Monday, 3 August 2009

You Have Been Watching (the audience shuffle their bums)

Under normal circumstances three hours is far too long to sit on arse-aching seats watching four middleweight telly heads talk about Casualty, Iron Chef America and other cathode ray nonsense.

With this in mind yesterday's filming of You Have Been Watching was worth attending if only to reinforce a few opinions and uncover a mild surprise or two.

Charlie Brooker's guests last night were 'The Office' hero and occasional film actor Martin Freeman, TV actress and presenter Liza Tarbuck and US stand-up comic and occasional Have I Got News For You pundit Reginald D Hunter.

Predictably Freeman was a thoroughly decent chap. He wore a sharp suit and natty sky blue socks, made the odd snappy comment and came across, well, just like Tim from 'The Office. Friendly, witty, but perhaps a little bland. The kind of man your Gran would like.

Liza Tarbuck made a few scurrilous comments about a famous brand of sausages and the specific parts of a pig which comprise their product. These remarks can't be repeated here and won't be mentioned in the show for legal reasons, even if every sausage eater in the UK has probably wondered about the provenance of their meaty dinners occasionally. Otherwise Jimmy's daughter was lightly sassy and had a smattering of Scouse charm. The longer the evening went on, the more I became convinced that she was made in a factory whose sole purpose was to produce annoying Loose Women presenters.

Of the three chatees it took Reginald D Hunter to enliven proceedings sufficiently. Some time before 2005 (this is vague but I've only kept a full diary since that year) the best mate and I had the enviable pleasure of seeing Hunter perform what would now be considered an intimate gig at The Porterhouse, an expensive but stylish boozer just off The Strand.

Back then his fearless tackling of race, sex and relationship taboos held an obsequious audience enthralled for his whole set. Years later, he's become a regular fixture on Have I Got News For You and won the 2006 Writers' Guild Award for Comedy with his controversial 'Pride and Prejudice... and Niggas' stand-up show. He knows it, but he is still extremely funny. Like comics as diverse as Lee Evans and Richard Pryor, Hunter is a master of timing and body language. Even when his material is simple, the oldest comedy cliché rings true, "It's the way that he tells 'em."

Anchoring the topical chat about silly British, US and Japanese TV was scruffy curmudgeon Charlie Brooker. His trainers were dirty and scuffed but his mind was its usual Kitchen Devil sharpness. For many men and women of a certain class, age and vocation (especially, but not exclusively, struggling journalists and Grauniad readers) Brooker has become something of an icon. He articulates many familiar ideas about the generally depressing nature of TV, politics and modern life, just more succinctly and hilariously than anyone else. His programmes and columns are often laugh out loud funny, all the more surprising when considering the misanthropic persona he has become famous for.

He made plenty of mistakes reading his fast, acerbic script, but this was more than compensated for by his skillful and creative manipulation of adlib conversation with his guests and frequent use of extreme profanity. On an unrelated note, it's unclear if he has any agenda against Amanda Holden, but he's evidently not a fan.

As with every weekly TV show about topical subjects, YHBW undoubtedly has a dedicated team (including producers chatting in Brooker's ear during filming, no doubt feeding occasional lines) but what impressed was the manner in which he reined in and unfurled branches of conversation with amusing ideas, at will. In short, Brooker is pretty damn funny in real life, too. The bastard.

1 comment:

  1. After talking to Nick I was awaiting a chair bashing blog post.