Ellie & Natasia review: A formidable new double act whose comedy is so cringey you’ll want to melt into your sofa

Ellie White and Natasia Demetriou have an extravagance of imagination that brings to mind the best of the sketch-show tradition

Sean O'Grady
Tuesday 21 June 2022 22:15 BST
Ellie and Natasia Trailer

If you like your comedy to be so cringey and squirmy you want to melt into the very fabric of your sofa only to emerge when several thousand years have passed, then Ellie & Natasia is the show for you. The Stath Lets Flats stars are very funny, in a Hogarth-and-Gillray-for-our-grotesque-times kind of way. Strangely, in a world of ceaseless culture wars, incipient fascism, turbulence, deadly mutant viruses, war crimes and imminent economic collapse, a pair of pals making us laugh may not actually be “the answer”, but their gallows humour certainly helps.

Ellie White and Natasia Demetriou’s new BBC Three comedy series marks the revival of the sketch show – a genre that has to be reinvented by every generation – but also the arrival in earnest of a formidable new double act. To those with longer memories, there are echoes of Smack the Pony, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, and French & Saunders in their material, which is a very good thing.

There’s the same almost unbearably sharp attention to contemporary pretensions, such as the never-ending absurdities of posh coffee, sold in those shops with blackboards outside bearing slogans such as “A yawn is a silent scream for caffeine”; the wild-swimming craze; or the national quest to spend as much as the GDP of a small Caribbean state on a new kitchen, a modern-day shrine to materialism that cannot be used for fear of despoiling the sanctum – “When you’ve spent this much on interiors, you can’t risk it by living in it.” And, of course, fashion, which White punctures just by waddling along a street in a pair of metre-long patent leather shoes.

Their extravagance of imagination brings to mind the best of the sketch-show tradition, and I liked the French & Saunders-style metafictional moments of reflection, when Ellie and Natasia appear as themselves reflecting on themselves, but dressed as plague doctors, cowgirls, or pre-revolutionary French Madame de Pompadours. These two have enjoyed the assistance of collaborators such as Harry Hill, Jamie Demetriou (Natasia’s brother) and Simon Bird, but the element that should raise the show to cultish status is their own genius. I wouldn’t even mind if their stock characters had catchphrases, but I certainly don’t miss them.

I’m not sure what goes on in the lives and minds of Ellie and Natasia to come up with a pair of Northern vegan dominatrices, Mistress Vanessa and Madame Paula, but somehow they make me believe that there are indeed men out there willing to be ritually humiliated by a pair of Peta-approved sadistic women with broad Barnsley accents. Sadly, it’s easier to see the inspiration for The Brothers Pomodoro, a pair of all-too-familiar cookery-book-and-show foodies, whose passion for the tomato and easy public-school confidence don’t quite disguise their inability to cook, nor their innate sexism (“Looks like it’s someone’s time of the month in this here pan”). The heavy and slightly unsettling prosthetics cheerfully add to the caricature.

I also loved the couple of Essex vloggers who seem to have emerged fully formed from Mumsnet. They have matching blonde pixie haircuts, and wear padded gilets and overly tight patterned spandex ski pants that give off an ungulate effect. They’re obsessed with “renos” (renovations), the joy of soft-closing kitchen drawers, quality work surfaces, and the state of their guts: “The other day I went to my local shop. Picked up a couple of loose nectarines in a paper bag. Two days later and I’m in a doctor’s surgery having a 14-metre tapeworm coaxed out of my anus with a plate of beef shin.”

Beat that.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in