Bakken aan de Bar, by IJf Blokker

IJf Blokker is a Dutch comedian, TV host, singer and percussionist. In his home country he is best remembered as the comedic TV character Barend Servet who originated in a series of satirical but highly controversial shows created by Wim T. Schippers, Gied Jaspars, Ruud van Hemert and Wim van der Linden. At the height of their notoriety Blokker published various newspaper gag comics, like 'Bakken aan de Bar' (1978), 'Piraat Platzak' and 'Joep', for which his TV companion Harry Touw wrote the scripts. As simple as they may be they have a certain charm and remain interesting as curiosities.

Early life
IJf Blokker was born in 1930 in Den Helder. As a child he loved the comic strip 'Gijsje Goochem' (1930-1941, 1950-1953) by Jacobus Grosman. Yet originally he seemed more destined to become a musician. He studied percussion at the Muziekschool in Amsterdam and drummed in various Dutch and German classical orchestras. He shared his insights with other aspiring artists too. One of them was Jan Keizer, who later became the lead singer of the Dutch band BZN.

Bakken aan de Bar, by IJf Blokker

Wim T. Schippers
Blokker was still an unknown figure when he was contacted by Wim T. Schippers, a conceptual artist who gained notoriety with his TV show 'Hoepla!' (1967). 'Hoepla' was a variety program broadcast on the VPRO, which Schippers co-created with Willem de Ridder, Hans Verhagen and directors Gied Jaspars, Trino Flothuis and Wim van der Linden. Its format, however, was quite experimental. All segments were edited in a psychedelic manner, often set to music by Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Soft Machine. Counterculture and rock music were recurring topics. Musical performances were intercut with interviews, reports and plain weirdness. Older viewers were utterly confused, but youngsters loved it. 'Hoepla' became infamous as the first TV show to ever broadcast a nude woman: Phil Bloom. The scandal made international headlines. Countless viewers were outraged and several cancelled their subscription to the channel. But the next episode Bloom reappeared with even less on than before. A text appeared on screen, taunting viewers to "phone if they had any complaints." And they did. Questions were asked in the Dutch parliament and 'Hoepla' was instantly cancelled. Only three episodes had been broadcast.

Barend Servet
In 1971 Schippers wanted to make a new TV show for the same channel, with almost the same production team, adding directors Ellen Jens and Ruud van Hemert as newcomers. Titled 'De Fred Haché Show' (1971-1972) it was yet another variety show, this time hosted by Fred Haché (played by Harry Touw) and his assistant Barend Servet (played by IJf Blokker). Another memorable character, Sjef van Oekel (played by Dolf Brouwers) was introduced later. Barend Servet had various expressions which became catch phrases, such as "als het ware" ("as though"), "pollens" (a nonsensical curse word), "Ik word een peu nerveu" ("I'm getting a bit nervous") and "Verdomd interessant, maar gaat u verder" ("Damn fascinating, but please continue"). He also recorded a few musical singles voicing his character: 'Waar moet dat heen, hoe zal dat gaan?' (1973), 'Pollens, wat een heisa' (1973) and 'Hoe kan dat nou?' (1974). Barend Servet soon received his own spin-off show with 'De Barend Servet Show' (1972-1973), just like Sjef van Oekel with 'Van Oekel's Discohoek' (1974-1975).


IJf Blokker, as Barend Servet, was drawn by Theo van den Boogaard in his first comic strip starring Sjef van Oekel (1973)

Controversy
All these TV programs were built around the same concept. A seemingly dignified TV host presented various musical numbers, comedy acts and reports. All hosts were treated as if they were real-life people instead of actors, which confused quite some older viewers. Anyone who unknowingly tuned in would think it was just a normal variety show. Yet there was always some controversial staged incident. Fred Haché, Barend Servet or Sjef van Oekel occasionally panicked or got mad over the mayhem. Characters used vulgar curse words, something never heard on radio or TV before at the time. Another first on Dutch television were dog turds, used as a source of comedy in the program. Van Oekel, who often yelled that he "started to feel sick" once threw up in a bicycle bag. Another controversial episode showed a man appearing in costume, but without pants, offering viewers a look at his genitals. Religious viewers were offended by an episode in which God was interviewed about mankind. But the most talked about emission was broadcast on 14 December 1972, when Barend Servet interviewed an actress who was dressed as Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. The monarch was portrayed cleaning Brussels sprouts "since ordinary people do this too and I like it as well." Nevertheless she just wasted the food afterwards. The "not-quite-Juliana" then ordered alcohol and sent Servet away when he asked her "which side she would be on once a republic was declared?" Once again many VPRO members cancelled their subscriptions and questions were asked in parliament. Blokker became victim of many angry phone calls, one of which was a bomb threat. Minister of Culture Piet Engels nearly took away airtime from the VPRO for broadcasting this lesé-majesté, but in the end they got away with just an official reprimand.

All these programs shook up Dutch society and were hot topics in Flanders too. Many viewers were outraged that such shocking filth was allowed on public television. Naturally both the shows and characters easily acquired cult status, particularly among young people. They are still legendary broadcasts half a century later, though somewhat dated. But their historical impact cannot be underestimated. They pushed the boundaries of what was possible and acceptable on television. The VPRO established an indestructable reputation for broadcasting the most experimental and subversive TV shows. Dutch television in general gained global notoriety for broadcasting stuff that other countries wouldn't dare to show uncensored. Today the Netherlands are still associated with controversial TV shows, often of the obscene kind. Like any stereotype this is, of course, a matter of perception. The legacy of Schippers' shows is equally mixed. It paved the way for outrageous and occasionally genius comedians like Youp Van 't Hek, Paul de Leeuw, Arjan Ederveen & Tosca Niterink, Bart De Graaff, Hans Teeuwen and Theo Maassen. But it also inspired more low-brow shows thriving on shock and/or lack of ethics.

Piraat Platzac, by IJf Blokker

Bakken aan de bar
Back in the 1970s Schippers' TV shows came with a notable merchandise of musical singles, books and... comics. In 1976 Schippers teamed up with Theo van den Boogaard to create a celebrity comic based on Sjef van Oekel. Harry Touw and IJf Blokker created a comic strip too: 'Bakken aan de Bar' (1978), which was published in De Nieuwe Revu. It was a gag-a-day comic where Touw wrote and Blokker provided the drawings. Contrary to the 'Sjef van Oekel' comic, 'Bakken aan de Bar' didn't star themselves. It was a more generic comic strip about random characters and corny verbal jokes. The drawings were quite rudimentary and it was clear that Blokker drew more for the fun of it, than spending attention to the artwork. An oblong book collection was published by Strengholt Televideo BV in Naarden in 1978, followed by three pocket books by Ger van Wulften's Espee in 1983-1984.

Other comics
In the 1980s Blokker created another gag comic, 'Piraat Platzac', which starred an one-eyed pirate and appeared four times a year in the local magazine Willemsoordjournaal, which mainly circulated in Den Helder. For Proost, a magazine for the catering industry, he made the weekly cartoon 'Joep'. All were based on scripts by Touw. In 1985 Blokker was one of several graphic artists to contribute to the anthology book, 'Tegenaanval' (De Lijn, 1985), initiated by Patty Klein. The book protested against the conviction of comics artist Wim Stevenhagen who refused to fulfill his military service. In the early 1990s, the publishing label Amice released two more booklets with jokes by Touw and Blokker under the titles 'Doortrekkeeee' (1990) and 'Doorspoeleee!!' (1992).


Blokker's contribution to 'Tegenaanval'

Later TV career
Later in his career Blokker managed to avoid being pigeonholed as Barend Servet. He acted in several TV shows, stage plays, audio plays, films and did Dutch synchronisation of foreign children's TV series. Between 1980 and 1983 the actor hosted the nature documentary series 'Puur Natuur' on the VPRO, alternating with Adeline van Lier. The show didn't spent attention to fauna and flora alone, but also to biological farming and cattle breeding. Blokker played the shy Mr. Smit in the children's TV series 'Mevrouw Ten Kate' (1987-1991), broadcast on what would later become 'Villa Achterwerk'. A comics fan, IJf Blokker also interviewed comics artists at events on behalf of comics appreciation society Het Stripschap during the 1970s and 1980s. In 2007, Blokker was asked to design a new label for a special collector's beer for the Belgian brewery Achouffe. He was the first Dutch artist to receive this honour.


Harry Touw and IJf Blokker, drawn by Blokker for the cover of the 'Bakken aan de bar' compilation

Series en boeken door IJf Blokker op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

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