Brian Cant


As a point of comparison to American readers, I’d say that Cant was something akin to Mr. Rogers in terms of importance to younger viewers. But whereas, to this foreigner, Rogers comes across as the classic American staid gentleman next door, Cant and the Playaway/Play School set gave the impression that they spent their evenings debating Marxist tracts in their omnisexual polyamorous commune.1 They were firmly pitched in the ‘now’…even if that ‘now’ seems a lost time and place for us, particularly in the light of recent events.

The other thing about Cant is that he was always there. We grew up with him on Playaway and Play School, but even after going to school, you’d see him somewhere when you were off sick and watching the schools programmes. Or when he was doing a rotation on Jackanory. Or during the Summer when repeats of Camberwick Green or Trumpton would fill in time on But First This… And then even later at university in the late 90s, where he did The Organ Gang shorts for This Morning With Richard Not Judy. A reassuring twinkling smile when you’re drinking a lemsip…with a hangover on a Sunday morning at the age of 28.2

You can’t claim that he was one of the Pythons, or up there with Spike Milligan, but he had that sparkle of safe anarchy that us British and children in general love:

You could never describe Cant as cool. And yet, a generation of us watched him whilst we were small and knew that’s what we wanted to be when we grew up. Even if we didn’t realize it until much later.

  1. Obviously, no harm to Fred Rogers, who was a legend on his own terms. [return]
  2. Aaahhhhh [return]