The Secret Policemen's Ball
Towards the end of The Secret Policemen's Ball the actor Jeremy Irons came on stage and announced "something a bit different now - stand-up without jokes". I thought that's what we were watching all evening. For the Ball was balls - noisy, obnoxious squealing masquerading as comedy. But Jeremy Irons had the nerve to get up in our faces and get all "but seriously, folks" on our asses. In a stupendously patronising segment he asked the men in the audience to stand up if they used the internet. And instead of saying "Fuck yourself, Irons - you were shit in Damage and you can make the point perfectly well without treating us like four-year-old children" they did so. He continued "Bingo Bango from Burma used the internet to publish an article criticising the government's use of torture". It turns out this was the last thing Bingo Bango should have done as the government carted him off to torture him. Bit predictable that but there you go.
"'Hyenas are weird' Izzard mused 'they'll laugh at anything'. Yep, but they draw the fucking line at you, buddy boy."
It all started with Eddie Izzard. Well, of course it did. The high priest of comedy with no target, point or punchline, Eddie Izzard has never been funny, ever. Not for a second, not under any circumstances, not even by accident. He did his usual student common room stream-of-consciousness wackiness. What is he swearing for all the time? This was a recurring motif throughout the night. "Hyenas are weird" Izzard mused "they'll laugh at anything". Yep, but they draw the fucking line at you, buddy boy.
"I liked this act when I first saw it. A quarter of a century ago when Rowan Atkinson did it."
Someone came on and did sign language to Natalie Imbruglia's performance of Torn. I liked this act when I first saw it. A quarter of a century ago when Rowan Atkinson did it, specifically. It had originality, wit and invention then. No danger of that, here.
Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon did a skit with Barry from EastEnders featuring his unfunny impersonations of stars as diverse as Elvis Costello when he was young and Elvis Costello now. Remarkable. Joining Fallon from across the pond was "comedy legend" Chevy Chase who has never been funny, ever. Not for a second. The pair featured in a Goodness Gracious Me style Guantanamo Bay/holiday camp mix-up sketch with Sunita from Coronation Street with some other bollocks as her husband. Fallon and Chase played the hilariously named Private Parts and General Nuisance. Yes, really. This sketch took forever with punchlines arriving days before the set-ups and it had a message about abusing human rights, maaan. Just excruciating.
"You've observed that the word pussy can mean vagina as well as cat? Oh, have a fucking coconut."
Joining her American counterparts was stand-up Sarah Silverman. She didn't seem to be comfortable in front of the audience and took refuge in her dicey poor taste material. Her seven-year-old niece has come out as a lesbian, she told us. So her mother punishes her with "no pussy for a week". Tell me, where is the fucking joke there? Is that shitty little single entendre supposed to be an ingenious play on words? You've observed that the word pussy can mean vagina as well as cat? Oh, have a fucking coconut.
"Guy and Mac from Green Wing were in this but not in their Green Wing roles as that would have been funny."
Andrew Maxwell, a noisy unfunny Irish person quickly followed. Taking his cue from the theme of the night he replaced his planned routine with swearing, shouting and laughing at his own jokes.
It was difficult to identify a low point but if I was forced to choose a nadir it would be the Cluedo-themed play Murder At Marston Manner with its school teachers performing at the end-of-year show script and horrendous back-slapping in-jokes. Richard E Grant, Jessica Stevenson and Graham Norton joined the train wreck here. Guy and Mac from Green Wing also appeared but not in their Green Wing roles as that would have been funny. My God, did this ever need Sue White or Dr Statham to redeem it?
"Al Murray was there of course, reminding you of the worst excesses of Eighties alternative comedy. No jokes, more shouting, more swearing."
Al Murray was there of course, reminding you of the worst excesses of Eighties alternative comedy. No jokes, more shouting, more swearing. Russell Brand was the only funny thing in the entire show. He read out extracts from The Sun letters page and took the readers' moronic suggestions to their logical conclusion (i.e. Ian Huntley should "face the bullets in Iraq" instead of his current cosy existence). A simple idea, well-executed
"Aerial Telly feels sorry for Bingo Bango from Burma having his bollocks shut in a fridge door every morning just for logging on to My Space.'"
Aerial Telly is generally against torture. He accepts that it's A Bad Thing. He feels sorry for Bingo Bango from Burma having his bollocks shut in a fridge door every morning just for logging on to My Space. But there is just no excuse for this rotten, lazy, appallingly scripted nonsense. Previous Secret Policemen Balls featured major talent taking risks and performing like it mattered. Not one of these bums gave a fuck.
And while we're here, make a note of the 10 (TEN!! ) writers: John Armstrong, Kevin Baker, James Cary, Roger Drew, John Finnemore, John Holmes, Matt Kirshen, Steve Punt, Will Smith and Dan Tetsell.
What a shower of cunts.
The best thing about it: Russell Brand
The worst thing about it: Eddie fucking Izzard
The verdict on The Secret Policemen's Ball: Human rights, comedy wrongs
Marks out of 10: 3
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© James Donaghy 2003-2013
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