TV review: Show Me The Funny and British Masters

Show Me The Funny? You get a lot more laughs from Karren, Nick and Lord Sugar


The first and last time I laughed during Show Me The Funny (ITV1) was when the world’s only half-Welsh, half-Spanish comedian introduced himself to his audience. “Buenas tardes. I am Ignacio Lopez,” he began. “Some of you may recognise me as the barman you slept with in Magaluf a couple of years ago.”

Miraculously, he channelled both halves of his noble heritage: Tom Jones’s understandably smug expression before being showered with knickers; and Antonio Banderas’s cross-species sexual braggadocio in Shrek. You remember, when he voiced Puss in Boots and propositioned Cameron Diaz’s princess.

It was downhill after that. Lopez tried to repeat the routine before an audience of 250 scouse women. He got into a horrible muddle about how many of them he had seduced. “Obviously I haven’t slept with all of you, but we can rectify that.” Cut to the women, exchanging looks of mock horror. “Look at the woman on your left and ask her for my telephone number. Statistically speaking she will have it.” Cut to mock horror curdling into non-mock rage.

This show’s point is to find the next Michael McIntyre. And then, ideally, to execute them before they commit any more “observational comedy”. What’s that? You’re Michael McIntyre fans? Tough crowd.

Actually, that isn’t the point of the show. The point is to help those suffering withdrawal symptoms from The Apprentice to get through the next six weeks. Each week, one of the 10 standups will get fired until only one is left who will then tell a joke so funny it will literally slay everybody watching. Which is how, finally, ITV will fulfil its public service remit.

There was nothing here as funny as Karren Brady in a shower cap looking glum as apprentices make a chimp’s tea party of their culinary task; nothing as comedically sophisticated as Nick Hewer’s pinched panto face; nothing as unwittingly droll as Lord Sugar reminiscing about starting a multi-million pound business from old tights and cheek; nothing as stirring to certain demographics as when inventor Tom Pellereau removed his braniac glasses. But it’ll have to do.

Among the judges was an obligatory Cowellesque sourpuss (Kate Copstick), a self-styled voice of reason (Alan Davies) and a guest in the form of a venerable sage of mirth (in this case Saint James of Tarbuck). There was also Jason Manford in a compere role that left him entirely surplus to requirements. Manford’s chief function seemed to be to support the campaign of Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram, who argues that shows like Desperate Scousewives and Geordie Shore fuel regional racism.

So no more of those stereotypical gags about scousers like the one about – no, let’s not go there. “Liverpool is bored of those jokes,” said Manford, piously. Fair enough. But that did leave us with a problem. On this show, nobody was going to show us the funny.

Manford’s strictures went unheeded. Ellie Taylor told a joke she’d heard from a cab driver. “What really annoys me,” he told her, “is these young lads with their hands down the front of their trackie bottoms playing with their brains.” Counterintuitively, she converted this base material into laughs – even though it confirmed a scouse stereotype. She survived, while the world’s only half-Welsh, half-Spanish comedian was fired, which just goes to show how bigoted Britain is.

If regional racism is bad, surely erasing Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the cultural map is worse. In British Masters (BBC4), James Fox continued his bracing argument that the 20th century was Britain’s golden age of art, even though much of it was hermetically sealed from mucky foreign ideas like surrealism. He argued that interwar painters Stanley Spencer, William Coldstream, Paul Nash and John Piper contributed to wartime patriotism. “They invented a country that all of us loved,” he argued, telling us repeatedly that the name of that country was England.

I watched this livid in London; heaven knows how viewers reacted in Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh. Possibly by sharpening their ancestral disembowelling tools while eyeing this Cambridge academic narrowly. The clue to the name of the country that fought in the second world war, Dr Fox, is in the adjective of your series title. If Scotland does become independent, it’ll be partly due to the accumulation of such tiny erasures as this.

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