BBC Three is the modern day training ground for comedy. If you are good enough you can make the grade to ‘mainstream’ channels joining the ranks of Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh. And if not? You can always join the cast of Titty Bang Bang, as there are always more Edinburgh Festival spots that need filling.
These sentiments are, of course, quite harsh on the people involved. But the truth is still that the third channel is a great way for the Beeb to cut the wheat from the chaff. And it does so without eating into BBC One and Two’s schedules, where it can use the air time instead on these channels for more important stuff like repeats of programming that was only on a few days before, and things with Graham Norton in.
Joking aside BBC Three, does fulfil a pretty good purpose really. The remit of the channel does mention that it has to look for new comedy talent and does indeed set aside some good viewing timeslots to showcase a wider variety of comedy shows. While some are huge hits and some are misses it is good to know that whatever your taste in comedy at some point during the year schedule there might be something to make you laugh. Unless, of course, you’re watching Two Pints Of Lager.
The latest showcase show comes from Mark Wootton, who at the moment is perhaps most known for his fake medium character Shirley Ghostman. Personally I didn’t find that character that funny and from the complaints he got while doing an interview ‘in character’ on Jonathan Ross to do with abuse, I guess a lot of other people didn’t find it funny either. However with his Doris Stokes smart suites and floral numbers packed well away in comedy limbo’s cupboard, it’s time once again for Wootton to get out the dress up box and present another set of grotesques for your viewing pleasure.
The show can only really be described as a mix of League of Gentlemen and Bo Selecta. With prosthetics and body suits galore Wootton presents a whole set of new characters, many of which have a very dark twist. In the first show we are introduced to some good and some bad.
Covering the bad first we have Rufus, a son of a lord who is out to prove himself as a gangsta rapper. Having him pimping up his gymkhana horse was pretty amusing, but I do wonder where you can go with such a one dimensional character that really is so obvious.. ‘oh an aristocrat who is street’…hmmm. Other misses include the unfunny Candy, a brash American female stand up – we already have them to ridicule, and they are funny to laugh at (not with) on their own, so there is no need to parody what is essentially unfunny with something equally if not more unfunny. I see Candy as being the weak link in the show, followed closely by Noodle who is obviously a mix of Damien Hurst and Banksey, a sort of Derek Zoolander only without the endearing or funny appeal.
However, the show overall isn’t bad, with five characters that really stand out. That’s not only because they have some legs to carry the joke, but also because their monologues are all polished and, well, slightly on the dark side.
It seems Wootton has a penchant for dark characters and from the credits of the show has had a little help in creating these macabre characters from League of Gentlemen writer Jeremy Dyson, and you can really tell as some of the creations would be right at home in the sinister streets of Royston Vasey. Paul Pearson’s rubbish vampire starts the descent into darkness, and things get a lot more sinister when we get introduced to Australian child psychologist Stu with his methods of child behavioral programming including ‘Wet Bed: Teddy’s Dead’, ‘Pinch punch, eat your lunch’. We also have Pip, an emo with a great line in morbid songwriting, and Ian Jackson a hideous school child who looks and sounds like the long lost child of Tubbs and Edward who has a set of seemingly innocently delivered stories that would make even Damien shudder with their content.
However the most potentially scary sketch is the seeming innocent Doris. While she herself isn’t all that dark and sinister, the Alan Bennett-style Taking Heads style monologue she rambles through about her obviously abusive late husband Des is just dark to the nth degree, and I can foresee that this seemingly innocent little setup will get even more sinister as the show progresses.
While Wootton’s brand of comedy will not appeal to everyone, for those who like their humour on the darker side, there is a great deal going for Marc Wootton Exposed. The character hit rate is good, and it’s easy to see that the show could either prove very popular, or just nosedive depending on their wider appeal.
After all, with such a catchphase-driven emphasis on comedy nowadays, with the likes of Catherine Tate (shudder), Matt Lucas and David Walliams being the leading forces in the Beeb’s crusade to have kids in playgrounds across the country shouting out the favorite phrases – and then of course buying all the merchandise, books, DVDs and ‘thingies in your pocket’ that come with a show – you can understand from a business point of view why they do it. Wootton has yet to prove himself fully, but I did raise a smile or two, and some of the characters – while not yet spewing forth catchphrases to stick on the front of birthday cards – could unfortunately be the potential ‘Am I Bovverd’-spouting Lauren.
But if Wootton sticks to the darker, less anarchic elements of the show and eschews going for the cheap laugh and range of toys, looking at things in the longer term as say the League of Gentlemen, Steve Coogan and Chris Morris did, he could have a long (if a little scary) career ahead of him.