Back Up Top
Life Before Le Strange
Success or failure?
2002-2007 (and beyond)
A much better world
2007-the present
Gary Le Strange - the man who stole my identity and forgot to give it back
Where I sealed my fate
Oxford (1990-1993)
Early Years (1971-1985)
Comedy by a Kid
Look at My Dad - my first ever comic poem. But is it actually funny or just bloody weird?
"Chaff My Willy" - a Shepherd forgery of the Townend-Jones original




At some unspecified point in 1984, I made a tape recording of a few Prince tracks for my parents' music-loving friend Wayne Townend. Unfortunately, I used a tape that I'd previously used to record myself doing a home-made Doctor Who adventure, and forgotten to erase the rest of it. So when Wayne carried on listening after the music stopped, he discovered this previously hidden embarrassing side to me and found it so incredibly funny, he had to play it to his son. That son, whose name was Elton Townend (now more widely known as Elton Townend Jones), had been estranged from his father since the age of three but was slowly getting to know him again over time. He was a couple of years older than me so he probably found the tapes hilarious as well - but he had a secret too: he also made his own home-made tapes. From that point on, Elton was determined to meet me, so Wayne brought him over to our house one day, but sadly it was a Saturday and I was in Castleford visiting my Gran, so I missed him.


Then one day in 1985 - February 16th to be precise - a blonde boy turned up at my door, wondering if I was up for spending some time together. It turned out to be Elton and, over the course of the next few years, we became the best of friends. And, because the home-made tape had been our mutual hobby, it wasn't long before we started making tapes together. At first we made Doctor Who parodies, then our own comedy sketches, and before long we had started recording our own conversations, trips to Leeds, making audio documentaries of parties, writing our own lyrics over other people's songs and all kinds of arty nonsense. In short, we were obsessed with documenting everything we did, and using the tape recorder medium to record our lives - both inner and outer - in ways that will excite, embarrass, bore and startle. And we didn't just make tapes - we also wrote scripts, drew pictures, made our own books and defaced other people's. And none of it has ever appeared on the internet, until now.


At first, we called ourselves Situation: Hopeless, then The Barnsley Theatre Company, The Situation Theatre Company and finally, just The Situation. Though the bulk of our activity took place in our teenage years, we carried on making occasional tapes as young adults, simply because we enjoyed it so much. Between 1985 and 1997 (or 2001 if you're counting the Townend Jones way) we made over 270 tapes (or   Not all of them were great. You could even say that not much of it was even listenable to in any way at all. Or you might say that it was an utterly unique insight into the creative minds of two teenage boys in the 1980s and 1990s, who committed their spectacular friendship to tape in a way that no one had ever done before, as they discovered - through spectacular failures and incredible triumphs - how to become the professional artists they were determined, eventually, to become.


This section hasn't been written yet. But if any of the above interests you, here's a small example of what you're likely to come across when it has...

CHAFF MY WILLY - the back page of a pretend newsletter, made by me in May 1987 (when I was 15 and Elton was approaching 17) for our fans (of which there were only two - me and Elton), depicting the front cover of our latest cassette (available in a limited edition of only one copy, for sale to no one and listened to no one but ourselves). Since the original cover had been drawn by Elton, it is in fact his artwork. He was a bloody good artist - something he has sadly forgotten over the years - and this was a great example of the kind of surreal, sexualised nonsense we both became obsessed with at the time. I liked it so much, in fact, that I slavishly copied it, about four times larger, for the back of the newsletter. I don't recall either of us ever doing anything like that again, making this picture unique. It's me drawing his picture, and that sums The Situation up just as much as anything.


The title of course, is idiosyncratic nonsense. Like most teenagers, we were obsessed with mangling the English language and bending it to our will, so that no one could understand what we said but us. "Chaff" is a posh mispronunciation of "chuff", which in itself is a euphemism for the word "fuck" - so "Chaff Me" is the medievally-armoured dunce skeleton's way of saying "Fuck me!" Now, whether he means it in the same way as he might say "Blimey!" or "Heavens!!" or whether he is genuinely asking you (or the confused-looking pig) to have sex with him, is totally ambiguous.


Elton, who came up with the title (but says he pilfered it from one of us saying it on a previous tape, though he doesn't remember whether it was him, me or our mate Sten), suggests there may be another meaning, a mispronunciation of "chafe" - which is quite likely, since we were very much into the idea of conjuring up painful or grotesque imagery through the use of words - the more painful or horrific the better.


But the phrase isn't just "Chaff me" - it's "Chaff me - CHAFF MY WILLY". Just like "Love me, love my dog". So if the pig is going to fuck him, he's going to have to fuck his willy as well (the 'chafe' interpretation works even better. Then again, if "Chaff me" really does mean "Fuck me" in the "Blimey" sense, then "Chaff my willy" is probably more like "Heavens to Betsy!" or "Fuck me backwards!" I have to confess I've always assumed the latter, even though I've never thought about it till now, and the more I think about it, the former is more appealing as a totally apt description of what I'm asking you to do by uploading this previously 'private' stuff to the public realm. In order to accept me, you must also accept that I was once someone else. Someone who would re-draw the artwork from the cover of a tape called "Chaff My Willy" on the back page of a newsletter that he made for himself.


Good God! I really am insane. Thank God I found someone else who was just as mad as me...



Gary Le Strange relaxing in the Comedy Store
"Avoid at all costs" - Emily Young, The Scotsman
You can really tell this guy really wants to spend his whole life telling jokes - it just oozes out of him
Me lying on the surprisingly clean paving stones of the Comedy Carpet in Blackpool, having found "my" name on it right next to that bloke from Dad's Army - God, my Gran would have been proud