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Genital Warts On The Face Of British Comedy

By Caspar Salmon | TV | January 20, 2011 | Comments ()

By Caspar Salmon | TV | January 20, 2011 |


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Hello all. Let's do this.

Come Fly With Me

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My flatmate Dan: Oh dear, Caspar - was that, er, was that the brilliant new comedy from Matt Lucas and David Walliams, about people working for an airline, that I heard coming from your room?
Me: Why yes, Daniel, that's correct, indeed it was the brilliant new comedy "Come Fly With Me" that you heard me watching in my bedroom, yes. Why do you ask? It's nothing to be ashamed of! Unless you're one of these new politically correct sociopaths I keep hearing about in the biased liberal media, who think it's not funny to black up or poke fun at gay people - which I trust you aren't.
Dan: Oh lord, no! There's nothing I like better than to laugh at blacks, and women, and lower class people!
Me: Quite. "Lol", as they say.
Dan: Yup. Lol. But, erm, I didn't hear you actually laughing that much! From your bedroom. I heard a lot of the jokes - all of them classic - and stony silence from you. Why is that?
Me: Ah, you see I was so breathless with laughter, Dan - at, for instance, Matt Lucas's fully blacked-up depiction of a lazy, fat Jamaican woman, or, say, at David Walliams' portrayal of a camp, racist black official - that I was probably doing that thing where you just laugh soundlessly, clutching your sides?
Dan: Oh right, right, right, yeah, that sort of laughing. God, it must be really funny!
Me: OH THAT'S RIGHT DAN, IT REALLY IS! You know how, by the end of "Little Britain," by the same Matt Lucas and David Walliams, none of us were sick of seeing stereotypes hatefully depicted by sneering comedians in dresses, putting on silly voices?
Dan: Yes, yes, of course - as I recall, we were all clamouring for that golden heyday of old-timey bigotry never to die out.
Me: Exactly. Well, this is the same thing, except with the added brilliance that it's a supposed documentary set in an airport, modeled on the kind of documentary that last aired in 2004 - so it's extremely fresh and relevant!
Dan: Gosh, I really must catch this wonderful-sounding show at some point! So what was your favourite sketch? It's probably hard to pick just one.
Me: Good question. It's probably the bit where a baggage handler steals someone's possessions from their bag, because baggage handlers probably are just unrepentant criminals, rather than normal people trying to do a complicated and demanding job! But all of the moments featuring any of the shrewish, domineering women who browbeat their husbands, those were also top drawer!
Dan: You look like you're about to cry.
Me: Yes, it was extraordinarily unfunny and horrible, and I just feel terribly, terribly sad.

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

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Starting this week, a new series promises to lift the lid on "gypsies," and their strange customs. By "gypsy," the programme means people of the travelling community, and I do believe the word "gypsy" is much frowned on; certainly I feel uncomfortable using it. But I can't keep saying "members of the travelling of the community," so I'm going to do a random Wikipedia search and call them the first short thing that comes up.

So, this first episode concentrates on how 1539s prepare for their very elaborate and fancy wedding ceremonies. Female 1539s in particular are much given to wearing extraordinarily intricate, garish and plain fucking enormous wedding dresses, that are often so big and laden with jewels that they're almost impossible to walk in. It is really, really funny to look at them, actually. This episode concentrated on 16 year-old bride-to-be Josie, who goes about planning her wedding, designing her dress and organising those of her bridesmaids. A classic moment came when she visited a flower shop to find roses to match her bridesmaids' dresses. "What colour are the bridesmaids wearing?" asked the shop assistant. "Pink," said Josie, "Like the marker pink." The shop assistant paled visibly: "We don't have any flowers that bright!" she burbled.

The programme also centred on little Margarita, aged 7, attending communion with her brother John-Boy. Margarita's dress was marker pink, also, with a veritable explosion of silk, tulle and taffeta, a parasol and a tiara with a further volcanic eruption of fabric cascading about her. Poor child, she looks like a gay dwarf impersonator of medieval Spanish infantas. The narrator told us she was wearing "5000 crystals, and the dress weighs over twice her own bodyweight." She can't walk in it.

Which is child abuse, in my book - especially when she's forced to go to a communion ceremony with other non-1539 little girls all wearing simple white dresses. This is where I start to rage, because we're apparently not allowed to comment on the ugliness and sexism of these practices because they're bound by history and their own practices - but I think grooming girls for marriage almost from birth, making them leave education at 11 to tend to the house, and then marry at 16, is barbaric. The girls also talked very unjudgementally about the ways 1539 boys 'court' them, via a practice called "grabbing," which looked suspiciously to me like physical harassment. It was very shocking. I was similarly vexed when seeing a programme recently about the Orthodox Jewish community in North London, near where I live, who make children leave school at twelve and don't let them visit proper doctors. These practices are abhorrent.

Nevertheless, some sweet moments endured in the programme, and it was lovely to see the sweet characters of all concerned exhibited so innocently on television; and then, those dresses really are something else. I'll probably tune back in and see other episodes about 1539s that aren't primarily focused on the marriage ritual.

The Joy of Teen Sex

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It was all about the documentaries this week, although "The Joy of Teen Sex" is more of an interactive thingy than a documentary per se - the first episode aired this week, from a series that is going to look frankly and squarely at sexual problems and diseases and styles and tips for old kids and young grown-ups. I watched it because it got a favorable preview in the Guardian, and I'm glad I did because it was supremely entertaining.

It emerges from this that many teenagers are ignorant and stupid and going around having unprotected sex as if it were going out of fashion (which I really thought unprotected sex was, post-AIDS, but hey, I'm probably just some crazy, harsh old prude who doesn't want genital warts), but also that many teenagers are sweet-natured and randy and want and desperately need tips on what the hell to do and how to do it. I will say that the emphasis of this first episode did seem a little too geared towards the middle classes. I hope I don't sound too rightwing in today's column - I honestly hate the Conservative party with every fibre in my body - but I think the plain fact is that members of Britain's perceived 'lower classes', or plainly put, poor people, are the more uninformed and the more bored sector, and therefore the group that are having the most sex and - I'd imagine - the least satisfactory sex, factoring in outcomes.

But "The Joys of Teen Sex" was so fun, and so extraordinarily frank, right from the outset, that you couldn't stay cross with it for too long. A vagina popped up, with a smiling owner non-anonymously bearing it, before I'd even finished my evening cup of tea. Two penises, a nutsack and three more vaginas were shown, in toto. One of the vaginas got a wax (shudder) and little sequins affixed to its newly bare borders, so that it was framed like a very abstract and gaudy painting; the other two were shown as examples of genital diseases, and made me scream out loud. One of the penises got a piercing, that also made me scream out loud, and which still causes me to shiver when I think about it (WITHOUT ANAESTHETIC!), and the other accompanied a bad old set o' balls with a "wormlike" complaint. There were also hands-on interviews with a girl who wanted to know how to pleasure a girl, a boy who wanted to know if anal hurts, a girl who refused to use protection, a girl who refused contraception, and a girl who wouldn't go down on her man because of his foul taste; the latter couple were given a bag containing a lot of pineapple and told to try again in a couple of weeks. There were also some hilarious vox-pop interviews with amusing kids in the street, one of whom told a hilarious and highly made up story of a friend getting crabs in his eye-brows.

The whole thing was slightly exploitative, slightly unbelievable, sometimes enraging (I thought that the contraception-averse girl was mis-prescribed her Implanon) and often hilarious and touching. We watched it in group with my household, and there was a huge amount of laughter and blushing and screaming going on for most of the hour. Also: James Corden's sister Ruth Corden is one of the experts on the show, and while she's a very engaging woman, I defy you to watch her and not think it's just James Corden in a dress and make-up.

The Godmother of Rock & Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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Lastly, may I please urge all of you who've got this far in the article, and who are British and therefore can watch the BBC's catch-up service, to go to iPlayer and watch this wonderful documentary. I didn't think I'd review it this week, because there isn't that much to say about the programme, save that it was mostly a standard documentary with interviews of friends and some nice old footage. But it benefited from having a more exciting subject than most any other programme, and it did tell a story very well - that of the magnificent, peerless, spine-tinglingly wonderful Rosetta Tharpe and her career in gospel and rock. One of the only people I can stand to hear play the guitar, she was a brilliant singer, a huge character, and someone who I'm afraid to say probably wouldn't make it big in music nowadays. Anyway: if you've got two ears and a soul, you'll love her. Watch it.

Caspar Salmon learnt from Wikipedia, today, that in the year 1539 England was politically isolated in Europe because of the signing of the Treaty of Toledo, and Hernando de Soto introduced pigs to the American continent.


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