Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The second in the BBC's run of The One's, following Lenny Henry's last Friday, saw renowned Birmingham stand-up Jasper Carrott return to our screens for the first time in 13 years. (Ignoring crap BBC sitcom All About Me and unfathomable ITV gameshow Goldenballs.) The format was the same—stand-up comedy interspersed with sketches, with an emphasis on the longevity/age of the performer—and I found this a great deal more entertaining than Lenny Henry's self-tribute. This is simply because I prefer Carrott's comedy to Henry's, and I'll lay my cards on the table by admitting I was a huge fan of the Brummie comic during his "resurgence" in the early-'90s. Carrott's career suddenly peaked during this time, with a popular weekly comedy show (Canned Carrott), which also gave birth to sitcom The Detectives, and pioneering TV format Carrott's Commercial Breakdown, where pre-internet audiences could laugh and gasp at foreign adverts...

So yes, I have a teenage affection for Jasper Carrott and his brand of comedy—which usually takes the form of little digs at the state of the world, leading into bizarre funny stories (that you always knew weren't true, but were just happy to enter a comic storyteller's world). For those reasons alone, I enjoyed seeing Carrott back on-stage again, doing material that actually wasn't half-bad. It began worryingly, with obvious jokes about his advancing years (he's 66), but a middle portion where he tackled current affairs (most notably the banking crisis) was surprisingly fresh and expertly done. (I loved his acronym for Europe's problem nations: Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain.) Sure, his style is now quite old-fashioned (when was the last time you saw a comedian sit to tell jokes?) and a few of his punchlines were groaners or signposted, but there was never any doubt he still has a comic touch. It made me mildly upset he vanished from stand-up around the turn-of-the-century—no doubt to spend the millions he earned as a 15% shareholder in Celador, the UK company who created worldwide hit gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

The sketches were the weakest element of this special, but I did enjoy the novelty of Carrott appearing alongside his real-life daughter, The Office's Lucy Davis, in a topsy-turvy sketch where she was playing "young mother" to his "old teenager". Plus it was fun to see Carrott reunited with Robert Powell (the spit of Steven Moffat, no?) for another Detectives sketch set in a hospital—although it reminded me why that mid-'90s sitcom isn't so fondly remembered. It was a funny five-minute part of a comedy show, but stretched to half-hour episodes it got quite draining—and Carrott's acting was never much beyond an ability to remember and recite lines. To end the show, there was a rather embarrassing song called "The Old Farts" from Carrott's house band, which included ELO drummer Bev Bevan and Rick Wakeman.

Taken as a whole, The One Jasper certainly wasn't great, but the strength of Carrott's stand-up material was better than I expected without longtime writers Mike Whitehill and Steve Knight (although I missed hearing another of his rambling "true stories", like the one about the vicious cat he had to pickup using a vacuum cleaner, or the infamous garden mole). If the show's intention is to remind you of a British comedy great (who's still alive to appreciate the plaudits), and stir some memories of how much you used to love their work, The One Jasper Carrott achieved that very nicely. I'm almost tempted to seek out DVDs of his gigs from the '80s and '90s...

9 January 2012, BBC One