If The League of Gentlemen had been born a person, rather than a sketch show, it would be a college graduate by now. You may remember the rumors last year that The League of Gentlemen would return for its twentieth anniversary, but while a return of the show someday isn’t out of the question, co-creator Reece Shearsmith put the kibosh on the anniversary rumor.
But what is The League of Gentlemen?
Many British sitcoms and sketch shows begin at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and so too The League of Gentleman began as a stage show and took home the Perrier in 1997. It was a four-man dark comedy sketch show from the twisted minds of Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, and Steve Pemberton.
Following the live show was a one-season radio sketch show called On the Town with the League of Gentlemen, which is a sketch show of reoccurring characters–like a veterinarian who keeps accidentally killing the animals or a man who leaves constant phone messages for a woman who is apparently big and good and a woman–in a town in the north of England called Spent. You can get this audio collection in digital on Audible.com.
1999 to 2002 saw a three-season television series, which is available as a boxed set on DVD in region 1/NTSC (Amazon, under $50).
In 2001, they recorded a live show called The League of Gentleman Live at Drury Lane. In 2005, their feature film The League of Gentleman’s Apocalypse was in cinemas. In 2006, they toured a live show called The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You. There is a three-disc DVD boxed set in region 2/PAL (you’ll need a British or region-free DVD player) called “Box of Delights” that contains both of these live shows and the film.
Opposite to the show’s namesake (Basil Dearden’s 1960 film), which was said to be the last of the sophisticated British comedies of its era, The League of Gentleman sketch show was said to be the first of the rejuvenation of British sketch comedy of its era, which carved out the path of uber-successful shows like Little Britain.
We may not be getting a League reunion any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still see the likes of Gatiss, Shearsmith, and Pemberton. They’ve all been extremely busy–Gatiss with Sherlock and Shearsmith & Pemberton with Inside No. 9. The three actors have also all at some point been involved with Doctor Who.
Just this past season you’ve seen Shearsmith’s appearance on Doctor Who as sleep technician Rassmussen in the scariest episode of season 9, Sleep No More, penned by fellow Gentleman Mark Gatiss. (Of course, to me, Reece Shearsmith will always be “Dexter from Spaced.” Sorry, Reece.)
Not only did Gatiss write Sleep No More, but also the historical celebrity episodes The Unquiet Dead and Robot of Sherwood, the Sherlock-esque Crimson Horror, one of my favorite spooky stories Night Terrors, as well as The Idiot’s Lantern, Victory of the Daleks, and Cold War.
Gatiss appeared as an actor heavily in makeup in The Wedding of River Song as the chess-playing alien Viking Gantok and as Dr. Lazarus in The Lazarus Experiment.
In one of Steven Moffat’s early episodes, and really one of the scariest episodes of Doctor Who there is, Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead, Steve Pemberton plays Strackman Lux, the expedition leader and descendant of the library-planet’s builder.