Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #19

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

This week ‘mind disabled’ Ian Wolf looks at a mockumentary, health and safety, and a very old pair of underpants.

Show & Tell

A new comedy on E4, Show & Tell (fronted by Chris Addison) features three up-and-coming guest comedians talking about various items that they’ve brought with them.

In this week’s opening episode, Welsh stand-up Elis James brought in a practically ancient pair of underpants which seem to have dated before he was even born. Roisin Conaty (winner of last year’s Edinburgh Newcomer Award) talked about a video she watched when she was 13 which turned out to be a porn film; and sand-dancer (which, for anyone outside of the North East, means “South Shields resident”) Chris Ramsey recalled about an incident with a nutter and an umbrella in a canal.

As well as this Addison asked his panel to bring in something relating to a particular subject, and then got the audience to talk about things they wanted to show.

Never too bogged down in the prepared material from James, Conaty and Ramsey, this is a very enjoyable show. And any programme which gives lesser known stand-ups a platform to perform on is worth promoting (admittedly Conaty is an award winner, but she isn’t a household name by any stretch). But even when going off script the comics get decent laughs out of their props, whether it’s James asking Conaty to cut out some of his underpant gusset or the unusual uses for a toy gorilla. It isn’t the funniest show you’ll ever see, but with the competitive element of panel shows removed it’s much more relaxing.

The Fun Police

The third pilot in the Comedy Showcase series, The Fun Police is a studio based sitcom (featuring live laughter, to the shock and mortification of professional TV critics) about an inept health and safety department.

It’s a more traditional sitcom in the style of shows like The IT Crowd, albeit with more unusually daft humour. The pilot sees Leslie (Rhys Derby) taking over as head of health and safety in the town of Brightsea after one of his work colleges, Neil (Jack Doolan), put their boss in a coma after accidentally falling on top of her.

The best way to describe The Fun Police is that it’s ‘enjoyably silly’. Leslie, for example, instead of coming up with a press statement about the accident spends his time ordering new furniture and designing a new mascot to make health and safety more fun. Another character, Toni (Katy Wix – who seems to be in at least one Channel 4 pilot per week at the moment) is an over-zealous officer with a robotic hand, paranoid about the dangers of the sea and helium balloons. This pilot also featured a cameo from Vic Reeves (credited under his real name Jim Moir) as an egotistical town planner driven mad by the power to name streets.

The Fun Police is full of ideas and is certainly a fun show. Not every joke is a cracker, but it certainly made me laugh and I for one would think it would make a good series if given the chance.

Rick and Peter

The third Comedy Lab pilot of the series is a mockumentary tackling the issue of disability, an issue rather important to me as I suffer from Asperger’s syndrome.

Rick and Peter begins with T4 presenter Rick Edwards (whom I’d never heard before) becoming an internet sensation following a YouTube montage clip of him repeatedly mocking the disabled. As a result he’s ordered by a Channel 4 executive (Miles Jupp) to attend a school presentation given by Hollyoaks and Cast Offs star Peter Mitchell, who is paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.

In terms of mockumentaries, it’s not the most innovative ever made. Many shows have covered the supposedly nasty (albeit fake) attitudes of a celebrity. And it also features other guest stars like Nicholas Parsons and Giles Cohen in self-deprecating roles, but this idea has been implemented numerous times in shows such as Extras.

However, my main problem with Rick and Peter is actually the relationship between the two. Since Rick mocks the ‘mind disabled’ rather than the ‘leg disabled’, surely the character should be made to do something with someone with a more relevant disability?

The problem with that, of course, lies with TV networks’ obsession with the visibly disabled. I know that I’m ‘mind disabled’, but I look normal – and TV doesn’t like that. It seems to me that unless you have a disability in which you look different (missing limb, dwarfism, etc.) or require some sort of, for want of a better term, hardware (wheelchair, white stick, hearing aid) you’ll not get a look in on TV because they’ll be asking: “How can the viewers tell you’re disabled?”

In the end all that happens is that we get comparisons with Rain Man, which is inaccurate because he’s a savant and most autistic people are not. Either that or it’s Tourette’s syndrome and you get someone swearing their head off, which again most Tourette’s sufferers do not do. If we don’t do something odd we don’t get a look in, which really frustrates me. In terms of my disability, the only one I can think of appearing in a British sitcom was one of the children in the Jasper Carrott sitcom All About Me, which is widely regarded as being one of the worst sitcoms ever made. Plus that child is somewhat overshadowed by the main narrator of the story, a boy in a wheelchair suffering from cerebral palsy.

I don’t think that Rick and Peter will get a full series, but if it does I hope they cover all ground when it comes to disability, not just what you can see.