Tuesday 12 December 2017

Last night’s TV: Show Me The Funny

The final of the comedy talent show brought a smile to Diarmuid Doyle’s face

Were it not for the scenes of unbridled joy at the end of Shamrock Rovers historic victory in Serbia (Setanta Ireland), Pat Monaghan’s delight at winning the live final of Show Me The Funny (ITV) would have provided the most memorable images of the night.

Monaghan, who’s from Middlesborough in England, qualifies as Irish under the “grandparent rule” invented by the footballing authorities – his father was born here, his mother’s from Iran – so overall it was a good night to be watching the television.

Setanta Ireland is to be congratulated for its last minute decision to show the Rovers’ match, but the question has to be asked: why didn’t RTE cover it? On the occasion of the biggest and best result for an Irish club in European competition, the national broadcaster was nowhere to be found. It felt like a dereliction of duty.

Meanwhile over on ITV, Monaghan was celebrating lustily with his celebrity mentor, Johnny Vegas. At the start of the series six weeks ago, when 10 comedians began a quest to win the prize of €100,000, a dvd and a nationwide tour, he had about the same chance of making it to the final as Shamrock Rovers did of qualifying for the latter stages of their competition.

He was nervous and slightly hostile, his delivery was a little off, and the judges were wary of him. One accused him of “titting around”.

By last night’s final – judged by public vote – he was a revelation. His delivery was sharp; he had some very funny jokes and he paced the stage like a professional – up and down, left to right – dispensing comedy gems as he went.

He made much of his roots. “I have an Irish dad and an Iranian mum”, he said. “We spent most of our holidays in customs”.

He went on to recall a paintball competition between both families (surely imaginary) which had to be halted because both sides insisted on using their own weapons. He did a good impression of the Irish accent and Iranian gestures.

That may not sound like prize-winning material, but on the night, delivered by a confident comedian on top of his form, it was top class. Other than a tendency to over-thank his audience, there was nothing to separate Monaghan from most other stand-ups you’ve ever seen.

He won’t always be able to base his shows on the troubled histories of his parents’ home nations, but last night he was funny on the subject, and you could see in him the makings of a very successful comedian in years to come.

Show Me The Funny turned out to be a worthwhile exercise, and will hopefully be repeated next year.

Its presenter, the comedian Jason Manford, is a genial host and the two regular judges, comedy actor Alan Davies and journalist Kate Copstick, were knowledgeable enough to have made a difference.

Manford came up with one of last night’s better jokes when he mused about Jamie Oliver’s responsibility for the recent London riots. Before Oliver started feeding the kids all that healthy food in school, they didn’t have the energy to riot, he said.

As the series progressed and the weaker comedians were winnowed from the mix, those remaining improved hugely from the group of eager jokers who had turned up the first week.

The three finalists were a testament to hard graft and the benefits of constant practise. Those are hardly the most exciting qualities in the world, but they work as well for comedians as they do for anyone else.

Watching BBC4’s weekly repeats of Top Of The Pops from 1976, you get the impression that nobody practised anything back then. They showed up, did their jobs and if it worked, it worked. If it didn’t, well, what the hell?

Jimmy Savile presented last night’s show in a way that would have him instantly sacked if he did it today.

He looked as though he had just got out of bed (perhaps he had), read a bad script from the autocue as though he had just had a lobotomy (perhaps he had) and managed to get the names of two of the acts wrong.

Meanwhile, TOTP’s dancing troupe Ruby Flipper (they had a brief life between the more well-known Pan’s People and Legs & Co) were as bad as you’ve ever seen, willing hoofers with the timing of oxen.

At number one last night was Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John and Kiki Dee, a good song with an embarrassing video in which John literally pushes his co-singer around and humiliates her by getting her to do little dance moves they hadn’t practised in advance.

Sometimes, a performance can be too slick, but when you watch those old Top Of The Pops shows, you give silent thanks to the person who invented rehearsal.

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