Monday, August 12, 2013


It's getting harder to find good sketch comedy these days.  It seems that sketch comedy has become diffuse and decentralized, with sketches popping up on youtube channels, and other places on the internet, but sketch comedy is getting more and more rare on television.  There is a lot of web content out that parodies current pop culture like Barely Political.

Unfortunately, in order to find some really good sketch comedy, one has to travel back in time a few years.

British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb have found success on many levels in the comedy world, but the two got their start with their "That Mitchell and Webb Situation," a six episode sketch comedy show that aired on PLAY UK TV in 2001.

This sketch from 2001 satirizes the rise of the reality cooking shows at the time.  The cluelessness and naivete of David Mitchell's "Barry" character regarding this new reality format is classic. "Where's the kitchen, Barry?"  "Oh, it's where you set up all those lights."

This show was the spark that led to the popular British BBC radio show "That Mitchell and Webb Sound" in 2003-2009.

But it was with "That Mitchell and Webb Look" that finally saw the duo reach their comedic peak in 2006.

What separates TMAWL from other contemporary sketch comedies was the almost total lack of parody in the show's sketches.  Rarely did TMAWL parody something directly, such as Gordon Ramsey's "Kitchen Nightmares,"
But even then in the sketch they make the point that the people Ramsey helps are usually so inept that they point out that, (the) "Only way that any of this will help my restaurant is if you say forever.  Will you stay forever?"

But Mitchell and Webb shined with their satirizations of the various genres, films and t.v. shows.  One of the best examples of this was the "Bawdy 1970's hospital sketch" with satirized the bawdy and racy British t.v. shows of the 1970s and the endless stream of sexual innuendo that constantly straddled the line of obscenity.

Mitchell and Webb had a number of reoccurring sketches over their four year run.

The rude waiter

The rude shopkeeper

The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Salad
"As usual, Ginger and I are engaged in our quest to find out what the hell is going on and save humanity from my nemisis, some bastard who is presumabably responsible!"

Get me Hennimore!
The Get Me Hennimore! sketches were classic satirizations of the miscommunication comedies of the past.  In the sketches, Hennimore's boss gives poor Hennimore either confusing constructions to perform a simple task, which of course, Hennimore screws up, with the boss exclaiming "Hennimore," with his glasses somehow ending up broken at the end of the sketch.

The Lazy Susan sketch

These series of sketches showcased absurdist humor at it's best.  The contestants on the fictional game show compete to try and figure out Numberwang.  But the rules of the show are never explained, and "Numberwang" can seemingly be ANY number.

The "Die Hard" sketch is fantastic because it's not a parody of Die Hard, but is very clever in that it's about a dying friend's last wish to his best mate to recreate the movie "Die Hard." 

Welsh Die Hard

Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit

The Green Clarinet

The series ended on a terrific high note with the heartbreaking "Holmes and Watson" sketch where a dementia suffering Sherlock Holmes is visited by his old faithful assistant Watson.

Mitchell and Webb still star in the comedy Peep Show, but have seemingly hung up their sketch comedy spurs for the time being, after TMAWL went off the air in 2010.  Hopefully they might return to sketch comedy sometime in the future.  But it does seem that for sketch comedy to truly work on a higher level, there is a certain half-life that goes along with that spark, that genius that separates the mundane from the brilliant.  That usually is about four to six years.  Most programs, comedy, or not seem to suffer after the sixth year mark.  

You can view all four seasons of "That Mitchell and Webb Look" for FREE on HULU.COM.
You can find most of the "That Mitchell and Webb situation" on Youtube and on the net.

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