While coulrophobia can mean the fear of clowns, (I'm not using it in that context at this juncture, something else already wields that particular power over me) it also extends to the less specific and more varied fear of covering one's face in paint. Which thanks to the utterly bizarre, nightmarish creation of Papa Lazarou from the brilliantly mad BBC comedy / horror hybrid The League of Gentlemen, I now can attest to possessing. Created by the British comedy troupe consisting of Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (and played with relish by the latter) of the same name, Papa Lazarou's appearances on the serial have been fleeting (even he is freaked out by the grotesque residents of Royston Vasey,indicating how strange every other character on this show is), but irregardless of his limited screen time he has unquestionably left an indelible mark on this particular viewer. Ringleader of the traveling "Pandemonium Carnival" and typically flanked by his three dwarf acolytes (Simba Brown, Pebble Reynolds and Tik-Tikk Bins, shudder), otherworldly Lazarou possesses "amazing psychic powers" (demonstrating this by contacting the recently deceased as part of his circus act), speaks fluent gibberish, sells pegs, calls everybody "Dave" (men and women alike) and breaks into homes to steal not only your taps, but your wife. And not in a wooing sort of way either, literally dragging the kicking, screaming women out of their houses and into the dark to be enslaved in his ever growing harem (his appearance in The League of Gentlemen Christmas episode, dressed as Santa and riding a sleigh is particularly blood-chilling).
Honestly, there is only one other soul in all of the world that I believe could have conceived Papa Larazou, and that is none other than David Lynch himself. Hell, what with the freakish Lazarou disquietingly springing up in that most normal of settings, your living room, he certainly seems like some monstrous being that Lynch would have materialize against an everyday, picturesque backdrop. You half expect to find him beckoning his victims into his dark embrace from behind a radiator (oh sweet Christ, why did I picture that). Add to this that he is accompanied by a studio laugh track (lending yet another layer of surrealism to the proceedings) and we are left with, what is to my mind, one of the most splendidly disturbing personalities to ever grace the small screen. Hats off guys, to effectively making my skin crawl with what is essentially, a sketch comedy (however, darkly and horrifically conceived). I'll try to remember to laugh while I am chewing my nails to the quick and anticipating a knock on my door in the dead of night.
"People are always banging on about how dark it is and we always say, 'Oh, come on…'. And then we watch it again and sometimes I’m quite taken aback by all that’s going on. The thing that I always think is really something is...that flashback with the screaming child... Papa Lazarou kidnapping Bernice’s mother in the Christmas Special. That’s absolutely terrifying...absolutely ghastly" - Mark Gatiss