It might’ve been funny in Benny’s day, but . . .
THE British seem to have an insatiable appetite for, and an incredible ability to produce, cheap sketch comedy. From The Benny Hill Show and The Two Ronnies to Matt Lucas and David Walliams of Little Britain, the Brits apparently have an unswerving commitment to dressing up in ridiculous clothing and acting out semi-funny or completely unfunny situations, ostensibly in the interests of comedy.
The latest in this line is the work of supposed comic genius Harry Enfield, and sometime sidekick Paul Whitehouse, whose 2007 production, Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry & Paul, has finally made it to local screens.
The title, with its malaproprisms and stupid punctuation should be a give-away to the turgidity of the content, for it is hard to sit through an entire half-hour without wondering how many times one has seen all this before.
The premise is, I gather, an investigation of the English class system through satire. But while there are a couple of jibes at snooty middle-class posers and even one not particularly humorous and clearly outdated set-piece lampooning Guy Ritchie and then-wife Madonna, most of the jokes are at the expense of the working class. And the stereotypes run thick and fast.
Here is the punch-drunk boxer who has outlived his stay in the ring but can’t give it up. There is the slapper mother-to-be with her bottleblonde locks and gutter mouth. Here is the copper with nothing better to do than moan about having nothing to do. And what about the footballer who habitually takes a dive? Laugh! Actually, I didn’t.
There are, I concede, a couple of
No laughing matter: amusing moments. A blatantly provocative skit poking fun at Nelson Mandela is a tiny bit funny, and there is one genuinely humorous scene in which a rich WAG pays £ 60,000 for a painting of a daisy done by a junkie. ( It’s better than it sounds.) However, a recurring skit involving a dunderhead in a brown ’ 70s tux is merely tedious. And a boring and repetitive segment ridiculing a television chef who bears a striking resemblance to Hugh Fernley Whittingstall frankly adds nothing to my life.
Enfield is best known in Australia for, among other things, The Harry
takes on Nelson Mandela Enfield Show and The Fast Show ( which also starred Whitehouse). But this is certainly not his best work. Hardcore fans, or those who particularly love to titter at men in wigs and dresses, might still enjoy it, but those who appreciate anything fresh and new should look elsewhere.
Wednesday night on ABC1, traditionally a field of gold for comedy, having hosted shows as brilliant and entertaining as Summer Heights High, The Gruen Transfer and Hollowmen has been sadly let down. Please, please bring back Chris Lilley.
Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul