We didn’t have access to the digital channels when Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show first started airing in 2007, so I didn’t even know it existed until I noticed it on Katherine Parkinson’s resume (apparently Katy Brand and Parkinson knew each other at Oxford, and have worked together several times since). Last week I picked up the first series on DVD for a couple of quid, and I have rather mixed feelings about what I witnessed. Aside from an appearance in an old episode of Peep Show, I hadn’t seen much of Brand before this, but I quickly found myself warming to her as a performer. Admittedly I have a weakness for cute, curvy women, so there’s definitely the physical attraction to take into account… but she’s also got enough manic energy and charisma to take the curse off some of the more repetitive jokes… and believe me, there is a lot of repetition. A lot of repetition. A lot. Which might be more forgivable if she’d written the show all by herself, but there are half-a-dozen credited writers! How does it take that many people to come up with seven or eight broad ideas for sketches, which they can then flog to death for six weeks? I hate to harp on about this, but comedians from the 80s/90s like French & Saunders or Fry & Laurie were able to write countless unique skits all by themselves, but these days it’s all outsourced to a banal, committee of cyphers! How did we allow this regression to occur? Did that Norwegian Blue parrot die for nothing?
Aside from being too samey, I also think that her sketches are frequently misguided or ill-conceived. In an interview with the Telegraph, Brand described her comedic vision thus: “I try to find one silly thing about a celebrity and then make it bigger and bigger until it takes on a life of its own.” Which is fair enough, I suppose… but it’s not a particularly ambitious agenda for a post-watershed comedy show, is it? Her explanation for the inspiration behind one of the most dominant runners in this series is even less thrilling: “I was reading lots of Kate Winslet interviews where she kept on talking about being normal, and that made me laugh.” Cue an endless succession of sketches wherein she portrays said actress as a crazy, out-of-touch Hollywood celeb, desperately trying to convince everyone in a rural village that she’s “normal”, by planting sausages in her garden and such. One of the big problems with her “impression” of Winslet is that it doesn’t really resemble the woman in any recognisable way whatsoever. In fact, the impression is so poor, and the premise so shaky, that its preceded by a twenty second explanatory introduction in every episode. That’s twenty seconds of wasted air, every week! Twenty seconds that could have been filled with, y’know, a fresh joke or a startling idea. No?
Even more irritating are her “satires” of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. Granted, they do generally involve her wearing low-cut dresses, which I’m all in favour of… but both skits basically amount to her accusing Allen and Winehouse of writing banal, shallow, repetitive songs… which is rather like Chalk accusing Cheese of being too chalky! If Brand ever writes a show as funny, moving, heartfelt and insightful as either of those women’s albums, then I would be more than happy to watch it… but I’m not holding my breath. In the interview linked above, there’s a reference to people accusing her of being a “misogynist”… which is presumably what “inspired” a sketch suggesting that women who make accusations of “misogyny” (and black men who accuse others of “racism”) are just mindless parrots who simply repeat the words over and over again because they like the way they sound. Sigh. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I’d prefer to see comedians attacking the perpetrators of misogyny and racism, rather than the victims. And really, you’d think that someone who supposedly studied Theology at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, would be able to come up with a more insightful take on religion than “Hey, what if Jesus had a girlfriend, and behaved a bit like a rockstar? Wouldn’t that be hilarious?” And what kind of “satirist” goes to the trouble of filming a series of sketches about Coco Chanel, simply to play her as a generic “crazy fashionista” with an aversion to fat people, when in real-life the woman dated bonafide Nazis! NAZIS!!!
Ack! I’m getting all self-righteous again. Sorry. I did laugh at a few of the sketches… and Parkinson is great in it, even if the sight of her with sideburns has scarred me for life… and everything seemed very well executed from a technical standpoint. It’s just the dearth of soul, passion and wit that irks me.