The League Of Funnymen. And Women. And Andy Parsons. (Part One)

  • 12/01/2011 12:28:00 am
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones
  • 2 Comments

It’s that time of year again! Where we try to update the blog at least once per day right up to Christmas, like a crazy kind of disappointment-themed advent calendar. First up: part one of a new thing that we’ll definitely see through to the end, no really, we will, honest.

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Once upon a time, the last-minute Christmas gift from an auntie who was trying to get as many presents bought in HMV as she could before her Pay & Display ticket expired was the out-take video. It being the VHS age, it really didn’t really matter that the likes of “Red Dwarf Smeg-Ups” or “Bottom: Fluff” comprised mostly of someone saying something a bit wrong, then maybe yelling ‘FUCK!’ before murmuring “okay, okay, let’s go again”, because hey! It was ‘hidden’ telly, and being allowed to hear Lister say the f-word felt really dangerous because we were twelve.

Later came the DVD age, and with it a deluge of Own Goals & Gaffes compilations, where anyone with any kind of public profile would pop up in between shoddily filmed clips of Uruguayan Segunda Division left-backs slicing backpasses over goalkeepers’ heads to mumble through sub-Rory McGrath gags about David Beckham. Pretty much anyone was allowed to front this production line tat, usually wearing a forced grin on the cover, and often an England shirt if they weren’t really very popular in the first place. Everyone brought one of these out, Piers Morgan, David Seaman, Gordon Ramsay, Tyrone off Corrie, everyone. You probably don’t remember the tabloid furore in late 2003, when a contracting mix-up at Vivendi led to the poorly-received ‘Dr Harold Shipman’s Injury Time”. Though that would be because we’ve just made that up.

Then: someone deep within a DVD publishing company – possibly the same person who’d originally decided “interactive menus” counted as a special feature worth listing on the back of a DVD sleeve – came up with “Interactive DVD Quiz Games”. They’re like really disappointing tie-in videogames you don’t need a videogames console for! They led to a semi-revival of Telly Addicts! They were uniformly terrible! The nadir was probably the Newsnight Interactive DVD Quiz Game, mainly because it was actually just Jeremy Paxman calling you an idiot for two hours no matter which answers you selected.

Latterly things have sort-of improved, with the type of release most likely to be piled up into a fancy display in the entrance of Morrisons these days being stand-up comedy. And hey, that must be good, right? Comedy is a good thing, and it can’t be any worse than the kind of football DVDs that were shovelled into shops half a decade ago, right?

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Right?

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Ah, right.

This year must surely be the busiest winter ever for the stand-up genre, with at least twenty new offerings jostling for position amongst the Family Guy and Mrs fucking Brown’s fucking Boys Series fucking One boxsets in the TV DVD section of your local gigastore. But… how will we know which ones are best? And more importantly, which ones deserve to be sealed in concrete and dumped in the North Sea?

Well, that’s where we come in. We’re going to compile snappy little reviews of each stand-up DVD we encounter, and then place them onto a Top Gear Star In A Reasonably-Priced Car style leaderboard, only without implicitly proclaiming undying support for the Conservative Party. It’ll be a non-literal riot!

First up:

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TIM VINE: THE JOKE-AMOTIVE

£11.99 (Amazon)

Ah, a wonderful start. There are two kinds of people in the world as far as we’re concerned – people who think Tim Vine is brilliant, and people who are wrong about Tim Vine. A quart of quickfire quips that are pretty amusing in their own right, but delivered in Vine’s breathless matter they have an effect not unlike having your skull fractured via relentlessly repeated raps with a teaspoon. In a good way.

Possibly the most likeable stand-up on the circuit right now, and it’s not just due to the quality of his act. Alongside it all, he seems disarmingly modest – his previous DVD (Punslinger) ended with the crowd calling for an encore, leading to Vine stepping back on stage to sheepishly admit he hadn’t anticipated such an event before bantering good naturedly with the crowd for a while. This time around, he’s a little more prepared for it, and we can confirm that there’s a pseudo-sequel to his infamous Pen Behind The Ear routine. Tim even gives a generous amount of screen time to support act John Archer, which is nice to see.

Admittedly, the runtime of the gig is just over an hour, but we promise that as long as you have a soul, you’ll spend at least 34 minutes and 27 second of that hour frantically suppressing giggles in order to hear the next joke properly. And hey, next time an elderly relative at a family gathering complains about how all the comedians, you’ve seen them all, on their Saturday Night Live At The Apollo, all the comedians, need to use bad language, you can show them this.

SAMPLE GAG: “I’ve got a job helping out a one-armed typist whenever she wants to do capital letters. It’s shift work.”

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MILTON JONES: THE LION WHISPERER LIVE

£12.99 (Amazon)

There are two kinds of people in the world as far as we’re concerned – people who think Milton Jones is brilliant, and people who are wrong about Milton Jones. A hundredweight of hypersonic howlers… ah, you know the score. Another hugely funny comedian delivering a series of puns and one-liners. This time a little more surreal and in front of a slightly larger crowd and slightly more expensive-looking backdrop (we only really mention this in case Waddingtons ever bring out a “Quickfire Comedian Top Trumps” set and people are looking for strategic advice. Though whoever gets the Stephen Wright card will probably win anyway).

As might be expected from such an accomplished stand-up, it’s all of a very high quality, though it does lose pace a tad around the mid-point where Jones reappears as his own grandfather. Oh, and any time you remember that Milton Jones occasionally appears on Mock The Week. Still a very worthwhile purchase, mind.

FUN INTERACTIVE DVD GAME! Try and work out why Vine’s DVD is a PG, while Jones’ is a U.

SAMPLE GAG: “I’ve got a friend who’s into self-defence. He’s got a black belt… well, he’s got five black belts… okay, he’s a wasp.”

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JOHN CLEESE LIVE: THE ALIMONY TOUR 2011

£11.99 (Amazon)

An Audience With John Cleese, more like. As anyone who may have read reviews of his tour will know (er, or anyone who’d seen it), this isn’t so much John Cleese going out on stage and doing a load of jokes, but rather a fairly endearing wander through memory lane as he tells us all about his rise to stardom and too many wives. Seasoned Python fans really won’t be learning anything new here, and the whole affair has the air of an abridged audiobook on once comically-cranelike legs.

As the title suggests, Cleese makes no bones about why he’s on stage instead of sat at home watching BBC Four, and at the beginning we did begin to worry it might be largely about slagging off the ex-Mrs Cleese who necessitated the tour. Luckily, it all settles into a puffed-up Powerpoint presentation on The Life Of Cleese, and the audience’s fond regard for the man helps it all become a perfectly jolly way to spend eighty minutes of an evening. Much of the show is made from watching clips of 1948 Show, Python and Fawlty, but it’s nice to hear Cleese put his own honest take on all the events, and pointing out which of the especially disgusting bits of the undertaker sketch were Chapman’s doing.

As we say, the whole show is much more like an episode of ITV’s An Audience With…, only with John Cleese fans in the audience instead of Olly Murs and Interchangeable Only Way Is Essex Drone #34. It’s lovely to hear Cleese’s encyclopaedic knowledge of his work, even down to knowing how many years Wanda director Charlie Crichton had previously spent as a film editor (SPOILER: fourteen years). (FURTHER SPOILER: He mentions Wanda as his film writing debut, but that would be neglecting his co-writer gig on The Rise and Rise Of Michael Rimmer). Moments like this do help make up for hearing about Terry Gilliam eating steak in a manner that so annoyed the hotelier who inspired Fawlty Towers for the eleventeenth time, though this is maybe a DVD best left until it hits the sales.

Still, better than Monty Python: Almost The Truth.

SAMPLE GAG: Sorry guv, lengthy warm anecdotes are the order of the day here.

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PETER KAY: THE TOUR THAT DIDN’T TOUR – TOUR

£11.99 (Amazon)

In an age where twatty PR blurb tells us “[X] Is The [Y]-iest Comedian On The Planet”, often attributed to bloody Chortle, kind of nice to see Kay’s strapline here being “one of Bolton’s funniest comedians”. That’s pretty much where the modesty ends, though – the emphasis is very much on LOOK HOW MASSIVELY POPULAR PETER KAY IS, with much of the intro being about it all being at the O2 for “fifteen bloody niiights”.

The gig itself seems to be set in a strange kind of comedic stasis, with Kay seemingly having fallen into an endlessly repeating time loop since just after his last actual live DVD was released. The routine on Sky+ isn’t especially poor or anything, but really – taking until 2011 to come up with a routine about Sky+? Or his dad remarking on the ‘novelty’ of plasma televisions? Or texting? Was his twelve-minute routine on the iPod Mini reluctantly dropped after the preview gigs or something?

Still, at least multimillionaire Kay strives to keep his material relatable, and that’s to be welcomed. Even if this does lead to the director cutting to endless shots of audience members pointing at each other and mouthing “yes! See? You totally do that like ALL the time!”. Instantly preferable to someone like R**** G****** banging on about the neverending angst of being massively famous on both sides of the Atlantic, and something that at least makes this a DVD worth watching, if not quite shelling out the full £12 for. Just wait until after Christmas Day and then visit any one of your seven relatives who will have inevitably been bought this as a present. (“You’re really not helping us clock up Amazon referral cash, you know.”  -Ed.)

Oh, and press ‘stop’ on the DVD before you get to the musical encore, unless you really want to undo all the goodwill Kay had just spent seventy minutes regaining from you.

SAMPLE GAG: “Mate of mine’s just been sacked from the dodgems. He’s suing them for funfair dismissal!” And lots of other gags that people had nicked and tried to claim as their own on Sickpedia since

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Ah, that’ll do for now. Here’s the ranking thus far:

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We’ll update the table as the month goes on, in much the same way as that thing on Top Gear. Only without us calling for genocide on The One Show to try and promote a cash-in spin-off DVD of it, obvs.

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