Saturday 10 December 2016

Female and funny? Pull the other one

* Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central
* Champions League Football, RTE 2
* Goodness Gracious Me, BBC 2

Published 29/08/2015 | 02:30

Rising star: Amy Schumer is the star of her own sitcom on Comedy Central.
Rising star: Amy Schumer is the star of her own sitcom on Comedy Central.

I once had the dubious pleasure of being ballyragged by an Irish comedian of the female persuasion. The poor dear was livid at a bad review I'd given her and the irony was that her diatribe against me was far, far funnier and inventive than any stand up set she had ever performed.

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Her beef was that female comedians just don't get a fair review from male critics and, therefore, I wasn't motivated by the fact that I'm a comedy buff, it was down to my innate sexism and 'a pathetic fear of funny women.'

The truth is that I have a pathetic fear of bad comics because I've wasted far too many evenings stuck in a dingy club watching lazy, lame, and derivative material. But as for gender? Who cares?

The idea that men don't like funny women is as ridiculous as the other great comedy myth that there simply aren't any funny women out there.

I pointed out that as far as I was aware, Joan Rivers, Laura Kightlinger and Sarah Silverman were all women and all brilliant. Since that awkward conversation a few years ago we've also seen the emergence of writer/performers like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who have produced some of the best sitcoms we've seen emerge from America in recent times.

Some people, of course, will never be able to get past gender when it comes to comedy, but the smarter performers embrace it. Which is where Amy Schumer comes in. Filling the gap left by Sarah Silverman (who stopped being funny a couple of years ago, much to the chagrin of her fans), Schumer has become the comedy It Girl of 2015.

Between the movie Trainwreck and her hit show Inside Amy Schumer, this has been the year of the Schu, although we shall draw a discreet veil over her unfortunate recent appearance in Grogan's for a sing song with some hipsters, which will surely mean she never darkens our shores ever again.

The new season kicked off this week and it's everything we have come to expect from her - crude, gratuitously offensive, obsessed with sex and her desirability and, most importantly, extremely funny.

She's the first female performer since the aforementioned Silverman to have her own show and there are some inevitable crossover moments - not least in her wildly inappropriate relationship with a long-suffering and increasingly exasperated God, who also happens to be gay.

Despite the backlash against her - she's been forced to apologise for 'racist' jokes she has told in the past - the only butt of the joke is Schumer herself.

Whether it's the focus group of men at the start of this week's episode who debated about whether she was hot enough to appear on TV, or the brilliant take down of women's tennis and the media's obsession with the attractiveness of the players, Schumer is a smart and refreshingly dark voice who takes gleeful delight in skewering the sexist nonsense - of both genders.

There was nonsense aplenty on RTE's Champions League coverage, but then that is what we have come to expect.

The new season has barely broken a sweat and already there has been a controversy caused by Eamon Dunphy.

To the evident irritation of host Darragh Maloney, the Dunph decided that people just haven't been speaking the truth about Louis van Gaal, and what better man than he to lay down some home truths?

So, we learned that LVG is a spoofer and a bullshitter, the last epithet drawing an outraged 'You can't say that!' from the host.

Maloney is a fine anchor and a capable replacement for Bill O'Herlihy, but he still has to learn the most important lesson when appearing with Dunphy - he can, and will, say whatever he wants as soon the thought comes into his head. It doesn't have to be incisive, smart or original. It just has to be delivered with suitably passionate scorn.

It's going to be a long season. Dear Lord, will the madness ever end?

BBC 2 celebrated its 50th birthday last year and while there have been some cracking programmes marking the event, some of the specials were flabby and lazy beyond belief.

Fans of Goodness Gracious Me greeted the news of their one-off reunion with a degree of trepidation.

Race relations in Britain have changed immeasurably since they first appeared on screen 20 years ago (now if that doesn't make you feel old...) so would the cast be able to come up with new material or would they rely on their old punchlines, so many of which entered the vocabulary?

The truth was somewhere in between. The cast are now in their 40s and 50s, and some of the material had the rehashed taste of sketches which didn't quite cut it the first time around.

But when they hit the mark, they reminded the viewer of just how fresh, funny and ground breaking they were when they first appeared.

The two mad old Grannies were back, and still competing with each other about their grandchildren, Sanjeev Bhaskar's hapless 'cheque, please' character returned to as little romantic success as he has ever ever enjoyed, and token white guy, Dave Lamb, (he of Come Dine With Me fame) returned to good effect.

It was a nice walk down memory lane and some of the better characters will never get old.

But I wouldn't wait on a new season, either.

Irish Independent

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