TELEVISION / Lauouaof? I nearly bought the Garden Weasel

'IF THE sponsor doesn't like it,' rages the talk-show host in The Larry Sanders Show (BBC 2), 'they can screw a light bulb up my ass and use me as a desk lamp.' The alert among you will notice something unusual about this remark from an American comedy - its strong flavour and unrestrained aggression, for example, which are as startling in this context as a jalapeno pepper in a bowl of cornflakes. The explanation is simple - The Larry Sanders Show was first shown on cable in America, which allows it considerable liberties of language and tone, not least in the way that it talks about network television.

The abiding vice of most American comedy is its inability to leave bad alone. Now that the right not to be offended has virtually been written into the constitution, there is a sort of terror at the notion that characters might say something spiteful and really mean it. Unresolved hostility or bad feeling makes producers so jumpy that it has to be pasted over with a crisp one-liner or, even worse, drenched in Sentiment Lite. But just as you can swear on cable television (and Larry Sanders makes good dramatic use of the freedom, snagging through the synthetic courtesy of American power politics), you can also admit the possibility that malice and dislike don't necessarily kill a comedy.

The series takes the form of an impeccable simulation of a late-night talk show, a hybrid of Letterman and Tonight. Even the guests are real, so that the on-screen sequences are indistinguishable from the real thing (it doesn't matter that they're mildly satirical because both Tonight and Letterman actually have elements of cocky self-mockery about them). Larry Sanders, though, can show the panic beneath the surface suavity - the neuroses, greed and commercial stupidity of high-ratings network television.

It's also refreshing because its repertoire of laughs is unusually wide for American comedy. Cheers and Roseanne are essentially driven, their comic set-pieces the equivalent of a brilliantly planned and executed touchdown. They have to score regularly if they're to beat the opposition. Larry Sanders is more relaxed; it ambles around the subject and knows you can find rich comedy in a scene which not only has no punch-line but which essentially consists of people leaving things unsaid, as in an edgy boardroom confrontation between Sanders and the ball- breaking female executive who wants him to do live ads on his talk show ('What do we do to keep our advertisers happy apart from giving them hand-jobs?' she demands). Most importantly, as Sanders, Garry Shandling delivers a real performance, not just a stand-up routine - his reluctant attempts to sell an implement called the Garden Weasel ('Garden Weasel? Why doncha just call it the Rat-Stick or something?') brilliantly combined a sense of shame and the comic's neurotic hunger for a laugh . . . any laugh.

Eurotrash (C4), the sexiest programme currently on air, is well-named. It has only two selling points - the campy double-act of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Antoine de Caunes and the guaranteed presence of full frontal nudes. Last night the full frontal nude was a generously endowed male porn star, which wasn't quite what I had in mind when I turned on, but the double-act was as engrossing as ever. There aren't enough vowels in a Scrabble set to transcribe De Caunes pronunciation of 'laugh' (the Reader's Digest version would look something like 'lauouaof'). It isn't just how they say things that is wonderful, though, but the cheerfully infantile nature of what they say. Last night, after several episodes in which viewers had been invited to laugh at Europeans, Antoine decided we might be getting above ourself - 'zat's why tonight we jast want to re-mind you zat you're a very seely and insignifi-cant cantry.' 'Nobody cares about you,' Jean-Paul pitched in, 'you are just a sad leetle island wiz bad food zat we see only when we fly to New York.' 'Nicely put, Jean-Paul.' This is, surely, the acceptable face of European unity.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor