tue 23/07/2024

Comedy World Cup, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Comedy World Cup, Channel 4

Comedy World Cup, Channel 4

David Tennant is the referee in a new comedy quiz

David Tennant shows a quick wit as he asks the questions

Now here's a thing. Why would you invite one of his generation's most acclaimed classical actors, who is also a huge star of popular culture, to make his debut as a light entertainer in that most clichéd role, a quiz-show host?

Well, when that individual is David Tennant, a brilliant Hamlet and a former Doctor Who, you are guaranteed to attract some new viewers and it gives a neat reboot to what is a very tired format: a bunch of comics answering soft questions (in this case about the history of comedy) but in actuality being given a chance to trot out jokes and anecdotes.

So is he up to the job? Of course he is. Tennant is naturally funny and quick-witted, and clearly a fan of the subject, even if on this showing - the first of seven episodes - he needs to be a bit more directional when the comics are keener to tell their stories rather than attending to the task in hand.

TV - and a non-satirical quiz show in particular - is an unforgiving medium for subtle humour

He referees two teams - captained last night by Jo Brand (pictured below) and Jason Manford - who answer questions about stand-up and television comedy from the past 40 years. The idea is that the captains, who will play each week on a knockout basis, will be joined by one younger and one more experienced comedian (a idea similar to Radio 4's Act Your Age). Last night Brand was joined by Shappi Khorsandi and Dave Spikey (once part of Peter Kay's repertory company), while Manford's team was Paul Chowdhry and Nicholas Parsons - about whose grand age (he's 88) the jokes soon became tiresome.

The teams answer questions presented in various formats: guess the year from various clips and photographs; identify the comedian as their routines are performed by children (again reminiscent of another programme, this time Channel 4's Big Fat Quiz of the Year); guess which pitches for sitcoms are real and which are fake; identify catchphrases or comedy double acts; and lastly, a quick-fire round of questions. There are plentiful clips to accompany each round and all of the comics had a fund of stories to accompany them, some funnier than others.

The show's producers got good value from Parsons' presence, as he has appeared with an astonishing number of comics over the years - some good, some bad. They unearthed footage of the short-lived The Ugliest Girl in Town, a US Tootsie-style Sixties sitcom in which he appeared as a British impresario; it was ranked at 18 in TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time list in 2002. Attaboy!

At an hour, the show felt overextended (and I hear the recording was a marathon, which suggests that the unused material was even weaker than some that was broadcast) and the editing was sloppy. At one point I heard Manford, who should have been off-mic at this point, refer sarcastically to Chowdhry's running gag about everything on British TV comedy being racist. Chowdhry, a British Asian, was clearly being ironic, but TV - and a non-satirical quiz show in particular - is an unforgiving medium for subtle humour.

But the script, written by a team of several, had its moments and, if David Tennant is your thing and you like testing your comedy knowledge, this is an unchallenging trot through some nostalgic moments.

At an hour, the show felt overextended, and I hear the recording was a marathon

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I thought the show was wonderful. I was happy to see a little bit of American show trivia in there as well. I think my favorite part was when David joked on himself about cross dressing male actors for roles! Love him as Davina! Excellent show, I will definitely watch again.

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