First Night: Is this funny?, University of London Union, London
There's more to Corden than Gavin and Stacey
Friday 02 May 2008
The title of this sketch show from Gavin and Stacey's male leads both allows for the shortest possible assessment of it, (the answer is "quite" by the way), and screams as loudly as it could "we're just trying stuff out – don't hate us". Not that they needed to worry with a partisan student audience.
A warm-up for their recently commissioned six-part BBC Three sketch series, the show opens with knocakabout banter establishing James Corden's big, over-keen persona and Matthew Horne's even and controlled straight man. At least this is so for the most part. The literal exception to this rule came in the first actual sketch that introduces Tim Goodhall, Horne's camp war reporter who is more concerned about the hot weather in Iraq and an appearance at a karaoke bar in Fallujah than the fortunes of the troops.
Next up, segued by more interpersonal banter, is a deliciously cheeky sketch about Ricky Gervais' one-note acting ability. Corden plays Gervais as unable to bury his [David] Brentian tendencies (let alone try anything Brechtian) while assuming the film role of a man avenging the death and despoliation of his family members. A later celebrity dig at Phil Collins' lyrical first drafts ("she's a greasy mother" instead of "she's an easy lover") has less topical currency but shows off Corden's timing and emphasis well.
The energy levels of Corden and Horne balance out for an everyday depiction of Superheroes at the gym. Horne is a modest Superman while Corden is an out-of-condition Spiderman, using his corpulent frame nicely for Spiderman's deprecating attitude to his fitness regime. Despite the promising premise it's only Horne forgetting his earpiece microphone that gives the piece an ending.
The latter stages of the show include an attempt to out-camp the campest of magic shows and Corden simulating sex with a female member of the audience. The latter act is raunchy and would give the recent stage antics of Johnny Vegas a run for their money, though perhaps without being quite as annoying.
After his acceptance speech at the Baftas [where he remonstrated with the judges for not nominating Gavin and Stacey as best sitcom despite the show winning several other awards including one for him for best comedy performance] Corden too is no stranger to losing brownie points. However, given the pedigree of both men, (it's worth remembering that Horne was plucked from an Edinburgh sketch show by Catherine Tate to star in her TV series) a TV sketch show will do neither any harm though what the public want (apart from a third series of Pulling one would hope) is a future series of Gavin and Stacey.
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