Comedy Lab Review: Go On Then, Tell Us A Joke

April 19, 2010 by  
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COMEDY LAB – ICANDY & HAPPY FINISH: Monday, 19th April, Channel 4, 11.05pm and 11.40pm ALERT ME

Sketch comedy isn’t easy and a troupe’s first show is usually a baptism of fire. Of course the flames are being fanned by comedy critics aching to get a jab at anyone who dares to think they’re funny.

Despite this, Channel 4’s Comedy Lab series is hoping to launch a few careers as they give new British talent a chance on the big stage. The first part of tonight’s double bill comes in the shape of ICandy starring Liam Hourican as several characters. Most of them are bland and forgettable but one or two look like they might have some sort of longevity.

The highlight of Hourican’s show is the Irish Prime Minister whom he portrays as a vest wearing, caravan owning eejit who wants to fight President Obama. You might feel a bit guilty for laughing at the sketch when you realise how racist it is, but don’t feel too bad because it’s the funniest thing in the show.

Hourican struggles to write punchlines for his characters, which means they’re just left hanging in the air by the time the show’s over. And as much as the Irish jokes might be politically incorrect, it’s not half as cringeworthy as the uncomfortable Michael Jackson gag the show ends with. Is it too soon?

The second episode (Happy Finish) fares much better. It’s not as character driven as ICandy so benefits from a bit more variety and the time to develop some sharper gags.

Sketches like the girl who doesn’t understand how any drinking game works is repeated once too often, but there are no real problems with Happy Finish. Downloading an episode of Lost, overly aggressive children’s entertainers and the message from Jesus are among the best sketches and prove that the writer’s are thinking outside the box but need to work on the crux of the gag a little more.

These first episodes are a good start and will hopefully get some of these performers noticed, Psychoville’s Daniel Kaluuya in particular.

However tonight’s offering seems to be a case of Channel 4 paving the way for the bigger name stars of future episodes; Flight of the Conchords’ Kristen Schaal, Danny Dyer and Tracy-Ann Oberman will be showing off their comedy chops later this week. Let’s just hope they don’t overshadow some worthy newcomers.