The Work Experience: Review
Historically, humour has been a weapon of the powerless against the powerful; a way of releasing pent-up anger against a tyrant. This is a major reason why the Irish and the Jews have such a rich tradition of humour – and why the Germans don’t.
For an industry well known for the unforgiving attitude it shows towards its interns, to explore the issue could have been a very brave and honest move…or an opportunity to mock naively earnest young job seekers trying to make a good first impression.
The show follows two ambitious interns as they start at a fictional fashion PR agency and the turmoil that follows as they try to make a good impression with their new bosses. According to E4, ‘The Work Experience’ mixes sitcom, mock documentary and prank show formats, but in reality its the cast of ‘Big Brother’ with two unaware, possibly unwilling participants as their comic foils.
Remember back in 2001 when all those insufferable middle management arseholes Ricky Gervais mocked in ‘The Office’ did their best impressions of him unironically? Well, the entire script is in-character David Brent imitations of authority while subjecting their teenage underlings to painfully weak chat in a provocative attempt to make them react entertainingly.
There are three main theories about why jokes cause laughter: One: People feel superior to those in the joke. Two: They appreciate an inconsistency exposed. Three: They feel relief. Admittedly, all three theories have holes in them. But none of them come close to explaining why a script this weak was ever commissioned.
The one reasonable joke – where one of the secondary characters meets Lethal Bizzle and proclaims “I love Spike Lee” – works in spite of the acting. But its an old joke, one which Sarah Silverman did much better five years ago at the VMAs: “I was talking to Cee Lo back stage, and I asked him ‘When you were growing up in Atlanta, did you encounter any racism?’ And he said something really interesting. He said: “I’m Kanye West’.”
In theory, there’s a lot of humour in ignorance; based upon the very simple idea that when people are ignorant, you laugh at them. Except when that behaviour is so consciously ignorant that it becomes intolerable. If you one of your friends behaved that way, you’d tell them to stop. If you see ‘The Work Experience’ on television, switch it off.