In America when the tv channel TBS decided to get some comedians to make some sketches and perform comedy from their own homes they made it in to the gigantic competition that is Tournament Of Laughs. Hosted by Jason Sudekis, who offers wry commentary after each sketch, viewers get the chance to vote for their favourites, whereas in the UK the BBC just got the comedians to record themselves and it’s hosted by a sentient laptop who doesn’t speak, and, well, that’s that, it’s just a number of short snippets of performances which are far more low key.
Quality wise it has been a little better than its US counterpart, which wouldn’t have been difficult admittedly, but for every Bob Mortimer there’s been a Russel Kane so it’s still been a frustrating creation. That applies to this latest episode too, which I thought might be the best yet as it featured Al Murray, Kerry Godliman, Bob Mortimer, Vic Reeves, Phil Wang and Jayde Adams, all of whom I’m very fond of, but it’s once again a very mixed bag with some of the more established names surprisingly disappointing the most.
Al Murray was first up as a strangely subdued The Pub Landlord, there were occasional flashes of his old eccentricities, mainly as he enthused about the pandemic being “Our Dunkirk”, but most of the time it was hard to tell the difference between the character and Murray himself. The set up was that he’d been receiving emails from couples about disputes during the lockdown, one supposedly from a “Harry and Meghan” about the ironing, but the whole segment could be a brand new way of defining the word bland as it failed to elicit even a smile.
Luckily Kerry Godliman was on next to present the show’s best sketch, one where she tried to converse with her daughter who was behind a locked door, and offered up a “Lockdown Bonding Rota” so that they could spend more time with each other, as according to Kerry “I haven’t seen you since Tuesday…I only know you’re still here as there’s no crisps left”. It wasn’t exactly the most imaginative affair but I’m not complaining as it was smart and very funny stuff with a script that made me laugh a lot, and Godliman performed it perfectly too.
Vic Reeves then followed so I presumed it would be two great sketches in a row, but boy was that optimism misplaced as it was just Reeves fucking about in his garden making fart noises. A second sketch later on in the show was better as he dressed up as various colours and objects and kicked something related to what he was wearing, but it was still only the kind of material which would make you smirk rather than laugh out loud.
That also applied to Richard Herring’s Self Playing Snooker World Final Highlights, a skit based on Herring’s podcast where he plays snooker against himself, portraying two slightly different versions of himself with Me One a normal, happy family man and Me Two being more of a renegade, though it was hard to tell the difference between the two characters. The snooker itself was played on a small kid’s table and was lacking in funny moments, and though some of the interviews were mildly amusing I’d hoped for more from Herring than this, especially given how often he moans about not getting his chance to be on tv on his podcasts.
God bless the national treasure that is Bob Mortimer at least, who proved with this that he could do almost anything and still make it funny, as once again he’s performing the “Cat Names” sketch, which is quite possibly the simplest idea ever seen on screen as it’s just pictures of cats that Bob has given ridiculous names too. It’s silly and absurd and perhaps something this childish shouldn’t be funny but Bob is the master of the insanely inane and so it’s hilarious, “The Many Chins Of Derek O” was my favourite but all made me childishly giggle.
Phil Wang came afterwards, decluttering his home in an already dated segment called “Kondo This Condo” where he tried to throw out things he no longer needed but failed each time. It actually started strongly as he tried to dispose of a weird cuddly toy dog but the rest of it was disappointing and didn’t offer up anything amusing. Then after a brief return to Vic Reeves and the aforementioned funnier second sketch, the show came to an end with Jayde Adams as a medium who was trying out ASMR but unfortunately lives below Joe Wicks. It had one funny line where in desperation she exclaims”Shut the fuck up, just let the kids be fat for fuck’s sake” but the rest was weak rather annoyingly and Adams is normally capable of material much funnier than this.
It’s a show which is clearly a frustrating beast, it can be fantastic and each episode so far has had something which has made it worth watching, and Bob Mortimer’s appearances in it alone make it a must see programme for me, but due to the very varied levels of quality it’s something I can’t wholeheartedly recommend. There’s one more episode to go and then that might be it, but if there is a second wave (as sadly seems likely) and it returns, I really hope the comedians involved have a little more time to create something funnier, as all too often this wasn’t close to the level of quality they’re normally associated with.