117. Funnymen

Tapehead no. 117

Someone’s got to say it, and it might as well be Tapehead.

Eddie Izzard’s new series (about a family of talking cows dressed up in wigs and dresses, mingling with human society) is just silly.

Cows is so silly it’s almost funny. Almost, but not actually (or, um, at all).

The show’s sub-heading (Sex ‘n’ Cud ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll) sums up the standard of cow jokes, and there isn’t any other kind.

The cows, one of the early jokes runs, are living in a barn conversion.

“You mean it used to be a barn ?” asks the eldest cow’s (human) girlfriend.

“No, it used to be a three-bedroomed house.”

After that, the eldest cow smoking joints made out of grass (geddit ?!) is about as good as it gets.

With Izzard himself strangely (sadly) absent, all the actors do vague Eddie Izzard impressions without the same soft surrealism or brilliant timing.

It’s so poor you couldn’t even really dignify it with the insulting description of student humour. Better as a kids’ programme, it’s worse than Rentaghost. It’s hard to tell whether anyone who can sit through a whole hour of it deserves our sympathy or admiration.

Tapehead’s patience with Steve Coogan’s new comic creation, Tony Ferrino, quickly wore as thin as the material, some of which, rather pathetically, pops up in both of his New Year shows, The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon and Introducing Tony Ferrino: Who And Why ? A Quest.

“I sing. I dance. I chitty-chat,” says Ferrino, promising “a rollercoaster risotto of music, dance, laughter, tears, and moustaches” (a la Seaside Special) for the likes of Gary Wilmot, Kim Wilde, and Mick Hucknall, though you’d have expected Coogan to come up with something better than “May I call you Simply ?”

People have suggested that Ferrino might be a one-joke concept, but that seems like wishful thinking. The show, like the character, is mildly amusing, fairly clever, marginally well-observed. But the problem is – no matter how funny the people performing/writing them are – songs are never that funny, as Spitting Image and Victoria Wood have demonstrated for years.

“Bigamy at Christmas,” Ferrino croons in one song. “What am I to do?/Spend it with the family ?/I can’t, I’ve got two.”

The best line in his Lloyd Webber musical of Silence Of the Lambs is: “he’ll eat your own aunties washed down with a fine Chianti.”

Someone might as well say it: Alan Partridge was much smarter and far funnier. Ferrino’s interviews are virtually the same anyway.

Ferrino, we learn in the second show (Introducing…) was born Antonio Mussolini Franco Ferrino. His father Carlo “la Dentista” Ferrino was “a simple, hard-working officer for the Portuguese secret police” and would always bring his son a gift home from work: “a wallet, or watch, or a pair of men’s shoes.”

We see flashbacks of his life, such as the young Ferrino winning Eurovision with the band Papa Bendi. Then, after his co-singers both became pregnant, “Tony took the biggest gamble of his career and bravely jettisoned them to follow a solo career.”

All in all, Ferrino seems like a good way for Coogan to audition lots of chicks and plug sports cars like Tony’s five-litre Mustang (“a sexy red bastard”) and AC Cobra (“like a snake. A sexy snake car”).

Lastly, and certainly least, Women At Play: A Lady’s Guide To Casinos briefly features Dennis Pennis creator Paul Kaye doing four fairly average parodies of different types of gamblers.

Any serious points raised by interviews with women who work or play in the nation’s casinos (token as they are) are swiftly spilt by a series of unbelievably amateurish, pointless “comic sketches”.

Annie Griffin the director can’t have spent very long in casino to have come up with a character like the male manager.

The finale scene – suddenly showing Griffin in a red Dior dress, dancing to My Way with co-director David Spannier – sums up the whole debacle. Presumably, she got to keep the gown, or got to wear it anyway – thereby getting not just the last laugh, but the only one on offer.


Cows: Weds, 10.25pm, C4

The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon: Weds, 9.20pm, BBC2

Introducing Tony Ferrino, Who And Why? A Quest: Fri, 10pm, BBC2

Women At Play: Sun, 7pm, C4