Saturday, 1 August 2009

WE ARE KLANG 1.1 - "Fire"

Saturday, 1 August 2009

IF Comedy Award-nominees We Are Klang are a three-piece comedy troupe with a style of humour best-described as "silly anarchy". The trio are comprised of The Inbetweeners' Greg Davies (the fat Rik Mayall look-alike), Steve Hall (the stubbly Mark Watson look-alike) and Marek Larwood (the thin Matt Lucas look-alike). Their BBC3 sitcom casts them as three members of the fictional Klangbury Council, supposedly the ideal jumping-off point for their brand of infantile, crazy humour that owes a debt to the insanity of Reeves & Mortimer...

The first episode of their self-titled We Are Klang series was as frustrating and infrequently amusing as I was expecting. Its strongest element is the unique format, which merges live studio sitcom with a live stage-show experience. Or tried to. This means the Klang are free to break the fourth wall of their sitcom world and, when the camera pulls back, the show becomes interactive for the studio audience. We Are Klang also features pre-recorded scenes performed outside, including a song-n'-dance number about being a Jew, which helped break up any monotony. Although it was a shame the budget wasn't there to do anything special, a la Flight Of The Conchords.

So, a big thumbs up for trying something different stylistically, but it counts for naught if We Are Klang isn't funny. And, personally, there wasn't much here that elicited a smile from me, beyond the odd nice line. The problem with silly comedy is that it can look trivial and childish, as it only transcends itself with subtle layers of complexity or intelligence to back it up. In the '90s, Harry Hill, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer pulled the trick off magnificently, while in the '00s even The Mighty Boosh ensure enough witty gags to counteract the immature stuff -- but We Are Klang felt like watching three middle-aged teens arse around for thirty minutes.

Occasionally, they fooled around very well -- but, tellingly, Greg Davies looked eager to be seen corpsing at the antics of his colleagues (particularly Marek Larwood), and I took that as a sign that he has no faith in their material's strength. He just knows that audiences love to see stuff "go wrong", so it's an easy crutch to lean on and get a sympathetic response. Basically, We Are Klang were guilty of milking laughs from performing "live bloopers", at times.

Still, for a BBC3 sitcom (and you can tell it's BBC3 because Debbie Chazen's in it), We Are Klang offered something a little different to the procession of dreadful sketch shows it commissions every few months. And there were some kernels of good ideas floating about the place. It feels like it wants to be a zanier version of The Goodies, using the set-up to Absolutely's Stoneybridge sketches, but isn't quite pulling that off just yet.

Davies and Larwood are certainly very watchable (as a chunkier Rik Mayall and a lobotomized Adrian Edmondson), and I'd be lying if I said a scene where Larwood's high-pressure peeing caused accidents around town didn't make me giggle like a schoolboy. It just needs to bring a truer sense of danger to its "live" format, and have the balls to cut material that's clearly not working (like the auditions for a fundraiser that included three men in leotards holding sausages pretending to be the ocean.)

30 July 2009
BBC Three, 10.30pm