Dave’s brand new series Comedians Giving Lectures isn’t a particularly new concept, many a stand up show could be described as such a thing and of course Mark Steel did a whole series based around the idea, and a bloody fantastic one at that. But this new show devised by Sara Pascoe sees three comedians given a subject supposedly of Pascoe’s choosing based on an already existing lecture, and then asked to deliver their own version on it.
Of course they were given a fair amount of time to prepare the lecture, despite the way it looks like the title is sprung on them unexpectedly, as all of their sets flowed without an um or an ah at any point. If it had felt less polished it might have been funnier too, in the same way Comedy Central’s Set List was where comedians had to riff on subject matter they were previously unaware of, but perhaps asking them to talk in depth on a complicated subject would be a little unfair.
After Pascoe’s introduction Nish Kumar was up first and given the subject “Ten Ways The World Could End”, which was fine, of interest in places, but hard to find hilarious. The way he dismissed climate change was a cheap gag that didn’t need repeating twice, and though the Brexit material was pointed and impossible to disagree with (unless you’re a Leave cunt, at least) it just wasn’t that funny. Kumar rattled through the material at an impressive rate, but if he’d slowed down and thrown in a few more jokes it would have been better.
Natasia Demetriou’s lecture title was “Anatomy Of The Vagina” which fortunately was much better than Kumar’s effort. Perhaps she had the easier topic as it meant she could just make a lot of sex jokes, many of which might have been material she’s done in the past, but it started off really well even if it wasn’t strictly on topic as she discussed drawings of penises. Not all of it worked and the odd joke was a bit cringeworthy, with “The elephant in the womb” pun making me groan, but Demetriou definitely had the strongest set of the show as her drawings of vagina’s amused, the James Corden gag was strong, and it ended well in general.
Tom Allen was the final comedian taking part and to be honest I wasn’t optimistic he’d end the episode on a high. He’s a comedian who I really struggle with as when I saw him live a couple of years ago he admonished the audience for not laughing enough at him, suggesting he was far funnier than we were giving him credit for and that we weren’t that smart if we didn’t laugh at him. Which might have been a possibility if his material was that intelligent but it really wasn’t, and that proved to be the case here again as he talked about “Why We Make Bad Decisions”, which according to Allen is because “We’re stupid, lazy and godless animals”. Now that might indeed be the case but he didn’t do anything that funny with the idea, and a running gag about loving Denise Van Outen fell flat time and again.
Sara Pascoe’s one of my favourite stand up comedians and her book “Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body” is a fascinating read, packed with not only incredibly detailed examples of her research but some engaging and often very funny personal stories. So I couldn’t help but find myself wishing that it was she who was giving the lectures, or at least one of them, rather than the comedians that we actually got. As it was her interjections were often the highlight of the episode, and hopefully we’ll get more of them as the series continues.
It’s a show that shouldn’t be judged by just one episode of course as with a constantly changing line up it’s going to be very different from week to week, and certain episodes look pretty damn great, like next week’s where Ed Gamble, Katherine Ryan and Sindhu Vee guest, and episode four has Ivo Graham, Luke McQueen and Rachel Parris. But it’s definitely a shame that this first episode was so patchy, as it’s a show which definitely contains promise and it’d be a real shame if people don’t give it a chance because this was only just above average fare.
You can watch the first episode on UKTV Play here.