Danger 5

Danger 5 is like the Thunderbirds meets The Champions meets Garth Marenghi and it’s lovely. There’s an attention to detail here: the camerawork, lighting, model work and performances are all spot-on in a 60s adventure show style. As funny as Garth Marenghi was, it always felt like it was parodying something that never actually existed, whereas Danger 5 is more akin to Police Squad – an affectionate, accurate and brilliantly funny spoof of a recognisable TV genre.

Not surprising it’s so accurate given that its creators, Dario Russo and David Ashby, were responsible for the rather excellent “Italian Spiderman” movie parody.

Oh, and it has stop-motion nazi dinosaurs in it so, you know, I’m kind of programmed to like it on a genetic level.

Jesting About

Hoorah! I got selected to develop some ideas for online comedy with the BBC. I could play it cool, like, “sure, that’s nice” but I have to say I am beyond chuffed about this.

There’s a press release on the BBC website*.

The basic gist is: the BBC hands over some money and I work up the three pitches I submitted (one live action dingus – Doorsteppers – and two animated thingummies – The Answer Yam and The World of the World with Ben Klimmek) and hopefully come up with a few more. From what I can gather, I have to produce three minutes of something by the end of April. Wonder what it’ll be? Can’t wait to find out. Hope it’s good…

It was interesting when I got the call to say I’d been accepted ‘cos I couldn’t exactly remember what I’d pitched. I’d got the deadline so totally wrong that all three pitch documents had to be written and submitted in around three hours. Which meant Ben had to generate the art super-quick. Bet he was pleased. He looked pleased. Welcome to the world of working with Harris, Klimmek. It’s all part of my charm. Unreliability is charming, right?

Here’s a Klimmek pic from The Answer Yam pitch. Grand!

*this got me a mention on Chortle – which I didn’t realise was a bit of a dream come true until it happened.

Mitch Hedberg Joke Evolution

Two Mitch Hedberg jokes:

Spaghetti… I can’t eat spaghetti, there’s too many of them. No matter how hungry I am, 1000 of something is too many.
– Mitch Hedberg

I like rice. Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.
– Mitch Hedberg

So these two are pretty much the same joke, but for me the rice joke is better, and I think it’s obvious the spaghetti version mutated into the rice one at some point. Or God changed it, whichever. Anyway.

Why is the rice one better? Because…

1. The rice joke is more absurd. The spaghetti joke’s “I can’t eat two thousand of them” – well, who could?

2. The first one is not quite true enough – there aren’t 1000 bits of spaghetti in the average bowlful, but there are more likely to be 2000 bits of rice in a meal. Maybe. Look, I haven’t counted them (or if I have I’ve blocked that particular evening out of my memory) but it certainly seems likelier, doesn’t it? The closer a joke like this comes to the truth, the funnier it is.

3. The rice joke is a positive, which suits Hedberg’s free-wheeling persona more than the negative of the spaghetti version. Point of view is incredibly important when writing jokes for stand up. A different comedian with a different persona would be able to spend five minutes shouting about how he doesn’t have time to eat 2,000 of something, but Mitch was a happy-go-lucky one-liner merchant.

4. Fuck it, rice is just funnier, isn’t it?

5. It is.

Screenwriting Software Tutorial

Utter Buxton brilliance, from MeeBOX, his sketch show which didn’t get a series while Horne and Corden did. Great.

This is so nice. He’s doing a silly voice, but apart from that the script and performance are absolutely SPOT ON and played straight, perfectly mimicking the style and tone of the type of programme feature he’s spoofing. I doff my hat to Buckules on this one. Also I want a copy of the software, cos Final Draft hasn’t got a Drew Barrymore button.

Frankie Boyle vs the BBC

Every now and then, somebody in the public eye will genuinely surprise me. I think Frankie Boyle is excellent at writing jokes, but I generally find the jokes he writes to be mean-spirited and empty, relying on an “omg did he go there?” reaction from the audience for much of their effect. The recent controversy about his jokes about people with Down’s Syndrome is a case in point. I don’t know what he said, but what the hell kind of target is that? As fellow Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson once said “Comedy should be about attacking the powerful… it shouldn’t be about attacking the vulnerable.” Craig Ferguson was right.

But two years ago Boyle told a couple of jokes about Palestine on a BBC Radio 4 satire show. Jokes which the BBC have just apologised for. And below is Frankie Boyle’s response. I just read it and I think it’s the best thing he’s ever written (yes, even better than his “the Queen’s pussy is haunted” joke!).

Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trust’s cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine.

As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.

In case you missed it, the jokes in question are: ‘I’ve been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well…that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.’

I think the problem here is that the show’s producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire. The Trust’s ruling is essentially a note from their line managers. It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.

The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes. It’s tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying.

I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called Political Animal. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view. In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content. The most recent offering I saw was BBC Two’s The Bubble. It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news. Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. I can only imagine how the head of the BBC Trust must have looked watching that, grinning like Gordon Brown having his prostrate examined.

The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that way. We didn’t just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldn’t bear that people were being treated like that.

A few years ago I watched a documentary about life in Palestine. There’s a section where a UN dignitary of some kind comes to do a photo opportunity outside a new hospital. The staff know that it communicates nothing of the real desperation of their position, so they trick her into a side ward on her way out. She ends up in a room with a child who the doctors explain is in a critical condition because they don’t have the supplies to keep treating him. She flounders, awkwardly caught in the bleak reality of the room, mouthing platitudes over a dying boy.

The filmmaker asks one of the doctors what they think the stunt will have achieved. He is suddenly angry, perhaps having just felt at first hand something he knew in the abstract. The indifference of the world. ‘She will do nothing,’ he says to the filmmaker. Then he looks into the camera and says, ‘Neither will you’.

I cried at that and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.

Frankie Boyle

So now I really admire the ballsy bugger. I still don’t want to hear any more paedo/downs/people are ugly stuff from him, but give him a satire show where he’s allowed to go after the real bastards of this world, a show that doesn’t trade solely on “John Prescott is fat/David Cameron is a bit posh innee?” jokes, and we could maybe have our own Daily Show and that would be a grand thing.

Limmy’s Show

Have you been watching this, from BBC Scotland? I love it. It’s not necessarily hilarious, but it’s warm, distinctive and personal and this clip shows what shading of depth, meaning and chuckleage can be achieved within a simple three minute desk sketch.

“I don’t wanna be here any more.” Sweet.