TV

There's something of a glut in the attack comedian field at the moment - a fact recognised in Alexei Sayle's Merry-Go-Round on Friday (BBC2), which included a sequence in which he was relaunched with a new pyramidal head ("increased room for bad language"). Unfortunately his unveiling at the aggressive bald-headed comedian's trade fair wasn't a huge success - with the "15 per cent cockier Lee Hurst retaining its stranglehold on the market".

There is competition from more hirsute sectors of the trade, too - though Ben Elton's brand-leading form of exasperated rant is starting to look decidedly shopworn these days and Victor Lewis-Smith's TV Offal (Channel 4) ("where foul language is a substitute for humour") is clearly a niche product, intended only for those with a taste for under-the-counter material. This includes me, on occasions - his "Honest Obituary" spot on Andrew Lloyd Webber took comic loathing well beyond the point at which lawyers begin to scent a profit and there was a fine archive sequence in which the disguised Lewis-Smith was seen disrupting a provincial daytime chat show with a shaving foam in the underpants gag. But it's one of those programmes that you occasionally wish you were watching on your own so that you didn't feel quite so uncomfortable about your enjoyment, a solitary vice for those who need the relief of an unreined blast of spleen. A really atrocious day at the office and several cans of lager would be the perfect priming.

Alexei Sayle answers some of those needs - he began this week's programme with a flamethrower monologue about golf which gave no quarter to the game's addicts, but there's something more amenable and silly about him which softens the effect. That monologue paused, for example, to speculate about whether there would one day be a golfing equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters - and you saw a brisk sequence in which a gang of cool black dudes were doing exhibition tricks with golf balls.

Last Friday's programme also contained a contemptuous joke about some comic predecessors. "Of course a big influence on me was the Goons," said Sayle earnestly. "It was when I first heard them that I realised comedy didn't have to be funny - it could be more like jazz... a load of wank!" Last clause apart, this was a bit close to the truth - because the show isn't seamlessly funny and yet it is seamlessly fascinating. This is partly because it is the most visually inventive comedy show currently on screen. It is through-composed, so that some jokes trail, like a musical theme, from one section to the next and that continuity is reflected in the fluidity of styles within the programme, which moves from surreal inventions (a gag about successors to the popular spud gun, which included the Broccoli rifle and the Sprout Grenade) to something much more pointed - the suggestion that Orange marches could be made less inflammatory by making the participants dress up as Diddymen must have been filmed months ago but it reached the screen with impeccable timing. I share his feelings about jazz - but this is a brilliant solo of some kind.

Channel Four's quiz night had some very entertaining archive material, but not quite enough to prevent a sense of deja vu by the end of the evening. Both Bob Monkhouse and Peter Kay had resort to the competitor who answered Bob Holness's "what O is a generic word for any living animal or plant" with the word "orgasms" and both included the camera-dazzled woman who suggested that Handel's Water Music had been written by Chopin (only Kay let you see what happened next - when the question was disbelievingly handed over to her opponent he came up with "Beethoven"). I'm not sure I believe Bob Monkhouse's story that one of his competitors answered a request for the name of "a dangerous race" by darkly muttering "the Arabs" but if you could get past a presentation style so synthetic it gives off static sparks he had some illuminating things to say about the craft of the questionmaster. It was also fascinating to see the episode of Twenty One which had been at the heart of the great American quiz scandal of the Fifties. What a format - even when you knew it was as dodgy as a Carlton documentary, it was still exciting.

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence