Friday, December 27, 2013

Staying Sane part 2: Having a Laugh

Is there anyone who would say "Me!" to the question "Who doesn't like a good laugh?" I'm sure there's some Grinch out there currently thanking thanking whatever deity he believes in that Christmas is over for another year. Bah! Humbug!

Comedy and music probably fill most of the hours of my day: in the evenings we watch quite a few comedy shows, some of which I mentioned yesterday. We tend to follow what are nowadays called comedy-quizes—the kind of show that ends up on Dave. So: QI, Would I Lie To You, Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Was It Something I Said . . plus Stand Up For The Week, which has a structure but no quiz element.

There were a few new sitcoms that proved worth watching this year such as Graham Linehan's re-imagining of Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show with Steve Delaney, Matt Berry's Toast of London, which was wonderfully silly, Man Down with Greg Davies, which is just as daft, Hebburn, a rather warmer, gentler family comedy (actually from late 2012 but for various reasons not watched until early 2013) and the massively camp and highly comic Vicious starring Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi. All will be returning in 2014.

I was sad to see that Heading Out with Sue Perkins and the lovely Nicola Walker wasn't picked up for a second series. It was rather buried in the schedule—ten o'clock at night on a Tuesday on BBC2—when it should have been on in the 8.30 pm Friday slot, where it would probably have found an audience. I also loved It's Kevin, full of Kevin Eldon's often surreal and unexpected whimsy—preceded by a radio show, Kevin Eldon Will See You Now, that I have to admit left me cold.

One of the big hits of the year, and rightly so, was The Wrong Mans, a comic action-adventure starring James Corden and Matthew Baynton, which we enjoyed. I also enjoyed Ambassadors with David Mitchell and Robert Webb, which I hope was successful enough to merit another season as three episodes was far too few; it was just beginning to go places when it stopped.

I am glad to see that one of my favourites of the year has been given a second series: Badults is about three friends sharing a flat. . . after which it isn't so easy to describe. Two of the flatmates have failed to grow up and the one who thinks he's grown up isn't very good at it. That's the starting point for plenty of daft fun from messrs. Matthew Crosby, Tom Parry and Ben Clark, a.k.a. Pappy's Fun Club.

I first encountered this lot on a podcast, Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown, which I love. It's infectious, exuberant entertainment from three irrepressible funsters and their guests that has developed its own set of internal jokes. So if you're going to listen, start from the beginning (all episodes can be found at the British Comedy Guide's Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown page - scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the earliest episodes. And you should also give their sketch comedy a try with the Bangers and Mash podcast.

My other podcast hero is Richard Herring, who produces more free stuff than should ever be expected of one man. From As It Occurs To Me, through Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast to his Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, Herring has led the podcast "revolution"—in inverted commas because many have tried but few have managed to keep going. Herring, on the other hand, has used his free work (which includes a daily blog, which he also podcasts via Soundcloud and iTunes) to help expand the audience for his stand up shows and earn him radio and TV work, which is where he earns his money, promptly ploughed back into other experiments. His Leicester Square Theatre shows have been filmed and are available as single or series downloads via Go Faster Stripe. The cash generated is being used to film a sketch/interview show under the title Richard Herring's Meaning of Life, the first episode of which has been filmed and due for release some time early next year.

Other podcasts worth listening to. . . well, there's The Comedian's Comedian, in which Stuart Goldsmith digs into areas you wouldn't always go in an interview, asking about writing methods and how jokes are constructed or, sometimes, how they can grow organically; or Answer Me This where Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann answer any questions asked by listeners, from the origins of certain words to relationship advice, all with the aid of Martin the Sound Man; or The Bugle, which has more puns per second than any other podcast thanks to the pun-run talents of Andy Zaltzman (yes, brother of Helen) and John Oliver (the guy who took over Jon Stewart's The Daily Show recently); or The Smartest Man In The World podcast where Greg Proops will talk about any subject on the planet, especially if it involves the negro baseball league.

Do a search on iTunes as it's very easy to subscribe to all of these and they'll be delivered to your iPlayer each week. And while you're there try subscribing to things like The Infinite Monkey Cage, More or Less or Tim Harford's Pop-Up Ideas which are also well worth listening to.

More tomorrow.

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