Caroline Is Not Amused

Apparently Winston Churchill once said “A joke is a very serious thing.” I think I agree with him…

Ooooooohhh…It’s a good programme!! December 9, 2007

Filed under: Fan Girl,TV/Radio Comedy — carolineisnotamused @ 8:43 pm

In the absence of a decent new sitcom to capture my attention I have been turning to repeats of the brilliant Alan Partridge on Dave .

(…Incidentally can any body tell me why they chose that name? Because I just read it as a reference to The League Of Gentlemen’s character Papa Lazarou and his demonic calls of “Hello Dave“…)

But back to Alan Partridge. I did watch some of the series when it was first broadcast, and knew how good it was, but for some reason I didn’t watch religiously. Maybe it was because I foresaw a drought in comedy, maybe it was just foolishness, I don’t know but I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of it now.

I would like to draw your attention to a particular clip in the second series. Having impaled his foot on a huge spike whilst trying to climb into a Country Club Alan still goes on stage to give a speech to’Dante’s Fires’ at some corporate event. It does not go well.

Alan Partridge: Dante’s Fire Speech

This scene works on so many levels and is a demonstration of both excellent writing and virtuoso performance. The attention to detail is just one of the aspects that makes it so funny- not only are we given a cringe-inducing moment in the life of Alan with the disaster that happens on stage to him, but the scene is written in such a way that had it gone all to plan it still would have been a funny speech.

The fact the ‘fun-pack’ contains “a torch, a Curly-Wurly, a book of stamps, a free digital watch with a denim strap, a vodka minature, a Bic-style razor and a copy of the Daily Express…” speaks volumes about the company and in turn about the level of Alan’s career. Also Coogan’s mannerisms as Alan are spot on, as he is still persisting on trying to salvage the sppech from the depths of egregiousness by trying to turn on his ‘charm’ and TV professionalism. You don’t need my to endorse it…just watch it.

It is really a shame that I am having to turn to series from nearly ten years ago to meet my need for good comedy but, well, needs must when the devil drives… 😉


Mid-series review: The Mighty Boosh

Filed under: TV/Radio Comedy — carolineisnotamused @ 7:47 pm

A quick review really as you can’t really judge a whole series on the first episode. I’m still watching and all that I said before still stands as I’m disappointed with how it’s going. However, as it has progressed the use of the Nabootique isn’t as shoddy as I predicted- compared to the second series the ideas that have come from the use of the shop have been very original, but the execution of these ideas hasn’t been up to standard. And I will always miss the ‘front-of-curtain’ banter, which really could have been a signature style of theirs, there was no reason to stop it as it wasn’t Zooniverse specific!

I think parts of the episodes have some of the old spark and it’s still watchable but I think the patchy quality of the show is even more highlighted because of their natural predilection towards the fragmented and fanciful style of storytelling. If a show is going to go off on flights of fancy it needs to reign itself in when it comes to the other elements. It’s like make-up innit? you either do strong eye-make-up or strong lip-colour…not both. You’d think the Boosh would appreciate that 😉

The latest episode had some of the best and worst moments from the series in it, that bloody fox character was awful! It seemed to be a close relation of A Bears Tail and that can’t be good! I would insert a youTubelink but I wouldn’t want to inflict that on an unsuspecting blog reader. Also Naboo doing one of te songs is just plain wrong and was very cringy. They should keep his part to a minimum- not because I don’t like Naboo but because the whole joke about him in the first place was his deadpan and low-key-stoned-out delivery in contrast with his position as a wise Shaman. Less in this case, is most certainly more.


Radiohead Tour…no I know it’s not about comedy… December 6, 2007

Filed under: Fan Girl,Music,Personal — carolineisnotamused @ 7:56 pm

One of the few things that will coax me out of my insular little world of comedy is news that Radiohead are touring in the UK…

Not only are they touring, but they are playing close to home in Manchester…

Not only are they playing in Manchester but I have gone and bought myself tickets for me and a friend to go on the one date they are there…

Tickets officially go on sale tomorrow at 10am, but I went to w.a.s.t.e the Radiohead official merchandise store to grab them…

I was almost disappointed at how easy it was to electronically stroll up and buy them,I was preparing for the fun and games of trying to refresh the screen on my cranky dial-up (gah!)

Almost disappointed…cos you know I actually got tickets!

29th June, Manchester, Lancashire County Cricket Club.

Expect a full write up on my return…

Might see you there…


…for crimes against comedy perhaps…? December 1, 2007

Filed under: Comedians,TV/Radio Comedy — carolineisnotamused @ 4:30 pm

I was quite frankly shocked at Vic Reeves’ new solo venture, the radio show ‘Vic Reeves’ House Arrest’ which started on Radio 2 on November 17th co-starring Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh and Nancy Sorrell of erm… ‘I’m A Celebrity’ fame, also married to Vic Reeves…

Cast of Vic Reeves' House Arrest

clockwise from top left: Bob Mortimer, Noel Fielding, Nancy Sorrell, Vic Reeves © BBC 2007

I was hoping for something with at the very least decent production values. After all Vic Reeves’ is the co-creator of such classics as ‘Shooting Stars’, ‘Smell of Reeves and Mortimer’ and also the criminally underrated ‘Catterick’ (all co-written with Bob Mortimer), however not only did the sound production in this new radio series seem rather shoddy, but the programme fell severely short when it came to material as well.


The concept of the show was very promising; it was Vic Reeves playing himself but he was under house-arrest for a crime he didn’t commit. However the first episode just seemed like one huge wasted opportunity.


Instead of clever self-contained sketches about things going on in Reeves’ house it consisted of basically Reeves’ ‘narrating’ as himself, bumbling about his house looking for things to do. Now narration on radio I don’t mind but when it’s of the type ‘ooh, I’m in my house now, I wonder what I could do next…oh, who’s that at the door now?’ it really is sub-standard and shows lack of effort. There were some cut-away sections that were spoof adverts or spoof TV shows Reeves was watching, but they were ruined by the sound production as there was no differentiation between Reeves talking in his house and the spoof drama sections…it felt like we were missing out on a visual joke that would signify the shift in location. Sorry Vic, but you’re on radio so we need to be able to hear it!


Then later in the episode we had the appearance of Inspector John Fowler who was originally conceived as Kinky John, the club compere in ‘Bang Bang It’s Reeves And Mortimer’ and later reinvented as an American style detective (“Just dial 999 and ask for the American Eagle!”) in ‘Catterick’. Fowler is one of Reeves and Mortimer’s funniest characters, and given the nature of the show, it would have been great to have Fowler pursue Reeves for the different crimes he is supposed to have committed perhaps, or something along those lines. It’s almost a no-brainer really. But whether Reeves thought this was too obvious, or he just intentionally wasted an opportunity I don’t know, but instead we had Fowler simply reading sections from his auto-biography.


Kinky John and Inspector Fowler


left to right: Kinky John and Inspector John Fowler © BBC

Don’t get me wrong Fowler’s section was actually one of the few highlights of the show as his strange stories in his paradoxically faltering yet grandiose delivery (“The audience are like pu…GINGER in my hands…(long pause)…PUTTY!” as Kinky John in ‘Bang Bang’) are always entertaining, but when presented without contrasting him to a more serious backdrop and without interaction with other characters (as in both ‘Catterick’ and ‘Bang Bang’) they just seem a little one note. The other highlight for me was the monologue by Bob Mortimer as Reeves’ hairdresser Carl. Mortimer’s performance was, as ever, hilarious and provided a much needed element of texture to the sound of the show as I was already zoning out only a short while into the show as up to Mortimer’s appearance it has been mostly Reeves’ voice. However, the character of ‘Carl’ is yet again another character originally shown in Bang Bang as a club bouncer and then in Catterick as the protagonist returning from the army to search for his long-lost son, only now he is reduced to merely a cameo. Oh and did I mention we had ‘Club Singing’ originated in ‘Shooting Stars’ as well? It seems Reeves doesn’t have any new ideas to offer, just recycling old popular ones in the hope we won’t notice. Even guest stars Fielding and Sorell were underused (I never thought I’d find myself writing that sentence believe me!)


I don’t know if I can attribute this distinct loss of direction and quality in Reeves’ material to the fact he is writing on his own without the aid of usual comedy partner Bob Mortimer but it does seem suspicious, especially given that the sections of Vic talking have a similar style to that of many interview with Reeves (or rather Jim Moir), by which I mean a slightly infuriatingly evasive tone, mixed with a perhaps self conscious effort to be ‘surreal’ or rather his version of what surreal is. No, despite being a huge fan of most of his comedy material I’m not a fan of Reeves/Moir in interview.


Had this been a new series by unknown comedians I would have forgiven the faults in the show and perhaps found them endearing, but really I expect a lot more of someone with such an illustrious comedy career as Vic Reeves, especially as this series seems like a huge step backwards; by this I mean they went from the live sketches of ‘Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out’ to ‘Smell of’ and ‘Bang Bang’ which gave us more polished sketches and mixed the live and televisual elements brilliantly, while also further developing running characters then to ‘Catterick’ which took the characters and gave them a longer narrative, while also incorporating some sketch like elements. In these examples of Reeves and Mortimer’s career there isn’t really a logical progression as such, more that each new venture builds on the best elements of the last whilst also creating it’s own identity; whereas with ‘House Arrest’ it just seems to be rather stagnant and unclear of it’s direction.


I hope that this is just a minor blip from which they can recover their comedic originality. I’m sure they will, after all I’m no longer judging them on ‘Families At War’ or Bob Mortimer for his involvement with ‘Tittybangbang’ , though that last one took months of counselling and therapeutic viewing of decent comedy writing such as ‘The Smoking Room’. I will remain optimistic that Vic Reeves (hopefully along with Bob) will come up with something fresh and new that builds on the genius of Catterick’, which in the mean time I recommend you all go and watch, or you want some truly original radio comedy go and download ‘Blue Jam’ by Chris Morris (download available from Cookd and Bombd)…which no amount of my blog space could really do justice too…


Doktor who? November 18, 2007

Filed under: Comedians,Edinburgh Festival,Fan Girl,Live Comedy — carolineisnotamused @ 9:34 pm

After the recent of negative posts about new comedy I wanted to show that I wasn’t totally cynical and that there is still some excellent new comedy about. In the absence of decent television comedy at the moment, I feel the need to turn to new live acts to heap praise upon. Although this new act you will have seen and will be seeing each week at the end of BBC3’s Comedy Shuffle.


Yes, I’m talking about the man, the myth, the legend that is Doktor Cocacolamcdonalds. You would be forgiven, from his name, for thinking that he is some sort of anti-consumerist protest act in the style of Reverend Billy And The Church Of Stop Shopping or even Mark Thomas, but no, his show has nothing to do with either of these global brand names. The origin of his name is never explored in his act, but that doesn’t matter as it merely adds colour to an already psychedelic act.


I saw his act twice at The Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh, so impressed was I with his show. It felt fresh and I saw new aspects of it both times, although his endearingly bumbling manner was actually carefully orchestrated. However he still has the ability to ad-lib to hilarious effect and still keep in character during his sections of audience interaction.


And what an original character he has created. Standing on stage in just a pair of brightly coloured underpants, with layers of ties strung round his neck, often talking in monotone. He also sometimes shouts at the audience, not so much in an aggressive manner but more like an upset child having a tantrum. However, he makes the character extremely likeable as he creates an air of pathos, frustration and vulnerability almost like a clown, but not a modern circus clown, more like a traditional Pierrot, but one who has taken too many drugs and is having a breakdown on stage in front of you. There is something about this character that makes you want to look after him.


He starts by telling the audience about his early life in almost a fairytale manner, how he was brought up by cats. It almost feels like early Mighty Boosh style territory (that’s meant as a huge compliment by the way) and then the show continues with a series of songs, poems, narration and audience interaction. The songs at first seem rather free-form, almost as if they could have been ad-libbed. But, on a second listen, it becomes clear that they are well thought out, clever and very inventive with language. Songs such as ‘When You Generalise, They’re General LIES!’ and ‘We Didn’t Need It But They Made It Anyway!’ all emerge from his apparently inane ramblings in a slightly clumsy manner, but as the songs progress the structure and the simple but clever lyrics win you over and often get you singing along too.


Then there’s the audience interactive ‘Rocky Personality Test’ where he asks members of the audience “Which film do you adore? Rocky 1, Rocky 2, Rocky 3 Rocky 4?” Interaction in shows often has the opposite of the desired effect, as the audience are worried the performer will ‘pick on’ them in some way, however with the Doktor it is all very good natured and thoroughly bizarre- you can’t help but smile when he gets you singing along with both the theme tune to The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and ends with a completely incongruous sing-a-long of Last Christmas.


Although the sing-a-long ending was a great way to close the show and ensure the audience went out smiling and remembering his show, however way he chose to wrap up the journey of the character was what I found so clever, and what made the show special for me. He closed by almost coming out of character, saying basically that the costume, the make-up, the keyboards and the songs is all ‘bloody good therapy’. By breaking out of the character that he had just been performing for the last hour, it was a clever way of showing that as a performer, he wasn’t taking himself too seriously and wasn’t trying to create an air of alienating mystery around his act, but trying to involve the audience even more by showing to us as we walked out singing Last Christmas into the balmy August night that it could potentially be anyone of us on stage.


Doktor Cocacolamcdonalds



I know I said I was going to be all positive in this post, but I do feel I have to comment on the Doktor’s appearance on Comedy Shuffle and how it could be off-putting for someone who hadn’t seen his full show- you only got one song by him so you don’t get a true sense of his act. The same goes for Pappy’s Fun Club who only got to perform one sketch, whereas I’m told their show is a clever new twist on the sketch show format when seen in full (which I will be doing next week, incidentally, watch this space for review). This is more a problem I have with Comedy Shuffle as a format really. It seems they are trying to appeal to a younger audience by making the show into a Top Of The Pops but for comedy, showing us acts in 5 minute segments as if we all have problems with our attention span. Fine, it does show a variety of acts, and allows lesser known comedy to be showcased but this is only suitable for certain types of comedy really. Instead of trying to create a format and making the acts fit round it, why not just give more decent new acts the air time and let them choose and craft their own format. I’m sure this approach would nurture more inventive and original writing than either giving new acts merely five minutes to prove themselves, or giving more established writers half an hour of televisual rope with which to hang themselves.


Bain & Armstrong- it’s not exactly Peep Show is it?

Filed under: Fan Girl,Film Comedy,TV/Radio Comedy — carolineisnotamused @ 12:40 am

Today I’m feeling inspired to write about the latest two offerings from Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, given the disappointing nature of both projects. I’m clearly not talking about the consistently hilarious Peep Show, whose series 4 finale was just inspired, I’m talking about their recent feature film debut with Magicians and the more recent pilot Victorian-themed sitcom Ladies & Gentlemen

Firstly Magicians…when the news came out that Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong were to do a film it was all very exciting- after all they write very well for Mitchell and Webb, and the collaboration between the four of them would have the potential to be a TV-to-film transfer in the same calibre as Pegg/Wright/Frost, though obviously with a very different style.

However as previews were reviewed and commented on it was reported that the film was a little lacklustre and didn’t have the pizazz and flair that a big screen treatment of the topic of magicians should have. Given the fact that I like Bain & Armstrong and Mitchell & Webb on TV, I was a little worried that it was going to be completely awful and un-watchable. These worries were, sadly, almost completely justified. Don’t get me wrong the film wasn’t as dire as the initial write-ups led me to believe it would be, but that’s not to say that it was a good film. It was massively predictable for a start and contained so many plot holes and too many sub-plots which made it feel ‘clunky’ and cobbled-together. Structurally it was more like an extended sitcom episode and that is never going to work for a feature film.

When it came to the acting Mitchell & Webb performed their usual personas pretty well, with Webb as the slightly over-confident chancer and Mitchell as slightly uptight and boring. Though the lack of screen-time they shared proved problematic as the contrast was never highlighted and they couldn’t revel in their usual banter. Nevertheless, they remained likeable and watchable throughout. Jessica Hynes performed to a high standard, but suffered from Bain and Armstrong’s awful inability to write for women characters, or at least write well rounded women characters, after all the twitchy, fragile Toni in Peep Show is very well realised, if slightly one-dimensional.

The subject of the film- a magic double act who split when one killed the others wife in a trick that went wrong on stage, reunited for a magic competition- should have given Bain and Armstrong plenty of scope for comedy situations, however it seems that that is exactly what they thought too. They clearly wrote the screenplay without going into it in any depth, without scratching the surface of the world of magic. So the jokes and situations were at best clichéd and at worst…well they completely ignored the potential of a magic show and seemed to just use it as a slightly glitzy backdrop for the double act of Mitchell & Webb, in the hope that their charm would carry it off.

Mitchell and Webb were going through a trouble patch in their double act career...

Therein lay the main problem- they were merely using magic as a backdrop and it wasn’t woven into the fabric of the film; the magic references felt shoehorned in. Contrast this with a film like Shaun Of the Dead where Pegg and Wright had a love of the zombie film genre and the form and content were integrated and fluid, or even with The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse in the section set in the 17th Century where you could really feel the love of the period. In both these cases the passion the writers/actors had for their respective genres/periods was reflected in the detail, references and performances. Something Bain and Armstrong could learn from.

Overall… it appealed to the ‘fan-girl’ in me Mitchell and Webb were sweet and likeable with some excellent lines, but really the best lines were only average in a film context, and far too thinly spread. Had the lines been in a sitcom or even a ‘special’ made for TV it could have been brilliant. Or maybe they should just hand their comedy film scripts to Edgar Wright and let him make them in future, perhaps in the case of Magicians with Jeremy Dyson and Reece Shearsmith script editing, given their passion for all things magic.

Given their unsuccessful venture into feature film, you would be forgiven for thinking they would fair better in a sitcom context, especially considering Peep Show’s continuing brilliance. However Bain & Armstrong’s latest sitcom offering Ladies & Gentlemen, a pilot episode which was long-time arriving on our screens was extremely disappointing. It started out life under the title of Modern Men and promised to be a sitcom showing a group of Victorian men trying to make sense of the ‘modern’ times they were living in. It first came to light when Reece Shearsmith was linked to the show sporting a full beard, just prior to his appearance in The Producers in February/March 2006.

We heard nothing until over a year later when Adam Buxton revealed on his blog that he was part of this much anticipated sitcom pilot, still under the title of Modern Men. Finally a transmission date was revealed, and it was to be shown as part of a series of new sitcom pilots and now had the title of Ladies & Gentlemen. For some reason alarm bells rang with me when I found out of the change in title, it was only a small point but I felt that the bland, generic title could not bode well. It smacked of a show that didn’t really know what it was about, fair enough it was a pilot but I expected more of these writers. Of course if another show exists with the same title then fair enough but a more interesting new title could have been thought of surely?

I was, sadly, proved right. The show consisted of a group of disconnected characters, with barely a semblance of plot. The premise of the show was thinly sketched in, it was set in the Victorian period and made vague reference to the manners and mores of this period but never really exploited the humour and detail that a viewer would expect from a period sitcom. There were three male characters, a doctor (Adam Buxton), a writer (Darren Boyd) who was a slightly over-confident chancer and…I’m not quite sure what Reece Shearsmith’s character was, other than slightly uptight and boring. Hmm, ring any bells?

They mourn the loss of their funny lines....

Oh and the two main women characters were a ‘ditzy blonde’ and an ‘old spinster’. Say no more.

Contrast this with, for example the League Of Gentlemen’s Xmas Special- the Victorian segment with Dr Chinnery was rich in detail and lovingly captured the essence of that era in both the language, design and performances. Yet again Bain & Armstrong fall short due to a lack of passion and research on the topic they are writing about, surely the first things a writer should think about when starting a project.

The show ambled along pointlessly. Now I don’t mind idle banter if the characters are sharply observed and well performed, and I don’t mind a lack of real plot if the script is sharp and witty, unfortunately this show had nothing to redeem itself- the performances were mediocre. Well I tell a lie, complete and utter fan-girl that I am I’d say that it was only worth watching for Adam Buxton’s rather fetching beard.

Buxton's beard


But shhhh! I never said that…


The not so Mighty Boosh… November 17, 2007

Filed under: Fan Girl,TV/Radio Comedy — carolineisnotamused @ 5:40 pm

The long-awaited ‘new’ series of The Mighty Boosh was broadcast on Thurs 15th November at 10.30pm. I use the word ‘new’ loosely because a) it had already been premièred on-line prior to it’s BBC3 transmission date and b) Well, in short, I felt I’d seen it all before!


Although The Mighty Boosh appears to all intents and purposes ‘random’ and ‘unpredictable’, when it comes to plot it often follows a basic format- Vince and Howard at home or at the ‘Zooniverse’ (or now in ‘The Nabootique’) they banter to highlight their differences, Vince has a new trendy venture which Howard mocks, Howard gets into trouble, Vince attempts to save him but gets distracted with something shiny, Naboo comes to the rescue- and the third series begins with little variation from this.


In previous series this simple format was the ideal way to create a framework for the fantastical flights of fancy that Vince and Howard would go on…but the third series opens with an episode all too pedestrian and the fairytale nature of The Boosh boys adventure seems too ordinary. The banter between the characters Vince and Howard used to be inventive and funny and given to the audience in short spurts, but in this episode it goes on for too long and becomes one-note. In addition the main villain of this episode was The Hitcher basically doing what The Hitcher does best- being evil, having a Cockney sing-a-long. Of course The Hitcher was funny and sinister at first but we’ve seen him do all this before…but better. Or should I say worse? The Hitcher just seemed a bit too slick somehow.


The same goes for the design of the show, such an important element in The Mighty Boosh. It is now too streamlined and not ‘rough round the edges’ like before. Gone is the reliance on green screen for the fantasy elements… ‘The Nabootique’ looks just too well made, and the sets no longer resemble a disused zone from The Crystal Maze- ‘The Zoo-Zone’ as they did in series one. Come to think of it, Vince’s outfits often resemble Richard O’Brien’s Crystal Maze look, coincidence…?

Separated at birth?


Moreover, The Hitcher no longer looked like he was a Frankenstein’s monster in fancy-dress made from Polos and masking tape. In short, the homemade charm that made The Mighty Boosh unique and special has just about gone.


Although I do hope they can inject a bit of the old magic into this series, for the moment at least, it seems The Boosh boys have become so expert at their own style that they’ve forgotten to be original, innocently quirky and most of all funny. Perhaps like a child growing up, The Boosh has become basically very self conscious.


However, all was not lost in this episode; I watched with utter joy the return of Rich Fulcher glamming it up as a woman in fur-coat, with a long cigarette holder and full 50s style make-up with her amorous call of “hellooooooooooooooooooooooo”, printed in full on her calling card of course! Her passionate advances to Howard (and who can blame her 😉 ) were more sinister than anything The Hitcher had to offer in this episode.


Why won’t somebody give Rich his own comedy series?

Oh wait…they did. It was called Snuffbox and hardly anyone watched it.

The fools.