136. Funny Girls

Tapehead no 136 

One thing about watching comedy on TV is: it really does get you down.

As people often say when they write in to complain about Tapehead to the editor of the Guide, it’s just not funny.

No wonder people have started pretending they actually always thought seventies rubbish like Are You Being Served was funny – funny or “ironic” in some  (unspecified) way. Hat Trick Productions have scraped so many barrels they’ve ended up with The Peter Principle.

Now it looks as if even the good guys are spawning their bastard offspring.

Some producer at the BBC looked at Pauline Calf, looked at Mrs.Merton, and came up with an ingenious mix of the two: John Shuttleworth (500 Bus-Stops). 

Gentle Northern “irony”, touching characterization…If only they’d remembered to put some gags in.

What would once have been a quick song on The Word has mutated into a four-part series (a giveaway – it was evidently too thin to stretch to the usual six).

The songs are fine (that’s what he does, you idiots). But the format, the ridiculous sidekick Ken, and the laboriousness of the material are, well, a joke.

The equivalent idiot at Channel 4 looked at Shooting Stars, thought, Vic Reeves meets George Dawes meets Benny Hill, and came up with: Harry Hill.

Tapehead had his doubts about Hill when he saw him brown-nosing with Ch**s Ev**s on TFI Friday. (This was the week before Evans started off by telling us we were “lucky to have this show” on the grounds hat he had “the Bee Gees! Music from Job Bon Jovi ! Dave Stewart’s gonna sneak in somewhere !” So God knows what he’s getting ready for us when the quality drops.)

When Evans, on a whim, told him to improvise the interview in the style of Jackie Collins, Hill’s absolute lack of quick-wittedness was so apparent, you could only assume Evans persisted because by comparison, it made even him look funny.

The concept of Hill as a “soft” Vic Reeves is basically redundant because the moments of manic savagery are the only thing that makes Shooting Stars and its juvenile indulgences bearable.

Last week’s best sketch – Chas & Dave Sing Blur – would have been funny…if Blur hadn’t done it first through most of their career. 

Harry’s first joke this week is: if you get a letter and you don’t know who it’s from, run after the postman and shout 1471 at him, he’s got to tell you. Comic genius or what ? Mmmh ? Mmmh ? And, as student humour goes, Hill’s puppets and his impressions are so puerile they give students a bad name.

Like Rory McGrath and Frank Skinner, Hill is chuckling away at how funny he is before he’s even halfway through a gag. The roars of taped laughter are the giveaway. If the show worked, they wouldn’t need it. And they really pile it on. It might as well be The Bobby Davro Show.

ITV’s idiot producer looked at Mrs Merton and, ingeniously came up with Gayle’s World, hosted by Brenda Gilhooly’s Page Three Stunna, Gayle Tuesday.

Gayle chats to guests Boy George and Michael Winner, both of whom, if Tapehead is not mistaken, have done Mrs.Merton, as it were. (Cue canned Harry Hill laughter.)

The giveaway here is: if you can’t even make the pun in the title funny, you’re really struggling. Gayle makes Caroline Aherne look like Woody Allen. At one point Tapehead was even fondly wondering why Tracy Ullman wasn’t on more. (Just for a moment.)

The main problem is: Gayle Tuesday doesn’t look anything like a page three girl. She looks like a cross between Fi from Brookside and Sarah Greene.

Only a really right-on female comedian could have based her whole act on the dated stereo type that all page three girls are stupid. The ones that are (Melinda Messenger, Jo Guest) are not only much better-looking than Gayle Tuesday but funnier.

All the jokes are based, stupidly, on stupidity, and an insult not only to page three girls but, more importantly, to the audience.

When someone tells Gayle she’s got clinical depression, Gayle coos back, “Ooh that’s nice, innit!” What a wit, eh?

As for the It-girl sketch – a string of stereotypes uninterrupted by any actual jokes – how can you parody a parody ?

The real laughs, of course, are on children’s TV. Don’t miss Ellen DeGenerate on Sesame Street teaching kids about the letter ‘i’, the number 5, and lesbian threesomes in San Francisco.

No comment.


500 Bus Stops: Tues, 11.15pm, BBC2

Harry Hill: Fri, 10.30pm, C4

Gayle’s World: Weds, 10.40pm, ITV

Sesame Street: Fri, 6am, C4