Friday 24 November 2017

Last Night's TV: Show Me The Funny

Diarmuid Doyle discovers how a badly-told joke can be hilarious on comedy's answer to the X Factor

Show Me The Funny, a kind of X-Factor for stand-up comedians, works because it has one advantage over most talent shows: it understands that while a badly performed song can drive the viewer mad, a badly-told joke can be hilarious.

That’s not because we are all desperate for laughs in these straitened times. Time and again last night, the amusement on Show Me The Funny came from seeing comedians misreading their audience, bombarding them with bad jokes, and persisting even after it was clear that nobody found them funny.

That might sound cruel. But unlike The X Factor, where contestants are often deliberately set-up to look stupid, on Show Me The Funny the failures are down purely to the comedians.

This is a lucrative contest. Ten comedians will be whittled down to the five or six who will compete in a live final before the end of August. The winner will receive £100,000, a tour of Britain and a dvd, which will be out in time for the Christmas market.

Last night, they were in Liverpool, a city which has been the butt of many jokes over the years. “Scousers love having jokes told about them”, presenter Jason Manford said. “But woe betide you if you go too far”.

A few of the comedians went too far. Prince Abdi did five minutes based on the fact that he couldn’t do a Liverpool accent. Most of his performance involved him proving his point.

We later found out that he had given up his job as a teacher so that he could take part, possibly the worst career move since George Lee joined Fine Gael. He made it through to the next round, but you couldn’t see him going further than that.

He wasn’t the worst on show, though. Ignacio Lopez – “Britain’s only half-Spanish, half-Welsh comedian” – had decided that his five minutes would be based on the fact that he was good looking and that all the members of the all-female audience had probably slept with him at some point. If they hadn’t, he suggested they ask the women on their left for his number because they almost certainly would have it.

They had his number alright, but not in the way that he meant. Any early laughs quickly disappeared, and the whole performance became embarrassing. Ignacio kept digging, telling a joke about Wayne Rooney being the result of in-breeding, a practise he implied was uniquely Liverpudlian. As one of the three judges said, it was a “car crash performance”. Ignacio won’t be in next week’s show.

It wasn’t all bad. The two female contestants, Tiffany Stevenson and Ellie Taylor, a former model, proved that good comedy is 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration by properly researching the city they were performing in and crafting a show specifically for locals.

They may have been helped by the supportive, no-men-allowed audience, and next week’s show in front of mostly-male soldierswill be a tougher task, but they certainlylaid to rest that old canard about women not being able to tell jokes.

If they remain as focused and fearless for the rest of the competition, they should make the final.

Focused and fearless were also the requirements for the hardy crew who climbed to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Children’s Medical Research Foundation and who were the subject of Climb For Kids on RTE1.

Unfortunately, many of the participants were celebrities (of the Sile Seoige/Kathryn Thomas variety) and so the documentary turned into a little celebration of them. Until the very end, the non-celebrities were almost entirely ignored, as the celebs preened, gurned and over-acted for the cameras.

It was all a bit embarrassing, and Colin Farrell’s portentous narration, which implied there might be monsters around every corner, didn’t help much.

The most memorable moment came when comedian Alan Shortt complained on the first day that the route was “constantly up, up, up, up”.Those pesky mountains, eh?He didn’t mean it as a joke, but it would have raised a laugh on Show Me The Funny.

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