“Assaulted Nuts”: The short-lived British/US sketch comedy series highlighted a classic Comedy Cuts in 1987

By on July 27, 2016

On March 20, 1987, “Night Flight” presented one of our classic Comedy Cuts segments, offering up a sampling of the short-livedAssaulted Nuts,” which was described as a British comedy sketch show although it was actually a co-production between the U.S.-based Cinemax premium cable channel and the UK’s Channel 4. Watch it now on Night Flight Plus.

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When we say “Assaulted Nuts” was short-lived, we mean exactly that: only seven episodes of the 30-minute show aired on Cinemax between January 17 – February 28, 1985, before the show was cancelled by Cinemax.

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In the U.K., where the show was taped, “Assaulted Nuts” was given the late night 11:15 time slot on Channel 4 on Thursday nights, which was not exactly prime time viewing, but it managed to air for two seasons before the plug was pulled.

Despite the fact that the quality of the sketch writing was above average (presented as a series of short fast-paced farcical sketches), “Assaulted Nuts” made little impact among the viewers in either country, apparently, and today it is mainly memorable for featuring comedic actors who went on to much bigger things.

Three American performers — Wayne Knight, Elaine Hausman and Bill Sadler, each of them rising stars in the comedy world — were paired up with four familiar British comic actors — Cleo Rocos, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Daniel Peacock and Barry Cryer — simply because the producers and writers wanted to see if sketches that mixed examples of British and American humor would work in both countries.

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The sketches were written by a staff of writers that included the show’s main producer/director, Ray Cameron, and one of the actors on the show, Barry Cryer, among others.

Cameron had previously written for British comedian Kenny Everett for several of his TV shows, including “The Kenny Everett Video Show” (the number one comedy series ran for eight years) and had also co-written and directed Everett’s only feature film, Bloodbath at the House of Death.

(Cameron, by the way, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in his Hollywood apartment block, at the age of 57, in 1993).

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Wayne Knight — who in just a few years become famous as one of Jerry Seinfeld’s neighbors, the mailman “Newman,” part of the regular cast on NBC’s popular “Seinfeld” sitcom — had been struggling to find work as an actor when he was encouraged to audition to become part of the American cast in New York City.

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Knight had become interested in acting and doing comedy while growing up in Cartersville, Georgia, performing so well in his high school honors classes that he was selected for the Georgia Governor’s Honors program, while allowed him to take college courses during a six-week period at the University of Georgia (some of his professors there included then-future president Jimmy Carter and future head of the NAACP, Julian Bond).

Knight left college just one credit shy of completing his degree to pursue his acting career, moving to New York, but had to work as both a fruitcake salesman (!) and a private investigator while appearing in small film roles in the late 70s and early 80s.

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Also featured occasionally in sketches airing on the short-lived “Assaulted Nuts” was an up-and-coming British comic actress named Emma Thompson (see above with Wayne Knight, left), who wasn’t able to become a series regular due to prior commitments (her role on the show was filled by Brooke-Taylor).

His career would soon take off after landing the part on “Assaulted Nuts” which took him overseas to London, but today is he is recognizable from not only “Seinfeld”, and “3rd Rock from the Sun”, but from appearances on Broadway and in major feature movies like Jurassic Park, Basic Instinct, Toy Story 2 and, well, dozens and dozens more.

He also was a member of another nearly-forgotten short-lived sketch comedy series, Fox Television’s “The Edge”, which lasted just one season, 1992-1993 (19 episodes) and also featured Jennifer Aniston (later of “Friends” fame) in the series cast.

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Bill Sadler (sometimes credited as William) has also had a long career, and has had memorable early roles he had in films like Die Hard 2, The Shawshank Redemption and for his role as the Grim Reaper/Death in the 1991 comedy film Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, a part that he actually originated in a sketch on “Assaulted Nuts,” which of course was a kind of tribute/homage/parody to the personification of Death in Ingmar Berman’s The Seventh Seal.

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In fact, for his Bogus Journey Grim Reaper, aka “Death,” Sadler wore the same exact same costume that he’d worn in the sketch comedy series; the film role would earn him a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.

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Over on the British side of the cast, Tim Brooke-Taylor is best known for his longtime role on the comedy series “The Goodies,” working with his old Cambridge University pals John Cleese and Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame, who along with Eric Idle were all members (with Brooke-Taylor) of the school’s student-run Footlights club, more formerly known as the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club.

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Cleo Rocos, meanwhile, had co-starred on BBC-1’s “The Kenny Everett Show” and had also appeared alongside Everett in BBC1 science quiz series “Brainstorm,” playing a white-coated lab assistant.

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Daniel Peacock, another member of the British cast, didn’t write sketches for “Assaulted Nuts,” but he did have a long career both a writer and an actor, appearing on The Young Ones.”

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.