This week’s “Show Me the Funny” managed to improve the balance between “tasks” and performance, with more than half of the show focussing on the acts delivering their “newly written” material to the Scots Guards regiment (“one of the toughest in the British Army” as host Jason Manford intones ominously – they all say that) and the subsequent judges opinions.
The acts are driven to Catterick’s massive military base and delivered to the tender mercies of Sergeant Major Tam McEwan, a dour-faced ginger Scot who promises that “you will be integrated fully into C company” (at least I think that’s what he says). Cole’s already in Tam’s sights for his suspicious possession of a “man bag”, and the numerous to camera confessions by Cole that he used to be a “loose cannon” and has “pissed a lot of people off” don’t bode well.
The comics are split into teams of three (which seem to randomly change) to do two days of “gruelling” military activities, with the three impressing the Scots Guards most getting to pick that all important running order. There’s none comedy footage of them having to change into their uniforms (Sgt Mjr Tam: “No flappin about like a turd in the Thames”), the men having to shave (Dan Mitchell seems to get away with leaving a coy bumfluff gingery Hitler moustache in situ) and getting used to their barracks. Prince Abdi’s already majorly unhappy (“I just wanna go home”). Cole decides to plan an hilarious “wheeze”
Manford reveals a further twist to this supposed horror gig; that most of the audience will be from Glasgow, and that the UN listed Scotland as the most violent country in the EU. So, Cole’s fairly fortunate that his jolly jape of cutting the arse out of his combats only ends up with Sgt Major Tam summoning “That man wi his fucking arse hanging out” to his office for a dressing down over Cole’s deliberate and laugh-free “trooser” malfunction (“I thought it would cheer you up” “It’s not cheered me up… it’s pissed me off.” “er sorry”). Ellie reveals to the others that Cole asked if she had a spare thong he could wear (“I politely declined”), whilst Cole worries with crushing hindsight about getting the shit heckled out of him at the Thursday night gig.
Pat, Stuart and Rudi are put through a prolonged work out (sit-ups, press-ups, and in Pat’s case throwing up) in the gym. Rudi’s not doing bad for a 47 year old grand-dad (“I’ve got a verukah, I shouldn’t be doing this!”), although Tiffany notices that he’s mastered the technique of only actually doing any exercise when the drill sergeant’s looking in his direction. The edit crowbars in the fact that Rudi has been doing army gigs in war-torn areas for over four years, and shows him telling the camera that he will probably use that past experience. Lazy Rudi the edit tells us.
The gang get turns at driving a Warrior Armoured Fighting vehicle up slopes, which makes Prince Abdi nervous. “Cheer up” someone tells him when he manages the scary ascent. He looks infinitely sad.
Finally the three teams have to do a “log race”, which fortunately is not some toilet based tomfoolery, but involves them carrying a large log up a steep hill an arbitrary number of times. The blue team consists of Dan, Alfy and Pat, who reckons they don’t have a chance of winning (“We wouldn’t make the 2012 Olympics unless it was doughnut chasing”). Poor Dan’s struggling with uphill log carrying, falling at the very first. Dan’s a likeable charity worker who freely admits that he’s had “bad experiences working in front of squaddies. They just want to shout through the entire set”. But plucky limping Dan continues with the race (as do the rest of the team), despite being forced to do three laps in punishment for falling over or being Welsh. So the blue team finish last, but the winning red team manage to finish without any of the comics still standing (Rudi, Tiffany and Ellie having deserted in favour of a nice rest), and the second placed yellow team managed to lose an unmotivated Prince Abdi (“The military isn’t for me… I’ve done my time for today). Dan’s rewarded for his persistence by getting to ride back on the turret of the Warrior (“I might get a lollipop as well”) and confides that the experience should help him prepare his set during the following writing day as he now understands what soldiers go through. Cole plans to write a set about his prank (the one that pissed Sgt Mjr Tam off). Good luck with that then.
Today’s guest judge is lovely Bob Mortimer, the gig being in Catterick and him having written a show with the same name.
Dan, Pat and Alfy unsurprisingly are awarded the chance to choose the running order and somewhat cruelly put Prince Abdi on to open (Pat’s logic is that the audience might be nicer at that stage. This logic is insane). They choose Rudi for the “headline” spot which actually makes more sense, although they think they’ll be leaving him with the audience at their rowdiest.
Poor Abdi nervously shadow boxes in preparation for his spot of doom, which he chooses to start with an attempt at a Weedgie accent. Watching in the green room, Pat puts his head in his hands (presumably any viewers do too). Somehow he survives this section and gets the good-natured audience on side, only to regale them with a long shaggy dog story about a bloke coming to his hotel room and asking for “Maria”, insisting that it’s her house, and then inviting Prince Abdi out for a guitar serenaded drink. I’m furiously trying to work out the payoff for this story, I mean it must be worth it, right? Nope, there isn’t a punchline and Prince Abdi finishes his set, leaving a befuddled,but not yet violent audience in his wake. Maybe Pat had a point with the running order.
Ellie’s next and predictably is met by a barrage of wolf whistles, which she converts to applause by comparing officers in the army to Louis Walsh on the X Factor (“Very pleased to be there, but not exactly sure what’s going on”). Um ok.
Dan gets a big cheer from those assembled, and it’s obvious that Sgt Mjr Tam likes him. He delivers a confident and funny Rhod Gilbert-esque rant about his log carrying failure, and I especially love him for using the phrases “We were in the testostrazone” and “we flew like bullets… made of men”. The squaddies love him too, with one tough looking guy declaring that Dan is indeed “the man”, and he strides off stage looking about ten feet tall.
The crowd are getting restless and all we get to see of Alfy is him dealing with a heckle. Tiffany follows, nervous as she’s never done an all squaddie gig. She calms down the audience (“at ease soldiers.. don’t unload your clip early sunshine”) before hitting them with a good gag about the regiments Latin motto.
The mood’s getting uglier as Pat takes the stage, and he ends up expertly troubleshooting a veritable heckle-fest, much to Cole’s annoyance (“He’s winding them up!”). Stuart manages to get in a gag about the troops trying to impress their resident gay clerk when they realise they’re not on his shag-list (“Do you wanna see how many lunges I can do?” which gets a great response and Stuart comes off relieved.
It’s a good thing Cole isn’t wearing his non comedy combats, as he’s crapping himself when he starts his set amidst boos. One stealth heckle gets huge laughs and Cole turns snappily on the culprit moaning “Cheers! That fucking helps a treat!” (I don’t think that particularly helps either). He proceeds to rip the piss out of Sgt Mjr Tam and the Aussie Captain working at Catterick on a “cultural exchange” (“We get to learn how to wrestle crocodiles and punch women!” – gets good laughs), before broaching trooser-gate to the non-amusement of Sgt Mjr Tam. He ends with the flourish of throwing his cut out combat arse cheeks into the audience so that Sgt Mjr Tam and Aussie Captain can sniff them when they’re feeling lonely. The rest of the set could have been genius, but that came across as the gesture of an arrogant tit. “Awkward” concludes MC Manford. “Kill him” advises Sgt Mjr Tam worryingly. Cole meanwhile thinks he’s “pulled them round and had a decent show”. That’s probably what happened, but the ending of the set was still mental.
Rudi goes on last and shows his experience with his very good opening gag (“Where are all the officers? Down at the front? That must be the only time you see them on the front-line”) which brings the house down. He builds on this success with some mild-mannered (but presumably acceptable) racism (“Any brothers in the house? I can see your teeth, I know you’re there man!”) before resorting to some tried and tested old material about Jamaican airlines which all gets laughs, but Kate and Alan look troubled about it.
So it’s judging time and they all enjoyed Dan (although Bob bizarrely compares him to Peter Kay). Bob says Prince Abdi’s nerves made him feel nervous. “He made me angry and irritated” retorts Kate. Bob also thinks Ellie’s looks are a problem, and states that he preferred Tiffany’s set, with it’s nicely personalised motto joke, whilst he found Cole “arrogant”. Alan’s concerned about the connotations (which he dare not mention) of Rudi’s “I can see your teeth” line. “If you wanted to be nasty about Rudi, you’d say he was a great stag night comedian” Bob says nicely (That’s one for the poster, Rudi!).
The four people called to meet the judges are Cole, Rudi, Prince Abdi and Dan, and it’s no surprise that those who go in first for the sugar laden praise are Dan and Rudi. Dan’s still grinning happily at having had a good army gig (“I loved it. They were a great bunch of lads”), but Bob tempers his praise with advice to slow down and further develop good ideas (er Bob, it is a five minute set).
Alan congratulates Rudi for “storming it”, but chastises him for using tried and trusted gags from his previous life. Bob agrees “You shouldn’t be relying on your greatest hits”. Rudi’s taken aback at criticism (“I’m up against really talented kids”), but Kate’s having none of it and points out that with his experience he could do the time-slot standing on his head, “but you’re quite lazy, and smug”. “Smug??!!”, Rudi recoils in shock. “You coast on the audience going for you” Kate explains “and you should bloody well stop it”.
Cole and Prince Abdi are called for a bollocking and potential dismissal. Cole’s unrepentant about his performance and blames the rowdy audience for his initial nerves (Bob reckons Cole’s energy eventually kept the crowd at bay), but Alan’s still not sure about Cole’s “confrontational finish”.
Prince Abdi’s quizzed by Alan on where the story came from. Apparently it’s all true. “But nothing FUNNY happened” complains Alan. Prince Abdi admits that when it all happened he thought “THIS is gonna be gold”. See, he is funny! Kate’s still appalled at him even attempting another accent (“A bit of crap is still too much crap in 5 minutes”).
Cole thinks he can still win this competition despite Kate telling him “You have all the personal warmth of a Nile crocodile” (Very good parents Nile crocs). Even though Kate thinks Cole’s “a bit of an arse” she still votes for him to stay.
Poor Prince Abdi, everyone’s telling him he’s a nice, likeable guy, which means of course he’s doomed, and everyone votes for him to leave. I hope he gets his job back if he wants it, and keeps gigging.
Cole returns to the other comics at the barracks, having been told by Alan that he’s lucky.
Next week the comics perform to a bunch of schoolkids. Let’s hope Cole doesn’t cut the front out of his gym knickers. My tips to do well to an audience of kids are Pat, Stuart and Tiffany.
ITV have finally started showing selected sets from the comics taking part (noticeably not from the ones evicted so far, but I guess that would ruin the magic of the reality narrative). You can see them via http://www.itv.com/showmethefunny/shows/