Ah yes, another round of ‘why exactly did they bring THEM back?’
Jan Ravens, whose inefficiency in the fields of improv, decency and humor, returns tonight, along with newcomer Lee Simpson, another veteran of the Comedy Store Players (and, like Neil Mullarkey, another unsuccessful one as far as Whose Line is concerned).
Good news is Slattery and McShane are here to actually add some comedy.
Clive intros Tony as someone “who learned everything he knows about comedy on Clive Anderson Talks Back”
Authors: A Dabchick by the Riverbank Meets with a Speech Therapist
Lee: T.E. Lawrence
Jan: Duchess of York
Tony: Package Holiday Brochure
Mike: Joseph Wambaugh
Clive: “Now we need a title for this story, so, uh, anyone?”
Clive: “NO! Now, uh…”
I still don’t like Jan. She’s just rather annoying and obnoxious, and her Duchess of York bit isn’t great.
Tony’s bit is quite funny, and he’s doing his best, but this is basically a dead authors because of Jan’s reluctance to actually carry the story along.
It got a little better as it went on, but in my opinion there wasn’t a ton going on here.
That’ll Be Charlie Now- Mike as Charlie, Lee, Tony and Jan at hotel reception.
This game, in my opinion, was more effective later down the stretch when it became Here He Is Now, but worked fine in the early era with people like Mike and Tony as Charlie.
You can tell how important Tony’s presence on the show was, as after Lee and Jan had some fine quirks (147 cigarettes a day, boil on his nose), Tony goes right in with “does he still expose himself to women?”
Jan: “He did it to me last time I saw him…”
Lee: “Now he does it to men as well…”
Tony: “D’you know the funniest habit he’s developed? He’s begun spitting in people’s ear, and then sucking it out!”
Jan, finally following by his example: “I’ve heard that he grabs hold of men’s nipples and twists them.”
Lee, not leaving Jan out of this: “AND WOMEN’S…”
Mike, the second he enters, ripping open his suit jacket: “ROOM SERVICE!”
It’s fantastic when Mike enters and starts doing all of his traits. Only problem is Clive ends the scene too quickly for there to be any resolution or ending, so while it’s a fun scene, it could have used a beat or so more.
Film Dub: Jan and Tony are on their Honeymoon
Jan complains of a hideous growth on her face
Tony: “Don’t be silly, I’ve got a hideous growth down here, you just can’t see it!”
Jan, on a shot of a gorilla: “Oh, there it is!”
This one doesn’t especially get going, but I did enjoy Tony switching between doing voices for the character and the gorilla, reminding me of Paul Merton’s future performance as a dog (“…..woof.”)
Song Styles: Mike sings a Motown number about a plumber
Mike makes this a pretty great, Diana Ross-esque number, even though it doesn’t COMPLETELY nail the style. It’s still a good song, even if, like the theme tonight, it was a bit short.
World’s Worst: Thing to say/do when making love
Clive prefaces the suggestion with “….I don’t think this will be a very good idea.” As if he knows how blue Tony’s going to make this.
Tony: “…..YOU STAY THERE, I’M COMING IN!” [lunges]
Mike: “……what’s that?”
Tony: “Hang on, I’ve got someone who can join us- C’MERE BOY!”
Mike: “Women? Orgasms? Can’t be bothered…”
Good enough round, but Jan’s…weren’t funny.
Props: Lee and Mike vs. Jan and Tony
Jan: “…it’s a geranium…”
Also, tonight features an appearance from the soon-to-be-inescapable “hi, I’m _________” [Tony vomits] gag.
Clive: “Banking, though I don’t think there are many RHYMES for banking….”
Lee BARELY gets over the obvious rhyme “To try to pass the time, I like to…..do a crossword puzzle.”
Jan’s, as with the theme, isn’t funny.
Tony: “Banking is a subject close to my heart/ me and my current account are never far apart/ you go to the manager on closer inspection/ he’s really dishy….he gives me an erection???”
Tony just seems surprised and weak at arriving at that particular rhyme. Also, for the first time in a while, Clive is absolutely losing it at the desk.
The whole room needs 15 seconds to calm down from Tony’s. Finally, Mike, who’s used to this, just goes, to the camera, “The man has the morals of a german shepherd!”
Party Quirks: Tony hosts
Lee: Thinks he’s in a play rehearsal
Jan: Air stewardess
Mike: Thinks he’s Scarlett O’Hara
Lee actually does a really nice job here. Halfway through, Lee asks someone offstage, probably the director, “Yes, uh, is Tony going to talk like this all the while? No, that’s okay, I’ll…”
After Mike has a particularly compassionate line about “never starving again”
Tony: “…you’re not Elizabeth Taylor, are you?”
Mike: “THAT BITCH!”
Another really nice playing where Tony is not only able to guess everyone, but also is able to let everyone interact with not only each other, but him. A bit quaint for my tastes, but still fine.
American Musical: Walking in the Mountains of Northern Italy, Pulling Out Weeds in the Garden, and swimming
Knowing how the last time Jan did a Musical went, I’m a little skeptical.
The first segment is fine, setting up a story, characters, and a mood. I don’t like Jan, so her motif she offers is a bit repetitive, but it’s a fine first segment.
Lee, however, shifts this story into high gear, appearing as the thought-dead father, who’d escaped to the mountains of Northern Italy, which is a great touch, as well as keeping the first segment in mind.
Lee does offer an awkward shift- he wants to do a solo scene as the husband as the wife and son, Jan and Mike, are still onstage. So, luckily, the characters do factor in, first disguising as birds, then, Lee finally realizes they’re the same people. Small hiccup, but it evens out.
Tony, right as there’s about to be resolution, enters: “Hullo, everybody, I’m Carlos…the mad gardener.” He’s cracking up as he says this.
While this does lead to a funny little ending (“he’s a yanker….and a wanker”), it doesn’t tie up the story, and, a lot like the REST OF THE SHOW, it doesn’t really go anywhere after setting things up. And sadly, I have to blame Tony for not making an effort to end the scene together, rather than in a semi-solo showcase.
Overall: One of the first truly bad shows of the season, maybe worse than the Jimmy Mulville show, because at least a few scenes and jokes got off the ground there. This one had a lot of scenes that went nowhere, a Jan Ravens performance that was damn near poisonous to scenes, a newbie who was good but stumbled once or twice, Tony Slattery and Mike McShane doing their damnedest to save the show, and only one or two games that actually felt fully realized.
Show Winner: Lee
Best Performer: Mike McShane, for energetically making his scenes the highlight of the show. Tony came very close.
Worst Performer: Jan Ravens. Just…not good.
Best Game: Rap, by default, for at least coming up with the show’s sole laugh-out-loud moment.
Worst Game: Musical, for not going anywhere and just ending with a thud.