The little man who turns triumph to adversity - TV & Radio - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

The little man who turns triumph to adversity

In the person of Lee Evans are resolved two of the great mysteries that have continued to puzzle mankind. His jabbering, lank-limbed stand- up performances offer conclusive proof that man really is descended from the apes. The other riddle concerns the cyclical nature of popular culture. Angry, issue-based alternative comedy was previously thought to mark a permanent shift in comic performance style, but the advent of Evans shows that it was merely a passing blip confined to a period that posterity is already referring to as "the 1980s".

The World of Lee Evans (C4) could belong to any era in the history of comedy between the present day and the moment homo homunculus first picked up a club and started bashing himself on the head to make the Neanderthal bullies in the playground laugh. When court jesters did this to tickle the ribs of royalty, it was already the oldest form of comedy in the book.

Evans's more recent ancestor is Norman Wisdom, who cornered the market in self-humiliation and personal disaster and confronted inevitable failure with a similar gibbon-like countenance. In contrast to Chaplin, whose rubbery physique he shares, the storyboards of his new set of mostly speechless playlets do not allow the hero to triumph. This little man is a stranger to victory. When he does the night shift behind the till at a petrol station, it can only go wrong: "It's your first night, Lee. Don't mess it up", are the parting words of his boss, and the neat first line of the series.

The munificence of Channel 4, lavishing six-parters on comedians who made their name on stage, has frequently taken both parties down a cul- de-sac. Not one of Jo Brand, Paul Merton or Sean Hughes could really cut the mustard in sketch format. It's not certain that long skits are the best vehicle for Evans's skills either, even though he writes the scripts himself. Stand-up is more freeform and doesn't worry about the visible joins between one gag and the next. The constrictions of narrative seem to hem him in, and the leap from joke to joke sometimes looks more laboured. But the bits between the leaps are priceless.

The generating gag of both of last night's pieces was to put Evans in an unfamiliar room and see how quickly he could trash it. First there was the petrol station, in which he couldn't work the intercom and had to communicate with his customer via mime. John Thompson, an unsung star of the Paul Calf video diaries, deftly played the feed, which can't be an easy job opposite Evans. The second sketch, in which Evans visited prospective parents-in-law who have just found out their daughter is pregnant, proved as much. The sight of Prunella Scales and Tony Selby making a hash of the type of acting at which Evans excels was a dire warning of the perils he faces when asking others to join in.

The rockumentary is a discredited form, but if anyone can rescue it it's Christy Moore (BBC2), who in Christy upended the cliche of the youngster who gets the rock'n'roll bug by explaining how he discovered the need for something "a bit more organic, a bit more macrobiotic".

This was a story with songs that are also stories, and it was told so well that you could almost forgive the editorial imput of whoever it was who decided to ape U2 and film some of the moodier Irish landscape shots in black-and-white. These clashed badly with the monochrome footage of Moore's traditional group Planxty performing in the early 1970s, when black-and-white television in Ireland wasn't a matter of choice. The other shame was that the film went out after most of the members of Christy's constituency would have gone to bed.

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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

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