Bruce Forsyth – A Comedy Roast Review: Slowburner
BRUCE FORSYTH – A COMEDY ROAST: Wednesday 7th April, Channel 4, 10pm ALERT ME
The very idea of a comedy roast makes me uneasy. Lots of comedians in a room trying to take the piss out of another person they probably don’t know that well, resulting in a lot of insincerity and awkward ‘banter’. Indeed, I was especially put-out by Bruce Forsyth: A Comedy Roast which showcases the cast of 8/10 Cats and Jonathon Ross telling an uncomfortably vast amount of Christmas Cracker standard jokes to an over gleeful audience.
Obviously it’s not meant to be stand-up – it’s a loving and tongue-in-cheek salute to a legend of British television screens. I also appreciate a roast is not supposed to be This Is Your Life with Michael Aspel. But this lukewarm 45 minute event was neither funny, charming or anything in between. It has so much façade and superficiality it’s hard to watch. Bruce cackles dutifully at every ‘He’s well old’ joke aimed at him, whilst Jimmy Carr and Sean Lock intersperse this by patting each other on the back via their own personal scripted game of piss-take tennis.
There is actually something quite vile about it. I imagine this is what might happen in a dystopian society where everyone’s imagination has been greyed by time and the internet. Washed up ex-comedians, bare of jokes and wordsmithery, perform on a nondescript set, wheeled out to tell State filtered gags whilst officials standby to take away whoever stops laughing first.
The only vaguely appealing sections of this programme are the tributes made by his wife, and Barry Cryer, both of which contain mild, endearing jokes and some sort of anecdotal material. This is a somewhat more pleasant ending to the treadmill of brash gags written by the likes of Jack Dee, Sean Lock and Jason Manford who seem as perplexed as me as to what the hell they’re doing there. It probably sounded like a great idea when their agents rang them about it five months ago. Now they’re thinking, “Shit. Is this what life is?”
All their jokes are either exactly what everyone’s thinking, or just the plain truth. “He grew up to be an ugly fucker,” says Jimmy Carr. Oh he’s so controversial and unflinching! “He’s done an awful lot of shit”, Jason Manford skilfully riffs. “You could do so much better”, says Jonathon Ross to Bruce’s wife, who is quietly smiling…or doing whatever her plastic surgeon created most recently on her face. Again, all these one-liners might be funny if they weren’t simply statements of fact. There’s observational humour, and then there is mere reality. I might start a stand-up routine where I state unarguable, evidenced truth to an expectant audience. It’ll be great.
Watch it if you like paint-by-numbers jokes every five seconds from the most ordinary comedians Britain has to offer, but personally I felt the need to switch off after 17 minutes in the fear I would forgot what comedy, and television programmes, look like.