The week in comedy: BFI's feast of fun shows British satire is in rude health

 

On 26 February, Spitting Image will
celebrate its 30 birthday. BBC Four will mark the occasion with a
special episode of Arena which promises to tell the “vexed and
frequently hilarious story” of the sketch show which ran for 21 series between
1984 and 1996 and marked a high point in British satire.

Has anything come close since? Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris and co. have kept the fires burning with Brass Eye, The Thick of It and other brilliant cult comedies. Have I Got News For You is still chugging along nicely, so too Charlie Brooker’s Wipes. People seem to like Mock the Week. But nothing beats those rubber-faced loons – a grey, pea-scoffing John Major, Edwina Currie the vampire, Denis Healey’s eyebrows – for long-running satire that smacked the nation between the eyes. 

Next weekend a new exhibition at the BFI Southbank will make the case that British satire is in rude health. The Face of Satire features portraits of “the boldest and bravest” stand-ups, novelists, columnists and cartoonists working today. Josie Long, David Baddiel, Johnny Vegas, Gerald Scarfe and Howard Jacobson all feature, alongside Spitting Image producer John Lloyd and one-time impressionist on the show, Hugh Dennis.

Each subject was asked to describe what satire meant to them and then collaborated with the photographer Rachel King and the artists India Banks and Frode Gjerlow to bring their vision to life. The results are surreal, personal, sometimes playful, sometimes bleak. For Hugh Dennis, satire is about “puncturing pomposity” so he is captured popping a giant balloon filled with talcum powder. Sara Pascoe, stand-up and star of Twenty Twelve, believes satire to be “a safe place where she can say what she likes without getting into trouble” so she has ended up perched on a bed of cushions wearing a fat suit.

Elsewhere in a desperate take on his art, Johnny Vegas is captured naked and trussed up like a turkey on a platter, as he devours his own flank with a giant knife and fork. Baddiel is pictured grimacing in front of a spider diagram covered with his best-known work and catchphrases (“That’s you that is”). The famous sofa he once shared with Frank Skinner is crowned with the word “Misrepresentation”.

The exhibition forms part of the third LOCO London Comedy Film Festival. In keeping with the satire theme, the festival opens with Doomsdays, a new American indie film in which two men break into a series of  chi-chi holiday homes on the East Coast as a protest against the financial crash. “It’s like Michael Haneke meets Wes Anderson”, says LOCO’s programmer, Jonathan Wakeham. Elsewhere they are revivals for classic satires Dr Strangelove and The Life of Brian, which turn 50 and 35 respectively this year, Team America and Four Lions.

Are we on the cusp of a new wave of satire in the UK? Wakeham thinks so. “2014 is a big year in politics with the Scottish referendum and the build-up to the election. With campaigns like Everyday Sexism, it feels as if serious conversations are taking place in the mainstream again. And comedy plays a part in that”, he says. “What’s really exciting are the female performers who are doing creative satirical work now. Comedians like Bridget Christie, Josie Long, Bryony Kimmings and Shappi Khorsandi who have been performing for a while, but have found a political angle and through that an original voice.” Satire looks to be in safe hands.

LOCO and The Face of Satire run from 23 to 26 January, BFI Southbank, London (www.locofilmfestival.com)

QI’s women

Do not adjust your set. It is not a mistake. There really is a panel show on television this evening with an all-female line-up of guests. Susan Calman, Liza Tarbuck and Sandi Toksvig will all appear on the BBC2’s QI tonight. It ought not to be a remarkable event but it is. Over on Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, it is business as usual with Kathy Burke the only female panellist. So well done, QI. Granted, Calman and co. join regulars Stephen Fry and Alan Davies on screen so it’s only a three-to-two victory. And the director and producers of the show are all male. But, you know, baby steps. 

What I Watched…

Uncle

I’m a big fan of Nick Helm’s shouty rockstar stand-up so it’s great to see his gifts being put to good use. In this new BBC3 sitcom, he plays a bad uncle to a nerdy nephew. Daisy Haggard is great as the sister/ mum too.

Amy Poehler & Tina Fey

Proving that last year’s Golden Globes triumph wasn’t beginners’ luck, the brilliant duo served up 10 minutes of A-list zingers in their opening monologue. “Meryl Streep… proving there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60.” A masterclass in how to host with the most: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT3uNSZpK7c

Liam Williams

At Soho Theatre, London. Williams was nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at Edinburgh for this debut show and rightly so – it’s a beautifully written hour of angst and jokes.

www.twitter.com/alicevjones

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week