Inspired by Monthy Python, horror movies and various life experiences from living in the UK, The League of Gentlemen has to many marked a new era of televised comedy.
Formed in the early nineties, this comedic group has four principle components - Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. The four met while Messers Gatiss, Pemberton and Shearsmith were studying drama at Bretton College, Wakefield, and Jeremy Dyson at Leeds. Having similar interests, Mark and Jeremy wrote together, and it was Mark who introduced Jeremy to the rest of the group. And so a new era of comedy began.
Drawing inspiration from Monty Python, various horror films including The Wicker Man and the 1921 silent film Nosferatu (besides which, the team discovered that their like minds had been altered simultaneously and completely independently as they each watched Carry on Screaming on the Hallowe'en night of 1974) and their own life experiences, their work revolves around a small fictional town in the north of England known (almost interchangeably) as Spent or Royston Vasey - Spent appearing in their BBC radio show, On The Town with The League of Gentlemen (1997) and 'Vasey' in their television show (1999-present day).
In each case, the town is inhabited by around 60 peculiar characters - all played by Gatiss, Pemberton and Shearsmith, and based upon friends, relatives and acquaintances who struck them as being eccentric - the toad-keeping, germ-fearing Dentons are based on Jeremy's own Aunt and Uncle, and unsympathetic restart officer Pauline ('I know that some of you would like to follow in your fathers' footsteps, but you can't sign on forever...') on a woman Reece Shearsmith met while he himself was on the dole1. It is perhaps this basis on real life which lends their brand of dark comedy its air of familiarity, even upon a first viewing.
The successful first television series was followed by an even darker and yet more popular second in 2000. In the same year, they produced a popular book based upon the series (The Local Book for Local People) and a feature-length Christmas special. Not unaware of their substantial fan base, the Gentlemen went on tour in September 2000. Originally intended to be a three-month tour, it continued for over six months, incorporating a six-week run in the West End's2 Drury Lane theatre, where The Local Show For Local People was viewed by various fellow celebrities, including Phil Jupitus and Trigger Happy TV's Dom Joly.
Their television work continues ('There will not be a third series... but there will be a fourth' - Mark Gatiss) as well as their independent work. Meanwhile, they continue to support the hundreds of fans who have created their own League of Gentlemen websites, stating that they haven't made their own because their followers do such a good job of it.
Having won a BAFTA award (which was subsequently broken when dropped by Mr Gatiss while travelling on a bus) and a Perrier, and run for various television awards, their popularity endures in England and abroad - the tapes of the first series were stolen when it was screened in Poland, and was enjoyed by audiences in the US on the Paramount Comedy channel.