Shaun Spencer

Telly Vision: The Alternative Comedy Experience and The Mindy Project

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This week Shaun Spencer takes a look at alternative comedy’s Live At The Apollo, and an American sitcom he describes as like “a cross between Sex & the City and Scrubs.”

The Alternative Comedy Experience

The Alternative Comedy Experience is a show ‘curated’ by Stewart Lee to showcase what he considers to be some of the most exciting stand-ups around today.  As with most undertakings by Lee, this is in no way meant to pander to the general population. The show features a line-up of stand up comedians, cutting between sections of their material and backstage clips with Lee himself interviewing the acts.  The line-up is predictably eclectic, this week featuring Andy Zaltzmann, Glenn Wool, Stephen Carlin, Sam Simmons and Maeve Higgins.

It’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy every stand up on each show, but the mix of styles and material mean that you are almost certain to find something that you will like, and maybe even discover someone you would not have previously considered.  In earlier episodes I’ve greatly enjoyed Tony Law’s routines, having previously discounted him based on certain panel show appearances.

Maeve Higgins was my highlight from this week’s show, though, with a fantastically understated routine of ideas for films in which she could play the starring role. It was a real disappointment that her segment was so short, and I hope that we see more of her in next week’s final episode.  Andy Zaltzman and Glenn Wool were funny as usual, although in entirely different ways.  Stephen Carlin seemed to rely too heavily on material derived from Scottish stereotypes, and didn’t bring anything new to the table that we have not seen in some form or another before.

Unfortunately I just didn’t ‘get’ Sam Simmons.  Certain members of the audience seemed to really enjoy his incoherent rambling and energetic delivery, so I can’t fault his appearance; this show is meant to push the boundaries of TV stand up, acting as almost an antithesis to shows like Live at The Apollo (which it directly follows on Comedy Central).

The thing I like most about this show, though, is not the acts, nor is it the short interview sections. It’s the realism. Although the show is heavily edited, you really get a feel that it is being thoroughly honest; it’s in a proper comedy club (it stresses this at the beginning), the audience are up for it but not overly forgiving, and when jokes don’t land they don’t leave them on the editing room floor.

The final episode of The Alternative Comedy Experience airs on Tuesday at 11pm on Comedy Central.  All current and future episodes are available for download through iTunes – see the Comedy Central website for further information.

The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project is an American sitcom, created by and starring Mindy Kaling as the main protagonist – a 30-something “chubby” OBGYN trying to find a balance between her questionable love life and her career.

Mindy is better known from the American Office where she was one of the main writers (and played the part of Kelly Kapoor). While retaining some of the humour and wit from The Office, her new show is a completely different style and feels more like a cross between Sex & the City and Scrubs.

The host of supporting characters are not the most inspired creations but are far from the cookie-cutter stereotypes you tend to find in a lot of American sitcoms.  The show is charming and endearing and will often catch you off guard with a moment of non-signposted hilarity. It does have some saccharine moments but thankfully they are few and far between.

I would recommend giving the show a go for at least a few episodes and to not write it off from its initial appearance.  I’ve been watching on a weekly basis and it fits nicely into my American sitcom session.

The Mindy Project is currently airing on E4, Tuesdays at 9:30pm.