) Stereotypes are funny. The reason Surrey has been home to so many sitcoms is, basically, because there’s humour to be found in class and snobbery. Those based in Essex often work in the same way, but from a different perspective. Even the north western suburbs get a few comedies: after all, if you want a generic suburb, untained by specific connotations, where better than metroland?
Kent, though, isn’t funny: there's no stereotype to play with. Consequently, we could find no comedy any closer to the Garden of England than Lewisham or Penge.
3) Comedies cluster. Chiswick gets family sitcoms. Inner south London – Elephant, Peckham – the rough diamond, working class ones. Cricklewood gets a few too, for no reason we've been able to ascertain except that it has a funny name.
This map, we're sure, is not comprehensive: what have we missed and where is it set?
Anyway, if anyone needs us we'll be sniggering in a corner.