Comics work at being respectably funny
THEIR British faces are as familiar as that of the woman on our coins. You’ll probably know Ben Miller as the hapless Howard Steel from the three series of The Worst Week of My Life . Alexander Armstrong was most recently seen alongside Caroline Quentin, also in three series, of Life Begins , first on the ABC and latterly on the Seven network.
Like the University of Melbourne sketch comedy mafia that includes the likes of Michael Veitch, Magda Szubanski, Santo Cilauro and Rob Sitch, Armstrong and Miller met while they were at Cambridge. Apparently both were in the famous Cambridge Footlights, where they begat the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller.
Four seasons of the television show Armstrong and Miller which, like The D Generation , grew out of those formative university days, went to air between 1997 and 2001, and the duo reunited for this series in 2007. Another series is thought to be in the wind for 2009.
So what’s it all about? Well, it’s full- on sketch comedy: not a million miles from things such as Fast Forward , Full Frontal and even Comedy Inc when it was still funny, but with a decidedly British bent, as it were.
Not far from recent British hit That Mitchell and Webb Look either, and wouldn’t you know, David Mitchell and Robert Webb went to Cambridge and they all met in those whacky Cambridge Footlights revues.
Like some of the Australian shows mentioned above, especially Fast Forward , the sketches in Armstrong and Miller have a habit of continuing in episodic fragments.
I can’t say that I laughed myself sick or peed my pants over any of them, but they are respectably funny, in a chucklesome if not exactly laughout- loud way.
Indeed, the set- ups are often funnier than the jokes. Tonight’s opening routine transposes the by now rather hackneyed monchrome Nazi commandant sketch with our heroes answering back in very contemporary ‘‘ valley’’ speak but with terribly British accents instead of Californian ones, hence:
Commandant: ‘‘ When you were shot down you were on a reconnaissance mission over the suburbs of Munich. What were you looking for?’’
Miller: ‘‘ You know, places to bomb and stuff, like, factories, or some shit like that.’’
It doesn’t always work. What sketch comedy program does? But what Armstrong and Miller bring to the comedy table are healthy imaginations and terrific comic versatility.
I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you because the element of surprise is vital in comedy such as this, but you can look forward to loose parodies of CSI and Star Trek , and a running gag about a bored policeman stuck on a horse, goaded by his BMWequipped colleagues.
Cambridge chums: Alexander Armstrong, left, and Ben Miller