Monkey Dust series one review
In a nutshell: The cartoons that lurk under your bed…
The 411: Since Chris Morris came onto the scene just over a decade ago, British comedy has taken a turn towards the dark side. From the nightmare world of Royston Vasey to the exquisite cruelty of Nighty Night, it’s clear that comedy is now used as a psychic dumping ground for the comic’s neuroses or at the very least an arena for something twisted and very, very wrong.
BBC3’s Monkey Dust is cut from similar cloth. It’s produced some of the more memorable recurring sketch characters of recent times: The Paedofinder General ("by the power invested in me by the Daily Mail I pronounce you guilty of paedophilia…") , the excuses guy, the weekend dad who commits suicide in every episode, the dinner party yuppie scum – I could go on.
A personal favourite is the Tipton taliban: reluctant teenage terrorists Omar, Abdul and Shafiq balancing worldwide Jihad with supporting West Bromwich Albion and an addiction to McCain’s micro meals. Kids these days, eh?
"Omar, Abdul and Shafiq balancing worldwide Jihad with supporting West Bromwich Albion and an addiction to McCain’s micro meals…"
There’s a loosely connected metropolis introduced in the title sequence. A multi-coloured sparrow hops merrily along a branch – a black crow promptly swoops down and kills it. As dark falls, sweet schoolkids pull up their hoods and produce flicknives, a businessman shoots heroin in the street, using his tie as a turney, rats scurry through litter-strewn streets bathed in neon.
Trendy vermin talk shite while queuing outside clubs only to be alerted to the ‘No Wankers’ sign upon reaching the doorman. Bet you wish that happened in real life.
If there’s a theme that you could express in one word in UK comedy at the moment it’s: trapped. People stuck in horrific absurd situations with no hope of escape just winding out the days ’til their deaths (which come sooner rather than later…).
Like new character Noodles, the animal testing laboratory rabbit straight from a Warner Brothers’ cartoon who is sliced and diced in every episode in the name of science – the thinking rabbit’s Itchy and Skratchy.
Also new is Fran Chappell, the mother of an abducted schoolgirl who seems strangely more preoccupied with her own media appearances than her missing daughter. Her daughter eventually turns up safe and well but Fran tells her to piss off as she now has a thriving career as a celebrity bereaved mother. It’s the comedy of cruelty, folks.
Nobody cries in Monkey Dust – a sense of dislocation pervades and everybody just accepts their fate, resigned to the inevitable. Everyday absurdities fly on past like murderous crows (they have those where you live, right?) – a mood engendered by the lazily ambient music soundtrack that has that woozy Blue Jam three-in-the-morning feel.
At its heart, Monkey Dust is the stuff of urban nightmares. The animation allows them to go places other sketch shows can’t or don’t dare.
As BBC1 lurches from one sitcom disaster to the next, it’s comforting to know that BBC3 is emerging as the new breeding ground for cutting-edge comedy and drama. Monkey Dust is fucked up but it’s funny. Don’t forget: it’s either this or a third series of ‘All About Me‘.
And nobody wants that now do they?
The best thing about it: the spoofs of Hollywood’s take on world history
The worst thing about it: being forced to confront the collective id of modern society
The verdict on Monkey Dust: the best cartoon since ‘Batfink‘.
Marks out of 10: 8