Hannah Jane Parkin­son

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The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

I’ve been an­noy­ing ev­ery­body re­cently by rec­om­mend­ing the TV show Sal­ly4Ever. What­ever the con­ver­sa­tion topic is, I will find a way to in­ter­ject: “OK, but have you been watch­ing Sal­ly4Ever?” If they haven’t, I pur­sue them like a debt col­lec­tor. No­body es­capes. Friends, col­leagues, fam­ily. Soon I’ll be writ­ing to news­pa­pers and stop­ping peo­ple in the street. I en­joy scripted com­edy enor­mously, but in re­cent years the things that in­spire tears of laugh­ter have been real life in­stances of hi­lar­ity: things my friends say; peo­ple on the in­ter­net mak­ing ex­cel­lent jokes or telling ab­surd anec­dotes (the in­ter­net can still be good!); videos of ex­cru­ci­at­ing awk­ward­ness or cats miss­ing a jump that a ham­ster could have landed. But Sal­ly4Ever has brought me back to the joys of TV com­edy. Even more, it’s a throw­back to that ag­o­nis­ing wait for each episode, which are re­leased weekly on Sky At­lantic. It is rare nowa­days, in the age of binge watch­ing, to get in, throw one’s bag down in ex­cite­ment, grab a snack and set­tle down, just know­ing laughs are guar­an­teed af­ter a long wait of seven days.

Cre­ated by Ju­lia Davis, best known for her in­cred­i­bly dark and bril­liant com­edy Nighty Night, Sal­ly4Ever has sculpted my abs via belly laughs. Some pals and I are now into the ter­ri­tory of quot­ing lines at each other, the way men do with The Big Le­bowski. Sal­ly4Ever cov­ers all bases: the dri­est wit, phys­i­cal hu­mour, gross-out vi­gnettes that are al­most too hard to watch, im­pro­vised set pieces (the driv­ing se­quence in episode two is up there with The Ital­ian Job, even Thelma & Louise). Ev­ery slight move­ment of Catherine Shep­herd’s face should win its own Bafta award. Joanna Scan­lan needs to be lauded for steal­ing ev­ery scene she’s in (in ev­ery­thing). Alex Mac­queen’s cry-face ri­vals Claire Danes’ in Home­land. I could go on, be­cause ev­ery sin­gle per­for­mance is ex­cel­lent. In­clud­ing, of course, Davis her­self, and her off-screen hus­band Ju­lian Bar­ratt.

When talk­ing about funny women, peo­ple ref­er­ence Christo­pher Hitchens’ in­fa­mous Van­ity Fair es­say in which he said women were in­ca­pable of be­ing funny be­cause they do not need to be to find a mate. Brid­get Christie skew­ered this beau­ti­fully: “Women are not go­ing to die out if they can’t tell a good joke, whereas men will, ac­cord­ing to Christo­pher Hitchens, who tried to prove his the­ory by putting no jokes into his es­say and then dy­ing.” I would ar­gue that among the cur­rent crop of standup and scriptwrit­ers, it is women who are land­ing the laughs. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s script for Killing Eve, plus Jodie Comer and San­dra Oh’s per­for­mances. Mae Martin is writ­ing an­other Ra­dio 4 se­ries. Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Katherine Ryan, Sarah Sil­ver­man, Lolly Ade­fope: you have all brought me great hap­pi­ness, and a much di­min­ished so­cial life

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