These kind of shows are impervious to criticism, because by their very nature the topics, jokes and comedians will change every week. The best you can do is look at the format, but Standup For The Week barely has one; it's just a televised comedy club. The BBC have Live At The Apollo and Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow (with its near-identical format of a big theatre setting), so this is Channel 4's slightly more "alternative" version. The venue is the Koko club in Camden, London, which makes it all feel intimate and authentic, while the choice of comedians was spikier.
Patrick Kielty is our emcee, on some kind of career comeback just recently. The Irishman was barely off our screens five years ago, until things went slack around the time of Celebrity Love Island, but now he's back to his stand-up roots. I always hear word of Kielty being revered in his native land, but he rarely seems to justify the hyperbole to me. He looks pretty slick and is definitely confident on-stage, but there's something slightly mechanical about his performances.
The five comedians all gave decent turns: Jack Whitehall seems to be improving the more I see of him, and kudos for publicly acknowledging he was caught taking drugs by a tabloid last weekend; Glaswegian comedian Kevin Bridges was fine, tackling the World Cup; Andi Osho didn't quite work for me, and it didn't help that she was given trivial "web news" as a topic; Rich Hall was a definite highlight because he tackled the BP oil spill and made some salient points while making everyone laugh; and award-winning Australian comic Brendan Burns ended the show with the funniest material.
Slightly more interesting to me was the inclusion of a feature called The Chair, where a celebrity must endure two-minutes of jokes at their expense, before being allowed 30-seconds to plug their wares. Former-MP Lembit Öpik was the first one to suffer Kielty's acid tongue, squirming before the laughing crowd at gags about his wonky face and relationship with a Cheeky Girl. Is this a new trend we're seeing now: the comedy roast? Recently, Channel 4 aired three comedy specials based on the American tradition of publicly humiliating a celebrity in "good humour", and The Chair felt like a drive-thru version of that idea. Is the thinking that audiences are tired of comedians "unfairly" poking fun at people who aren't in the room, so it's refreshing to have targets of ridicule take the tongue-lashings in person? I found it all rather cringe-making, partly because it wasn't done in a harsh but affectionate way.
Overall, Standup For The Week is tough to fault because it's just pure standup comedyand the turnaround of guests and news will undoubtedly keep it fresh. It doesn't offer much in the way of unique elements (unless you count the fact there's a video-screen behind the comedians, which they can use to show things visually), and I suppose breakout success will only come if it manages to find a comedian, or two, who somehow capture the zeitgeist.
26 JUNE 2010 - CHANNEL 4/HD, 11.05PM