It should be a given by now that all these lists carry with it an unwritten disclaimer (which I shall now write anyway) that I can only pass judgment on things I have actually seen and experienced, or at least can remember doing, so I am well aware there are great big gaps in my annual comedy consumption, but these are just the ones that stuck out.
Sketch Show – Limmy’s Show!
Brian “Limmy” Limond returns with another batch of low budget high quality sketches, tied together with his own observational musings which are far more successful than those of other would-be observational comics thanks to his believable increasing frustration with the world as it exists and a welcome touch of the surreal. A shame its only show on BBC Scotland (iPlayer’s your friend here), but at least a third series is in the works.
Panel Show – Shooting Stars
As we mourn the loss of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s madcap nonsensical take on the celebrity TV quiz, at least we can rest safe in the knowledge that it was still going strong, some 18 years since its original episode. I don’t expect it’s the last we’ll ever hear from Shooting Stars (Sky have recently come out saying they won’t be taking it), but with Vic & Bob indulging their barely-scripted sketch itch with Fosters, it will be exciting to see where they end up next.
Sitcom – Him & Her
Cowards‘ Stefan Golaszewski broke the BBC Three comedy curse with Him & Her series one by bringing to the channel a sitcom which was actually pretty good. Series two, however, completely took me by surprise, frequently very funny, incredibly perceptive and genuinely touching. “A lazy couple in a flat being visited by their friends, family and neighbours” is perhaps the least exciting premise one could think of for a comedy, but Golaszewski has a great nack for picking up tiny details which a wonderful cast skillfully deliver every time. Special mention to Kerry Howard as the deliciously bitchy Laura. Really looking forward to the third series now. Definitely not to be overlooked.
Comedy Drama – Psychoville
Though traditionally a name given to programmes which are “not funny enough to be a comedy, too silly to be a drama”, I’m really just using the category it won at The British Comedy Awards as an excuse to just talk about Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s incredible second series of Psychoville. Just as dark and funny as any League offering, Psychoville repeatedly pulled the rug out from under your feet by saving the lives of most of the first series characters, only to have them all dispatched one by one, an act of audience-baiting cruelty but a perfectly-judged one. And for every fallen individual, a worthwhile replacement, be it Imelda Staunton’s Judi Dench-wannabe villain, Jason Watkins’ camp and creepy toy-shop owner, or the appearance of the Silent Singer…
Stand-up – Adam Riches
While I have still yet to see his full-length Edinburgh Comedy Award winning show ‘Bring Me The Head of Adam Riches‘ (though will do soon!), the brief segment of his I saw as part of An Evening Of Telly Live at Kings Place was the most astonishing face-achingly funny performance I enjoyed in 2011. Audience participation is the bread-and-butter of many a stand-up routine, but Riches‘ fully-invested character turns means any unlucky participant really has no way of knowing where he’s heading and no out from the increasingly bizarre situations they find themselves in. And a scene from a movie based on the popular colour-based guessing game Mastermind starring Daniel Day-Lewis certainly takes some beating.
Live Show – Tim and Eric
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is quintessential cult entertainment at best even in the States, so with only two series released on DVD in the UK, it’s safe to say they are even more of an underground deal here. But that didn’t stop their shows selling out when they came to London. More of a greatest hits package of fan favourite characters and sketches than anything, Tim and Eric arrived on stage arrived on stage in nude suits with giant testicles to a song the entire lyrics of which was just the word “diarrhoea” repeated over and over. To the unprepared, bafflement and bemusement was the inevitable result (as the myriad one-star reviews demonstrated), but one man’s death-knell of comedy is another’s bell of, I don’t know, joy, or whatever. I had my fun and that’s all that matters.
Short/Animation – The External World
David O’Reilly is kind of a genius whose talent and artistry is only matched by his twisted mindset. And The External World is his masterwork thus far – a very troubling and deliberately unclassifiable masterwork, but one nonetheless. Ostensibly an animated collection of sketches (though naturally far more than that), its not only beautiful to behold, but disgustingly hilarious too. Less talk, more watch.