This week’s comedy news
It’s a powderkeg issue in the world of comedy – and Roseanne Barr has gone off like a rocket this week, accusing Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre of thieving jokes. On Friday, Barr used Twitter (what else?) to berate Lorre and the show’s star, Ashton Kutcher, who cracked a gag on the show similar to one Barr performed in 2006. The joke is about old age and the menopause: “I’d imagine that you’re wet in the places you used to be dry,” said Kutcher’s character, “and dry in the places you used to be wet.” This prompted a volley of online abuse from Barr. “COMICS,” began one: “BEGIN WATCHING CHUCK LORRE’S SHOWS 2 SEE IF HE STEALS YOUR MATERIAL AS HE DOES MINE– (try hard 2 watch if u can stomach 1 min of it).” Then another: “”Chuck Lorre will do anything 2 make a $ – lie, steal, cheat, rip off comics ideas, re-use already overused premises 2 entertain moronic droolers.” Barr has reportedly been at odds with Lorre since his days as writer and producer on her own sitcom Roseanne.
My favourite story of the week – the kind that makes you instantly want to hug the protagonist – features Scottish comic Kevin Bridges, and an invitation to 10 Downing Street. David Cameron has invited various celebrity Scots round to celebrate St Andrew’s Day, about which he cares deeply; Andy Murray and Chris Hoy are reportedly also on the invite list. Bridges has responded to the invite in a way that’s wholly consistent with Scottish attitudes towards the Conservative party since about 1979. Alongside a photograph of the invitation uploaded to Twitter, the Glaswegian wrote: “Got this through the door today, my heart is saying ‘**** that’ and my head is saying ‘Aye, **** that’.” It looks like the shindig must proceed without him.
To the BBC, which is under yet another attack this week from the comedy world. The corporation is, says Jennifer Saunders, in another interview promoting her autobiography, “an executive-run place for idiots”. She goes on: “It’s become top-heavy in such an ugly way. They went corporate instead of being what they should be, which is a national resource which trains people and curates the best programmes, encourages talent and provides great news.” Speaking of news, Jeremy Paxman has criticised the use of the TV sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth in schools to teach the history of the first world war, something that he calls “a remarkable state of affairs”. Paxman has just written a book on the great war; perhaps he’d rather that was used instead?
Here’s what else is happening: the great American musical comic Bo Burnham has written a book of poetry, and is to release a video version of his new standup show What What What (touring the UK in November) for free online. Chicago standup and Edinburgh Fringe veteran Hannibal Buress claims to have been bumped off Craig Ferguson’s Late, Late Show on the CBS channel after tweeting irreverently about the show. The League of Gentlemen are to reunite for a charity gig in December; Mark Watson has been talking about his ambitious new cross-platform novel project, which “tackles the subject of the internet and the changes it’s brought upon us”; and Billy Connolly has been given the all-clear from prostate cancer.
In the screen world, Sarah Silverman is to appear in a new HBO pilot – potentially her first regular TV role since The Sarah Silverman Project ended in 2010. A new team has been announced for Channel 4’s Standup for the Week, including Paul Chowdhry as host, alongside newbies Romesh Ranganathan and Angela Barnes. The pilot episode for Rupert (Harry Potter) Grint and Stephen Fry’s sitcom Super-Clyde – which didn’t get picked up for a series by US network CBS – is to be screened online tomorrow; and Eric Cantona is to star in an, ahem, “erotic comedy” for the big screen, in which he plays a character called “the Stallion”.
Best of the Guardian’s comedy coverage
• “I am sure there is an audience out there who would like to see what Granville has been getting up to in the corner shop” – David Jason on the return of Open All Hours.
• Katie Rogers on DIY Dammit, Joselyn Hughes’ YouTube series that “pairs standup comedy with the hilarious potential she found in rookie hand-crafting”.
• The standup word-bender Milton Jones tries to persuade you of the wonders of Christianity.
• “An artistically shot kitchen-sink sitcom that managed to be gut-wrenchingly funny and brilliantly imaginative” – Mark Jones on Sean Lock’s 15 Storeys High.
• In advance of his forthcoming stage outings, check out the greatest musical moments of David (The Office) Brent.
For everyone who enjoyed Emine Saner’s interview with Michael Pennington a fortnight ago, this video uploaded by Chortle will be essential viewing. It features Pennington and his alter ego Johnny Vegas in dialogue, discussing – well, squabbling about – the new book the former has written, Becoming Johnny Vegas. “You made us sound like weirdos,” complains Johnny. “You’ve got more voices in your head than that Band Aid video.” Whereas Pennington calls the book “a genuine opportunity to learn something about us”. Who’s right? Whose side are you on?
Best of our readers’ comments
“The gap between popular and critical taste is particularly noticeable at the moment,” argues Mark Lawson in this piece, pegged to the second series of critical un-favourite, Citizen Khan. So should critics take popular successes more seriously, or risk being sidelined (further) into irrelevance? Our readers – including pintooo – had their say:
Are critics “opinion formers”? In whose mind? There are critics whose opinions I trust, and if they say something is good, it makes a shortlist to try. No more than that, and I doubt I’m wildly different to most people in that regard …
However, the importance of ignoring critics is rather undermined if pointing to examples like Mrs Brown’s Boys, Splash and Citizen Khan. To me, the only good reason to re-commission Citizen Khan is in standing up to those stupid enough to issue death threats over “the offence” it causes.
There’s plenty of popular rubbish on TV. We don’t need to be lectured to lower our standards in accepting it … it’s not going away anyway.
Surely, this is fundamental to all arts and culture. It is a very rare thing for something to be hugely popular and universally acclaimed. We know the Sun is the most popular daily newspaper and the Mail the most popular online. Does that mean critics need to praise them? Of course not! Critics must continue to try and work out what they think is “good” and stick with that. The moment we confuse popularity with “good” is the moment we throw away all literary and cultural analysis and simply stick with votes on IMDb.
A ringing endorsement there of critical discernment that I’ll keep with me as I head off to Birmingham tonight to review Russell Brand …