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Saturday 18 January 2014 The Guardian

Uncle’s Nick Helm on the cult of the manchild

Six years ago I was an unemployable, shambling train wreck who got laughed out of recruitment agencies.
If I hadn’t got into stand-up, I probably would have ended up like Andy, the thirtysomething slacker I play in Uncle.

Andy is a manchild: he has no responsibilities and spends most of his time stoned, playing computer games in his pants. He lives for the day when he will land his dream job as the lead singer in a band. One day, though, his sister needs him to look after his nephew, Errol. Andy only ever sees the world from his own point of view. He thinks, “I’ve got to look after this kid and that gets in the way of my plans”, even though his plans are ultimately to kill himself. The fact that this character remains likable, by the way, is a massive accomplishment on my behalf.

When I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up. But now that I’m here, I’m in a society that indulges irresponsible, binge-drinking sex-pests. And I fit right in. When you’re a 35-year-old with the apartment and outlook of Tom Hanks in Big, without having made the wish in order to get there, you’re a manchild. The cult endures because people think they can delay growing up for as long as possible. In fact, the manchild has become even more childlike in recent years. Men Behaving Badly didn’t behave that badly, really; they still held down jobs, they just had a slightly dirty flat. It was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who took it to the next level. From Spaced to The World’s End, between them they have portrayed every aspect of manchildhood. If it weren’t for zombies, serial killers and alien invasions demanding their attention, they’d still be sitting on the sofa playing on their PlayStations.

Chandler from Friends had the same job in his 30s that he had in his 20s, while Joey pursued his dreams at the expense of his self-respect. They spent all their time playing foosball, sitting on their matching armchairs watching Yasmine Bleeth in Baywatch and failing to get their adult life in gear. But who wouldn’t want a foosball table next to their fridge in their massive flat, and identical La-Z-Boys with kick-out footrests? They were living the fucking dream, until Monica came along and ruined everything.

Like the manchildren before him, Andy is his own worst enemy. He has the blind faith that one day, someday soon, he’s going to get his break and he’ll pursue that dream until it kills him. Or he has to get a proper job. Which deep down he denies that he’ll ever have to. Andy doesn’t realise that he’s getting redemption through his nephew. It’s a heart-warming saga of the importance of friendship. Hopefully he won’t learn too much, though, otherwise there’ll be no second series and I’ll have to get a proper job.