TV is filled with the ridiculous. Programmes that engineer drama and stress out of even just baking a cake, the listings are filled with competitions. With contestants who have devastating back-stories, tears over getting a compliment and observational documentaries that try and find the most extreme examples of people and animals, there’s much to ridicule.
Lucky, then, that for several years there was a sketch show on UK TV that happily skewered TV for its obsession with the absurd, pushing forward a no-nonsense theme.
That Mitchell and Webb Look, from comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb, tore into screenwriters, television, ‘alternative therapies’, advertising and anything else that contained more than a small amount of BS.
While the pair have gone on to other projects and have starred in the long running, superb sitcom ‘Peep Show’, it was their sketch show that gave them a platform to release all the irritation that accumulates day-to-day.
The pair met in Cambridge and performed at the Cambridge Footlights, a breeding ground of British comedy talent that has seen many, including Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, David Frost and Peter Cook, perform and rise to stardom.
At a similar time, the much more slapstick sketch show Little Britain saw incredible success, but with repetitive jokes, limited characters and shock over substance, it’s the quieter, smarter Mitchell and Webb Look which sits comfortably alongside Monty Python and The League of Gentlemen – both ground-breaking sketch shows whose writers have become legends.
Aside from skewering the world around them, their character work was also superb. The drunk hobo who was convinced he was an upper class gentlemen fighting against a conspiracy waged by his ‘nemesis’, the pair of snooker commentators who spend all their time drinking and smoking and the 1970s style ‘Henimore’ sketches all show years spent watching and soaking in the sitcoms, sketch shows and variety shows of the 1970s and 80s.
While it’s still a tough call pointing out what the greatest UK comedy talent was of the 2000s, Mitchell and Webb are definitely part of it.
Buy Peep Show – Series 1-7 from Amazon here.
That Mitchell and Webb Look from Amazon here.