Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #23

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

Cette semaine, Ian Wolf regarde le blasphème et le français.

Holy Flying Circus

This comedy drama is an “accurate” retelling of the events surrounding the making of Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the accusations against its blasphemy.

You know right from the start what you’re letting yourself in for when Jesus comes onto the screen speaking Aramaic and then farts into a disciple’s face. The main cast; Darren Boyd (as John Cleese), Charles Edwards (Michael Palin), Steve Punt (Eric Idle), Rufus Jones (Terry Jones), Tom Fisher (Graham Chapman) and Phil Nichol (Terry Gilliam) are great at portraying the original stars, or rather exaggerated versions of them. For example, Cleese is characterised as Basil Fawlty, Palin is the nicest man in the world and Idle is a “greedy bastard.”

The programme was full of references to both Python and events relating to the modern day, and introduced by a rolling credit sequence akin to the way many episodes of Flying Circus had, which I personally found hilarious. There are other connections to the Python saga, too, like Palin’s wife being played by Jones in drag (Rufus or Terry, take your pick).

Then there are the links to the actual film, such as the debate between bishops and devils which is akin to the People’s Front of Judea talking about “what the Romans have ever done for us”. Holy Flying Circus also refers to offensive comedy incidents in the present day, like Jerry Springer the Opera and just about anything to do with Frankie Boyle.

My favourite scene in the entire programme, however, was a cameo from Alexander McQueen as the BBC’s Head of Rude Words. His wonderfully stiff performance as a typical Beeb executive reading out the rudest words he could think of was delightful. There was no racist, sexist or homophobic language – but there was a member of the Ku Klux Klan earlier on so you could argue that was covered as well.

I know many critics were dissatisfied by the fact it wasn’t entirely factual. All I have to say to that is if you want something factual then watch a documentary.

Women! (Vous Les Femme)

Anyone who follows my column (hello you half a dozen people) will know that I’m interested in foreign language comedy.

Hence my curiosity was aroused when I came across a French sketch show on late night BBC Two. You can tell it’s not in English because it is the only time a comedy new to British TV is broadcast at ten minutes to midnight. That and the fact everyone’s speaking French, obviously…

Vous Les Femme is written by and stars Olivia Cȏte and Judith Siboni. It has been going since 2007 but the episodes in question come from 2010. This raises a few points. Firstly, why are not starting with series one? Also, how come the BBC re-titled the show from Vous Les Femme (aka With the Ladies) to Women! Also, the BBC website spells it out in block capitals. Why they need to put it in capitals I don’t know. I refuse to.

The best way to sell it to a British audience would be to say it is a cross between Smack the Pony and The Fast Show while filmed in the style of a Dogme 95 film. As you would expect it is a very feminine show and the women take the mickey out of themselves. However, all the sketches are filmed in one take and none of them last more than a minute. In the first episode there were 38 sketches, although some of them were continuations of sketches earlier in the same episode.

If you were to combine the repeated sketches into one single routine, then this show is more hit than miss. Annoyingly for me it was the repeated sketches that I found the least funny. Luckily, because the sketches are so quick it is only a few seconds before a new one comes along.

Among the sketches that I was particularly fond of included an adult baby mobile, a very apologetic car accident victim, a naked woman in a changing room thinking quickly to avoid being perved on by a rugby team and one involving a gimp which is better seen than described.

Other than some of the weaker gags, my main problem is that after every sketch, the title card is shown before moving onto the next one. This not only seems like a waste of airtime but also they keep subtitling it when it crops up. I know what the show is called; it said what it was called at the start. No-one needs reminding every 30 seconds.

However, on the whole Vous Les Femme is a decent show and for those interested the series is available on DVD. However, I’m unsure if the DVD has English subtitles. If you know please let me know in the comment section below…

  • michael q

    Please tell me your having a laugh at the readers expense when you say that vous les femme is a decent show? It has to be the worst comic production I have come across in a long time. I suppose at midnight I really shouldnt expect much, but my god, this is an insult to ‘funny’ women everywhere. Ive never heard a rumour that french men are even remotely funny so it beggars belief that the BBC are giving french woman a leg up. Yes, I should just turn over to something else but I couldnt find the series on depression at the time. I’ll keep a look out for the dvd for sure and maybe I’ll purchase a few and donate them to comedy clubs as a warm up……the next act will be guaranteed a laugh.

  • Rog T

    I thought it was quite funny. You need to lighten up michael q.

  • Ben v

    Yes Michael seriously needs to lighten up. I loved Vous Les Femme as do many people. It’s got a great madness and lightness and stylish foolishness to it that is sorely lacking in many british female comics … Watson and Oliver anyone? (just awful) It also helps if you’re not xenophobic. I say – C’est magnifique, félicitation!

  • kate

    Just bought the dvds from amazon France hoping they would have a subtitle option but sadly not.