Friday, 29 February 2008

You can't dangle the bogus carrot of Spaced in front of our face whilst riding some other donkey

Post writers strike the dreaded US remake of Spaced (“McSpaced!!” screamed the fans) is grinding into action. Obviously Spaced fans are going mental about it, meanwhile we here at That Joke have decided to reserve opinion.

Okay, okay, it’s probably going to be awful. We KNOW that, we really really do. Spaced is one of the sacred gems of UK comedy. But okay, look, it’s being made now. There’s nothing any of us can do about it. We accept that Pegg/Write/Hynes aren’t involved, we accept it’s being made by McG, someone who should be banned from making television for the good of humanity, we even accept that there has only ever been one decent US remake of a UK show (no prizes for guessing which one. No, not Men Behaving Badly. Okay...okay, we’ll give you Sanford and Son as well. There are two decent remakes).

But ya know, it’s being made now and that’s an end to it. If they get a team of decent geeky pop-literate writers in, if it’s cast right, crucially if it’s not filmed live, and if it isn't called 'Spaced' it could…just about be okay. It'll just be a bit of a rip off.

It won’t be Spaced. It can't be. But it might be something we can still like just the same. There’s no point in complaining until it’s out.

Then all hell can let loose, obviously.

In the meantime, enjoy this:

PS Spaced is a gift that keeps on giving as you navigate through the tail end of your the NME Awards Big Gig last night all I could think was "they're all so thin"...

Being Andrew Collins

As much as I try my best to maintain a distinct editorial tone to this blog (wry satire and news comment reported in the 3rd person if you must know), occasionally a more personal approach is needed, so join me as we swim into the shallow and self-indulgent waters of the first person Blog.

People have always asked me what I want to do with my life. As a child you get it a lot, then there’s careers councillors and teachers at college, and as an adult you tend to get it in job interviews, in a round-about kind of way. As a child my answer evolved from inventor to writer pretty quickly. At college it solidified into journalist, and then further into music/film/TV magazine journalist with a sideline in fiction. Then I started getting interested in radio, and then in comedy, and then I started writing comedy myself.

Which is a lot to get over in a job interview, so I started using the writer/broadcaster/editor/author Andrew Collins as a short-hand career ambition. “what I really want” I have always joked “is to be on the list of people the BBC call when they do I LOVE 2004”, or “The Top 100 Comedy Moments 1995-2005” or indeed “The Top Alternative Tunes 1985-Present”. An interesting person whose opinions are valued.

Last year Andrew Collins helpfully released a career biography (the excellent ‘That’s Me In The Corner’), allowing me to realise how far behind schedule I am. It also confirmed, even more than I actually realised, just how much Andrew had done that I’ve always wanted to achieve.

Depressingly my career thus far has been a sort of ITV3 version of his.


Marc Burrows/ Andrew Collins career Contrast.

Andrew: Music journalist for NME, Select, Q, The Word, many more.
Marc: Music journalist for Playmusic (who went under owing me £400), Label magazine, various online

Andrew: Features Editor of NME and Select, Features Editor and Editor of Q, Editor of Empire, Film Editor for Radio Times
Marc: Arts Editor, Deputy Editor and Editor Label Magazine (Editor was a full time job, 20 page weekly magazine for a year running a team of students, elected position natually), content manager/copywriter (

Andrew: Has interviewed everyone from unknown indie bands to movie legends

Marc: Has interviewed thousands of unknown indie bands, plus the very occasional important person

Andrew: Comedy/Sketch Radio (Radio 5/1), Music Radio (6Music), Speech radio (Radio 4), Panel show (Radio 4), Podcast
Marc: Music Radio (LCR –student radio/ Roskilde Festival Radio), Speech Radio (Resonance FM), Podcast (coming)

Andrew: Written three memoirs
Marc: Er…Kept an extensive diary when I was in Hospital?

Andrew: Writes a Blog
Marc: Writes a blog. YES! Take that Collins.

Andrew: TV presenting, talking head

Marc: Producer, writer and presenter of upcoming

Andrew: Sony award winner (for Collins and Maconie’s Hit Parade)
Marc: National Student Radio Association Award winner (Bronze Award, Best Entertainment Show)

Andrew: Partnered with Stuart Maconie, Richard Herring more recently.
Marc: Partnered incurably with Patrick Charlton

I’m not going to go into scriptwriting work, as Andrew was older than me when he did a lot of that so I don’t have to feel too bad.

So what’s the point of all this? Andrew’s recent book was about trying to fathom who he is and what he does. I’m trying to define who I am and what I want to do, and more or less they’re the same thing. I’d like to point out I’m not idolising Andrew Collins here, although I am a fan of his work. Nor do I resent him for his success, as it’s pretty well-earned. There's also things I've achieved that he hasn't. He just happens to have carved out, almost by coincidence, pretty much the exact career I’ve always wanted.

Maybe there’s something in the psyche of music-geek, TV obsessed Doctor Who fans from the East Midlands.

There’s still time to catch him anyway.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Kimmel Vs Silverman: It's War

When Sarah Silverman stitched up her boyfriend, US chat show host Jimmy Kimmel, by writing a song....well, just click on the video below, okay?

Is this a fully planned double-benefiting media campaign? Is it smug American celebs washing their dirties in public? Or, as we really hope it is, two equally devious comedians enjoying getting one over on their beloved? It doesn't really below and enjoy.

Sarah's video:

And Jimmy's reply:

A New Roll Of Moving Wallpaper

We're actually quite glad that Moving Wallpaper, ITV's break-the-fourth-wall-it's-post-modern-aint-it-aren't-we-clever sitcom, has got a second series. It's nice to see the Other Side showing some commitment to a comedy show instead of canning it if it underperforms by the teeniest amount.

MW hasn't been the all-conquering success some on Planet Grade probably expected, but then nor has it been the laughable disaster many a self-satisfied tossblog (guilty as charged) half expected either. We were just getting to like the characters (well...except James Lance, but then he's always a smug shit. It's what he's good at) and it would be a shame to lose those aquaintences had ITV done a Partridge on it.

The fate of the less-popular Echo Beach (less popular basically because it's shit) apparently hangs in the balance. Which begs the question: does MW need EB? Have the characters been developed enough for the show to stand alone? Will ITV admit that Echo Beach was really only there in the first place as a showcase for clever site-gags based on incidental arguments in it's sibling-show?

Herring Watch

The rise of Richard Herring to legitimiser of all things funny continues this weekend in The Guardian... again.  The Guide have clearly dubbed Herring the Yardstick by which all (by definition) lesser comedy is measured.  This week he's casting his benevolent comedic gaze onto Pappy's Fun Club, who walk away with his blessing.

Pappy's are, of course, funnier than almost anything else in the history of the universe and fill us with so much childlike joy it's a wonder we don't shrink by a foot and a half and start playing at M.A.S.K again. 

We will continue to update you on the TV Star turned man-who-was-once-on-Telly turned Alt.Comedy Treasure in the ongoing story of The Rise and Fall and Rise of Richard Herring 

Friday, 22 February 2008

Burrows' Bigger Bang

American sit-coms can be a bit smug, even the very good ones. It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t like Friends, but it’s also difficult to deny its smugatude.

There’s not been a really good mainstream US sitcom since the F Word. Two and Half Men has its fans, but it’s not really all that. There’s been plenty of glossily produced comic-dramas (Everyone Hates Chris, My Name is Earl) and of course awkward alternative comedy hits (The Office, Curb, Arrested Development), but nothing really in the trad-sitcom-dodgy-set-live-studio-audience sense.

The worst offender has been James Burrows’ (he of Cheers/Will and Grace Fame) The Class, which is a rubbish concept (4th Grade Class reunited as adults with added wierdos and snogging), badly performed and lacking in any sense of cleverness, sweetness and bite that this type of sit-com needs.

But don’t write Burrows off just yet, because last night we saw The Big Bang Theory, which has an ace concept (two geeks live opposite hot girl) and all the sweetness and bite you could want.

It’s not perfect, or particularly true to life (just because they like Star Trek and Comic Books, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically physics genius’s…we can attest to that from experience), but is fun and sweet and has that sense of slight anarchy and farce that made Will and Grace so nice.

Big Bang Theory is currently airing on E4.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

A Letter To Lily Allen

Dear Lily Allen

We gave Lily Allen and Friends an extra week to settle in before writing this, it seemed the decent thing to do.

It’s not working is it Lil? I mean bless you, you’re great, You really are. You’re fresh, and funny, and spunky, when you’re off the cuff you’re a treat to watch, and it genuinely is great to have you on the telly. I am genuinely fond of you. But the show…the show. It’s just no there, it doesn’t work.

If you hadn’t done this format, then obviously someone else would, and I can see why it was an easy pitch, what with all your myspace chums and entertaining blogs and all. Problem is BBC3 seem to think they can graft the internet to the side of the telly and get something wonderful and new with the best of both worlds. Like apple trees. And maybe you can…the ideal t’internet-telly format is definitely out there, skulking in the bushes waiting to be discovered. The beeb are getting there: the iPlayer maybe the best decision the BBC have made in a decade.

But BBC3’s awkward frankensteining of web two-point-whatever and anything they happen to have on their schedule just feels so false and so forced.

Your chat show guests are great and you’re doing a good job. Last week David Mitchell looked slightly bemused, a tiny bit embaressed, but seemed to be enjoying himself. Cuba Gooding Jnr obviously didn’t care where he was…up to the point you stopped the euphemisms and just talked about his cock. That was a great moment Lily, well done.

This week though, you seemed a bit hesitant and a bit unsure of yourself. Is this because of the bad reviews? Or have you maybe seen the show back yourself and realised that basing the show on web content wasn’t that great an idea in hindsight?

Here’s where you’ve got it wrong.

- The internet, especially social networking, web two-point-infinite gubbins is all about interactivity, about people taking ownership of their media and everyone’s lives being synced together. The audience need to feel part of the show.

- But your show seems to think a Social Networking/web experience can be applied to TV by showing VT’s of whatever ‘hilarious’ Mpegs have been emailed to your researcher by their Mum. Getting your audience to submit wacky facts about themselves isn't it either. You're missing the point. And didn't Graham Norton already do all of that five years ago?

Giving the kids the vote for the bands they want to see is a great idea, though hardly the most original. Replace online voting with SMS messaging and you’ve got CD:UK. It's not really enough.

Anyway, I hope this makes sense to you. Please carry on having fun, maybe try and influence some tweaks to the format. But don’t be too upset if it gets taken off. You’re doing your best and it’s not your fault.


Marc B

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.

Good News/Bad News in Movie world.

Good News!
The director of Airplane! and The Naked Gun is making a satirical update of 'A Christmas Carol' with Kelsey Grammer.

Bad News!
The director of Scary Movie 3 and 4 is making a satirical update of 'A Christmas Carol' with Kelsey Grammer.

Hang on, hasn't their already been a satirical update of 'A Christmas Carol' that "lampoons contemporary American culture, particularly Hollywood"? And wasn't it really, really good?


Watch this space

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Human Behaviour/ The Family of Blood: BBC3 Goes Goth

BBC3’s new vision rolled on last night and we’re really beginning to feel the Russell T Davies-isation of drama as we know it. Give it a year and all telly will be like this: action, a bit risqué, cheeky, with obvious pop, and real accents. And you know what? That’s not such a band thing. Last nights’ Being Human was basically Queer As Folk meets Torchwood but, you know, without the Gay stuff. Check the pedigrees: Writer Toby Whithouse has written for Doctor Who (RTD) and Torchwood (RTD), Director Declan O’Dwyer comes from the very-much post-RTD Robin Hood, producer Matthew Bouch worked on the Sarah Jane Adventures (guess who?) and actor Russell Tovey was in the 2007 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Being Human is BBC3’s latest try at proper, hip drama with an edge. Last weeks opening gambit –Phoo Action- was hit and miss to say the least (but still managed to get commissioned for a full series), this latest offering has a little more going for it.

In the spirit of optimism, let’s start with the good stuff. Fundamentally, Being Human is a good show. It really is. It’s a bit hammy, and there’s plenty wrong with it (of which more later), but fundamentally its beating heart is in the right place. It has teeth. It has an edge, and it says everything about the Beeb’s approach to teen-to-twenties drama in 2008.

That beating heart we mentioned comes from Werewolf Russell Tovey (George), he’s a joy. A clumsy, cockney, loveably jug-eared joy. He keeps the whole thing afloat until Ghostly Andrea Riseborough (Annie) appears, and she’s a joy too, all broad Barnsley loveliness (“Am a Gorst…am not fonder the word”). The two of them are so genuinely likeable you wish they’d come round and haunt your bedroom.

Secondly the balance between light and dark works quite well: this is, after all, meant to be a bit Penny-Dreadful, but with sex and jokes (Post Torchwood again), and it pulls it off. The climax, with the changing George locked in a room with his ex was properly scary. It was well paced, it worked really well.

The script worked too, for the most part. Witty one liners, and well thought-out characters, decent gags and situations, and some real invention splattered here and there. Like everything else it was a bit RTD, but as we said, everything is these days (and in Russell we trust.).

And if only we could stop there. If only it was just jug-eared George and lovely Annie. But it’s not. This is a show about three people. It’s also a show about three different takes on immortality and monstrosity, and it’s about three different mythical monsters: A Ghost, a werewolf, and a Vampire. And in this third all the problems lie.

Leaving aside Guy Flanagan’s performance for a sec, the problem here is in Vampirism itself. If you’re going to write about Vampires, then you need to create a Vampire Mythology: who are they? What do they do? What are the rules? No-one can ever seem to resist the gathering-in-night-clubs-plotting-world-domination-tortured-by-what-they-are- beautiful-sexy-blood-ritual-sophisticates route. Blame Blade and Bram Stoker, it’s all their fault. More to the point blame bloody Anne Rice, whose Vamprotica (™ that joke isn’t funny 2008) pretty much defined Vampire Fiction post-Interview. Buffy pulled it off, but Buffy was a bit special. Similarly now-forgotten Jack Davenport vehicle Ultra Violet managed it by making the mythology itself a bit interesting and adding a dash of pre-CSI technobabble. Being Human had none of this. There has clearly been a Vampire mythology here, and bits of it are dangled in smart suits in front of us, attempting to tantalise the audience with suggested depths of back story. You get the impression the back story probably isn’t very good.

The Vampire stuff just seemed to get in the way of the more likeable characters. Tortured Vampirism here is represented by Guy Flanagan’s Mitchell, a skinny, dashing Orlando-Bloomish chap with little hints of goth in his outfit (wristbands, jewellery), dark hooded eyes, and a slow, deep stillness to his soul that suggests something fractured and uncomfortable, but old and dangerous. Or at least it’s meant to (we know because someone goes to the trouble of describing these qualities for us in the first 5 minutes), in truth he just feels wooden. In fairness to Guy, Brad Pitt fell victim to the same problems in Interview With The Vampire: tortured introspection coming off as wooden under-acting.

He’s not all bad though: when interacting with his Pal’s, best friend George and new Friend Annie, he’s a lot more likeable and the chemistry in the trio works. It’s just when he’s taken off on his own it goes a little wrong. It’s not the worst Vampire performance ever, but it’s getting there. When the mass-Vamps are stuck in an underground nightclub you actually realise you’re watching the first Vampire-Mythology on screen that is even worse than Queen of the Damned.

And Queen of the Damned was rubbish.

There’s other stuff too: the music choices were an uninspired Ad-man’s view of what a teen/cult show needs :Amy Winehouse’ ‘Rehab’, Pulp’s ‘Common People’ and maudlin-introspection-soundtrack-hit-of-choice ‘Chasing Cars’. Although in fairness this is from the RTD school of soundtracks too. It could have been worse: it could have been all NIN and The Cure (every goth-horror ever) or sub-Dawsons Creek acoustic warbledge (Buffy). It’s such a wasted opportunity though. What about little tounge in cheek nods: ‘For Lovers’ by Wolfman and Pete Doherty? ‘Ghosts’ by Laura Marling? Anything by the Howling Wolves or Vampire Weekend? It would have added a sense of fun and a little more genuine youth credibility.

Thing is, we genuinely think we could get into this. There’s enough tantalising little snippets to explore (how did Annie die? What happens after death? Why is she still here? How did George become a Wolf? How old is Mitchell? Why does he object to his Vampish instincts? How come that bloke from Hustle gets in everything?), and the answers could hopefully be intigueing. The difficulty is walking the line between great character drama and spooky gothed-out cult hit. It can be done (Buffy and Angel) but it’s very very hard when dealing with these subjects. But if Phoo Action can be picked up, then surely this is a safer prospect?

Monday, 18 February 2008

Herring On the Rise

Somewhere along the line Richard Herring stopped being a 90’s comedian who was once on the telly, and became the kind of comic’s-comic whose name is mentioned as a benchmark of all that is witty, modern and great about the live comedy circuit.

Evidence? This weeks Guardian Guide mentioned him twice in articles about other comedians. First in a preview for Colin and Fergus show at the Hen and Chickens, Herring’s name is dropped in when it’s revealed the duo once shared a flat with him in Edinburgh, then again in a preview for Toby Hadoke's upcoming tour, this time a complimtary quote from the man himself. That was it. Using the name Richard Herring to prove the comedy pedigree of a lesser-know act.

That definitely says something.

When Lee and Herring drifted away from each other the smart money was on the former to carry on the ascent. He was the straight man and already had a solid reputation as a stand up in his own right, Herring was less known and had an on-screen persona based on being very silly and excitable, he didn’t quite fit the mood. And initially this has proved true: Stewart Lee did some great stand up, Jerry Springer The Opera, more great stand up and got voted 41st best Stand Up of all time (also the name of his current show). At some point in the last couple of years he became one of those under-ground success stories whose name is whispered in hushed tones of comedy genius. Should this continue he’ll probably end up as the British Bill Hicks, and he deserves it.

Richard’s progress has been patchier: a series of well received one-man shows, culminating with ‘Talking Cock’, which hit a nerve (or at least a vein) with the comedy public. There was even a book. Then there was writing work with Al Murray’s ‘Time Gentlemen Please’, Radio 2’s historical sketch show ‘That Was Then This Is Now’ and more recently writing and acting in the sitcom ‘You Can Choose Your Friends’ for ITV. On top of that there’s been panel-shows a plenty on Radio 4, and a return to straight stand-up, culminating with his latest show ‘Oh Fuck! I’m 40’, which pretty much sold out every night in Edinburgh –something Herring has done quite a lot in recent year. As he himself will readily admit, Stewart Lee was selling out a much bigger venue, but the point still stands.

Still until now he’s not really had the respect, his has not been a name that has been dropped to the same extent as Simon Munnery, Rob Newman or, of course, Stewart Lee (incidentally all Avalon alumni, though only Munnery and Herring are still represented), but something has shifted. The Guardian episode is a case in point: Herring has become a reference point, a symbol. He is becoming underground comedy royalty, and it’s justly deserved. Hopefully this will mean more selling out at Edinburgh this year and more Herring on telly. Of course we could be wrong, but I think if Channel 4 where to repeat their 100 Best Stand Up list in a year or so, Herring will feature. Maybe even at number 40.

It’s well deserved. Richard Herring is in a league that really only includes himself and his former partner (and possible Simon Munnery), comics who can effortlessly deconstruct what makes us laugh whilst –crucially- continuing to make us laugh. He can combine the very silly with very incisive. He makes dick jokes that tell us something about why dick jokes are funny, and yet still remain good dick jokes. You can laugh at him, with him and at yourself all at once.

Anyway, his current tour, the excellent Oh Fuck! I’m 40, is well underway and we’d recommend you go:

20th Feb St David's Hall, Cardiff
22nd Feb South Street Arts Centre, Reading - SOLD OUT
23rd Feb Gala Theatre, Durham
24th Feb Tobacco Factory, Bristol
28th Feb Arts Theatre, London
29th Feb Arts Theatre, London
2nd March The Comedy Cavern, Bath
3rd March Farnham Maltings Arts Centre, Surrey
4th March Little Civic, Wolverhampton
7th March Jersey Arts Centre
8th March Tripod Dublin
9th March The Tron, Glasgow
11th March Just The Tonic, Nottingham,
12th March Hilarity Bites, Darlington
13th March West End Centre, Hampshire
15th March The Y Theatre, Leicester
16th March Assembly Rooms, Derby
17th March Mac-The Theatre, Birmingham
19th March The Junction, Cambridge
20th March Komedia, Brighton
21st March Cardiff DVD record
24th April Black Box, Belfast
3rd May Chipping Norton Theatre
10th May York

Friday, 15 February 2008

Thursdays are Not funny

Comedy website Chortle are reporting on the fall in viewing figures hitting BBC2's 'Thursdays Are Funny', currently consisting of Nevermind the Buzzcocks, Stephen Mangan vehicle Never Better and Little Miss Jocelyn.

Apparently last night the Buzzcocks clips show did best (2 millions), followed by Never Better (823,000) with LMJ being hit worse (799,000).

The beeb are blaming the combination of Valentines day and Football on Channel 5.

They're wrong: It's because Buzzcocks was a best-of show, Never Better is wholly unremarkable and Little Miss Jocelyn is the single worst thing to ever happen to terrestrial TV, ever.

Hopefully Mitchell and Webb will pull it back a bit next week.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

That Mitchell and Webb Trailer

The BBC has released trailers…well, actually whole sketches for the impending and long expected new series of That Mitchell and Webb Look (wot won a BAFTA you know), they can be viewed on the BBC website, and then for the purpose of further reading there’s one on Youtube.

So far we can assume that series two won’t be drifting too far away from series one, notably because all the best bits will have been taken directly from That Mitchell and Webb Sound, the brilliant Football sketch especially.

This is no bad thing really…let’s face it the audience for sketch shows on Radio 4 have always been tiny compared to the TV upgrades, and as the writing in series 2 of …Sound was notably improved from series 1, hopefully …Look will follow the same pattern.

It’s nice to see the new series materialising anyway, though it’s no surprise it’s been so long in the making: the duo have been preoccupied with Peep Show’s fourth outing on Channel 4, a third series of …Sound for Radio 4 and a feature film (and while we’re on the subject: Magicians got a lukewarm response, but is actually a thoroughly decent and actually quite charming Britcom) although alas not for Film4, not to mention David Mitchells appearance on every single panel show ever. With Peep Show season 5 green lit (Amazon are already selling it) and the new series of ...Look Baftabound for 2009 (and who knows, maybe a fouth for ...Sound and even a pick up of Daydream Believers), and David Mitchell apparently contractually obliged to appear on telly twice a week, there is no end in site for the thinking mans Ant and Dec.

Indeed Mitchell and Webb fever is very much hitting the UK. Even The Sun are getting in on the act. To get you really excited check this breathless quote from the BBC Press office, reportedly a joint quote form both boys.

"We're really excited about the new series. It's packed with new ideas, characters, and most of all, jokes. Many of the sketches are far weirder and more ambitious than anything in the first series, but we've still found room for down-and-out super-sleuth Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar and several new takes on Numberwang."

And if that doesn't get you in the mood, nothing will.

That football sketch in full:

Happy Valentines Day from Bjork

Far be it from us to self promote, but this has just been stuck up over at our day job and it's rather lovely. Joanna Neary is one to watch, and has been for a while. She's ace.

Stick valentine soppyness to anyone that gives a crap.

Click here to have a gander

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

New BBC3 Reviewed: Phoo Action.

The relaunched BBC3 kicked into gear last night with an emphasis on shiny bright colours, shiny bright people and of course Web two-point-whatever (surely we should be due an upgrade by now?) that TV really should have cottoned onto two years back at least.

Two shows last night defined the new look channel, the much-anticipated (although in some cases only to smirk) Lily Allen and Friends, more on which later, and flagship 'drama' Phoo Action, and that’s quite the oddest prospect yet.

First up was the shock that Jose Vanders was introducing the programmes. Jose is a fresh-faced (looking particularly well scrubbed last night) and obscenely talented singer-songstress who we happen to have actually met a few times. Last seen supporting GoodBooks just before Christmas, it was a jolt to see her fronting TV, but then letting anyone on the box is what BBC3 is all about these days, and besides she did a pretty decent job of it. To investigate Jose a bit more click here.

Phoo Action is a really, really odd show. And not because of its content: Basketball-headed villains, blue mutant henchman, magic hotpants. These are par for the course. No, what made Phoo Action so odd is that, almost 24 hours later, we still have no idea if it was

a) Bubblegum-fresh, entertaining and cool


b) Absolutly fucking awful.

Seriously we have no idea. One moment you’re drifting along on a tide of eye candy and a great soundtrack allowing your nether-brain to get some sleep while your eyes and what passes for your consciousness are distracted by the bright lights and pretty colours. The next you’re cowering in startled dis-belief that something so brain-rottingly shit could be allowed onto your screen.

For an explanationwe should look to the committee-led scientifically proven box-ticking that went into toddlershaped mindfuck BooBah in 2004 – a show that mesmerised the under 4’s but seemed like a psychedelic migraine to anyone older. Like that show each gurgling voice, each sparkly explosion, each musical chime exists only for the ears of a very specific demographic. If you’re outside it then it seems senseless. So if you’re under 20 Phoo Action was probably quite good, if you’re over 30 it’s bonkers, and not in a good way... and if you’re in the middle it doesn’t quite feel right.

There are things it does universally right: thanks to Jamie Hewlett's unique imagination the whole thing looked spectacular. Jamie Winstone seems like one to watch and looks great in hotpants and a red wig, and the soundtrack was a well-chosen mash of electro-new and stompy-old (CSS and Supergrass at either end). The nightclub dance in particular was a great moment.

On the other hand, for a character who is meant to be an ass-kicking, breakdancing, masked kung-fu cop, Terry Phoo is a disappointingly wet lead. His fighting and his dancing didn’t really fizzle at all.

An interesting and tone-setting start for BBC3, let’s see where it takes us.

‘Doctor Doctor’ Jokes Take New Meaning

The League Of Gentleman’s Steve Pemberton is to appear in the upcoming series of Doctor Who. This isn’t a huge surprise: Steve’s fellow Royston Vaseyian Mark Gatiss wrote one of the stand-out episodes of the Regenerated show, ‘The Unquiet Dead’ in Series One. He also penned the slightly disappointing ‘Idiots Lantern’ in series 2 and acted in Series 3. Obviously he’s passing the torch over to Pemperton who will play a mysterious character called “Lux”.

The Sun is quoting an insider from the show as saying

“Steve is an obvious choice for Doctor Who bosses because he looks so funny and he’s used to playing weird characters from his time in League Of Gentleman.”

They probably have a point: Pemberton was always the oddest looking Gent in the League, hence his turns as Cab-driving tranny Barbara (a bit scary), pig-feeding, hiker-burning shop-keeping wicker wife Tubbs (quite scary) and careers councillor Pauline (Terrifying).

Pemberton also had a small part in Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, based on the book by Douglas Adams, who was a writer and script-editor on Doctor Who during the Tom Baker years.

No-doubt plans are already afoot to find a role for Reece Shearsmith, who –now we come to think of it- wouldn’t make a bad stab at the lead when David Tennant retires. Watch this space.

Monday, 11 February 2008

...must have GSOH. or a Grammy.

Women will often claim that making them laugh is a high priority in fanciable fellas. It’s not true, although most women won’t admit it. Goofball one liners and wry satire are not really the direct route to a ladies special parts (believe us on this, it’s from experience), they’re more optional extras. GSOH is a nice addition, but tall-dark-and-handsome will usually win out in the short term. Being the funny one is really the quick route to neutral-male-friend territory (and no-one wants that). If it were really the case people like David Mitchell would be luckier in love and Benny Hill wouldn’t have died alone. It’s probably for the best…some of the funniest bits of sitcom history come out of frustration with this very truth (See Peep Show, Men Behaving Badly, The Office and –with no small irony baring in mind what follows- Flight Of The Conchords).

But there are exceptions. David Walliams is bafflingly popular with certain C-list blondes, Russell Brand is fighting women off with a stick nightly, though not really with very much enthusiasm it has to be said. Noel Fielding bestrides Camden’s teenage girl population like a skinny-jeaned Colossus of Rhodes, and we know from personal experience that every woman in Russell Howards management company follows him around like a puppy. Indeed, so tempting are the boy wizards come-to-bed eyes (one more so than the other...sorry) he even has gay fan fiction. Then there's the Comedy Groupies website, the existance of which pretty much disproves everything we're saying, and so is being ignored. Although we don't think any of these girls really means it when push comes to shove.

Latest to add to the canon are Grammy Award winning electro-folk-parody pioneers and Kiwi comedy genius’s Flight of The Conchordes who are so jaw droppingly fanciable Polly Vernon dedicated four pages to them in Observer Woman yesterday, including such quotes as

“McKenzie is straight-forwad gobsmackingly beautiful, fine-featured and flawlessly skinned.”

While completely air-brushing their Radio 2 show –which pre-dated the HBO TV version by two years and featured almost the same plots- but which nevertheless is quite endearing in its “fannish gibbering” (Polly’s words).

Polly goes on to muse on their appeal…

“maybe we’re tiring, finally, of self-entitled self-consciously powerful men, and beginning to fancy something a little less obvious”.

Which probably means there’s hope for us all. Although it would be a shame, if you think about it. Where would Peep Show or Flight Of The Conchords be if nice guys stopped finishing last? Still, there’s hope for us all.

And for the record...we think Rhys Darby is just a hot as Brett and Jermaine.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Review: Eddie Izzard, New Material Night at the Arts Theatre

Eddie Izzard is growing old gracefully. For his new material night in the teeny tiny Arts Theatre, off Leicester Square, it’s out with the mini-skirts and slap and in with a smart gut-concealing jackets, expensive looking jeans and the early stages of a salt and pepper beard (“I’m an off duty Transvestite”). Eddie turns 46 today and he’s slipping comfortably into middle age. It suits him.

The act is more grown up too. Baring in mind this is try-out material we can’t expect too much, but there’s a definite shift in tone. Those mammoth leaps of imagination feel more controlled, there’s more of an agenda.

Eddie ‘08 is more concerned with themeing his material than previous shows. Perenial Izzard favourite God is back at the forefront, and this time we’re very defiantly, 100% absolutely sure he definitely probably doesn’t exist. Eddie weaves the evolution stuff showcased at last years Secret Policeman’s Ball, which has got a bit sharper and a bit funnier (“it goes Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, Monkey, YOU”) with the more obvious holes in creationism, biblical dogma and the Ten Commandments. It’s nothing new: Eddie Izzard shows have concerned themselves with evolution, Noah’s Arc, and what God had to do with Dinosaurs since the early 90’s. This time round though, there’s definitely more of an agenda. Maybe it’s his film and TV career and the fact he’s so often in the States, where Creationism and Intelligent Design are social and political hot potatoes. Maybe as he gets older his thoughts have got more profound. Maybe he just found he really had something to say this time around. Whatever the reason there are fleshes in tonight’s set that reveal a genuine anger at the silliness in modern religion.

The other major theme is technology and the IT society. Wikipedia gets a thorough going over, in what seems a love/hate relationship with the internet and access to information. Oh, and there’s Macs Vs PC's too. Eddie Izzard loves Macs. If this show was sponsored by Apple it wouldn’t be that big a surprise. Eddie loves his Mac, he especially loves his iPhone. One anecdote has him at a table reading with Tom Cruise when all he wants to do is show everyone his iPhone.

It nearly comes across as smug, but he pulls it off just about.

Oh, and there’s Jam. God has Jam, Wikipedia has Jam, there’s Jam on the iPhones, in the desert, it’s smeared everywhere. Jars of the stuff. Jam, jam, jam, jam, jam, jam, jam. Because some things never change, no matter how old you get.

There’s still some brushing up to do. There’s moments of brilliance –two hunters conversing in cod-latin is pure, distilled Izzard- but not yet any of those insane, quotable moments (“Cake or Death”, “death star canteen”) that even the weaker shows have had.

There are some holes here: the stream of consciousness errrrrrrrrrrrring isn’t as exciting as it once was, and his brain doesn’t seem to kick out the more bizarre stuff at quite the velocity it once did (Russell Howard and Bill Bailey both do it better now). But with the material shaping up to be smarter and sharper than before and with more work to do, 2008 could be a vintage Izzard year.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Dave Gorman's America Unchained: Review

Dave Gorman’s excellent ‘America Unchained’ went out on More 4 last night and was rather a cute and fuzzy experience for all. As usual it was the depth and the detail that makes a Gorman project transcend type (here sincere travelogue, in the past whacky misadventure) and become something more thoughtful, funnier and more beautifully observed and constructed than it really has any right to be.

A few interesting points. When Daves' injured camera-woman is swapped for an able-bodied camera-man (please note there is no intended comment on Gender Vs Ability here at all) the quality of the footage leaped ahead. The last two thirds of the film were beautifully shot. Next time he’ll know who to take.

We also feel compelled to note the irony of Dave searching for an America free of overt commericalism and trying to stick it to the large corporations sacrificing the personal approach in favour of the big bucks: Dave Gorman is managed by Avalon, a large company known to chase the dollar in any given situation. It is a little like marching in a ‘Meat is Murder’ protest while being sponsored by Burger King.

Still, that isn't really a criticisim. It’s almost impossible to genuinely find a criticisim. In this age where the beloved telly has been exposed a filthy liar there’s always a little voice at the back of the mind telling you “he couldn’t really have found an independent soda-fountain closing on the same day he was in town, surely?” But with Dave Gorman you really hope so. You really want to believe. Because Dave Gorman is a truth-teller, a story teller (and occasionally but surprisingly not that ofte, a joke teller.) You want to believe him because you like him.

And I do believe. Dave Gorman makes you believe.

A wonderful little film then, and one that will make you feel better about yourself, the world, and shockingly, about America.

Buy the DVD here.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Cake or death, Death Star canteen, Jam, etc

Eddie Izzard has announced another run of late work in progress shows at London's teeny-weeny-tiny Arts Theatre this week (Tues, Weds, Friday). If there's more than one of you though, don't bother trying for tickets though, they're almost certainly sold out by now. However if you don't mind sitting alone you may well be able to secure yourself a seat here.

It is with not a little smugness that we can reveal we did get a seat and will report back on Thursday.

Monday, 4 February 2008

We'll cut off your Johnson

Most people will agree that Boris Johnson is fine material for a comic. He could almost of been put on this earth by a joking Deity purely to give us someone to snigger at, the bumbling oaf.

But some comedians have to take it one step further. Tom Greeves is actually working for him.

There are, as far as we can see, three possible reasons for this. And let's just say in advance that we haven't seen Tom Greeves, he may well be a great stand up and a very funny man.

So...option A
Tom Greeves has realised that if Boris becomes Mayor of London he'll make a string of highly public mistakes and every comeidan will benefit from the vast wealth of material across all media. He is helping to create a comedy renaisance.

Option B.
Tom Greeves is a character created by a particularly convincing comic, aiming to generate amusing situations and bring down Boris from within. He's clearly worked hard on it, he's even written a blog in character, full of the most horrible neo-conservative tripe.

Option C.
His absurdly right wing persona is actually real, he's genuinely lending his skills to a Tory Mayoral-candidate largely seen is a joke, and really means it when he says things like this:

"I am fed up to fury of being told that I should care about “the vulnerable”… [and] I don't want my own kids to be schooled amongst the thick and idle"

Surely not?

There IS a comedy God...

...And he loves us.
Thatjoke favourites Richard Herring and Andrew Collins have begun producing fortnightly news-review podcasts, currently from Richards sofa on a laptop, rebooting their hugely enjoyable 6Music sunday morning reviews from a wee while back.

It's not often you get to feel nostalgic for 6Music and early 90's late night Radio One (when Lee and Herring were doing a radio show as well as the early radio version of Fist Of Fun, and Andrew Collins was working with Stuart Maconie on Collins and Maconie's Hit Parade. Interestingly Herrings formertive partner Stewart Lee talks about Collins once-radio-comrade Stuart Maconie in his current show. He compares him to an all knowing watcher.) all at the same time, but now you can, and personally we're revelling in it.

The delightful 45 minutes(ish) touches on such favourite 2007/2008 news staples as the Madeline Mystery, Chris Langham and the brutish disregard our policeforce has for modern day comedians.

You can hear the brilliantly titled Collings and Herrin here.

This comedy geek is going for a lie down brought on by excitement not felt since that Doctor Who where Sarah Jane came back.


Apologies for the near-two week gap in updates, there have been various work related issues to attend to. Things are very much back on course.