Monday, February 4, 2008

Import Humour Pt.1

I consider myself to be a bit of a comedy nerd. So when I see certain signs of comedic brilliance that go unnoticed, I feel it's my duty to spread the word.
Within the past couple of years I have become acquainted with the "comedy underground" of the UK. I use that term loosely because, well...I'm not close to the UK comedy scene so I couldn't say for sure (my forte is the NY, Chicago and LA underground comedy scene). BUT, what I will present in "Import Humour" is a glimpse into some great comedy that hasn't quite hit on our shores.

First up is JAM.

There are 3 people responsible for me going out of my way to buy a universal DVD player. Those people are Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Chris Morris. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are best known for their brilliant work with the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but also responsible for one of the best sitcoms ever made; Spaced. But I'm getting off topic. Spaced will appear in a future Import Humour.

The man I want to bring attention to is twisted and darkly delicious comedic writer, actor and director Chris Morris. Chris has been responsible for some of the most interesting and daring comedy to come out of the UK in recent history. One of his earliest shows, 1994’s The Day Today, was a scathing satire on current news reporting and featured Steve Coogan, who you might recognize from 24 Hour Party People and yes, Night at the Museum. Think The Daily Show but with even more painstaking detail to the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of news broadcasting.

Someone was generous enough to make a montage of some great moments of the show.

Then in 1997 he would take things further with BrassEye. BrassEye is a satire on news special shows (much like the Dateline pieces you see) but amped up to show the ugliness of its ridiculousness. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg would both either appear or make contributions to this brilliant show. The clip below caused quite a bit of controversy. It deals with pedophilia and is called Paedogeddon! This is part 1:

Now comes the show I really wanted to highlight with this entry...

JAM is unlike ANY sketch comedy show you have ever seen. It's extremely dark and stays with you like a bloody car crash you wish you had never seen. I love this show. Curtis Gwinn (of soon to be Adult Swim show Fat Guy Stuck in Internet) introduced me to this show and I couldn't thank him enough. If you took the scripts to a lot of these sketches and just read them, they'd seem, for the most part, like straight forward interesting sketches, but that isn't enough for Mr. Morris.

The best way to describe JAM to people is to say "Imagine if David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Chris Cunningham collaborated on a sketch show. Chris Morris will often set the mood to be dark and unusual, while playing an eerie atmospheric/ambient soundtrack behind the scene (provided by Brian Eno, The Third Eye Foundation, Massive Attack and Aphex Twin to name a few) and also slowing down the speed of the film for effect.

It's the most interesting work I have ever seen done with sketch comedy. I adore dark humor and really appreciate it, but even some of JAM was a bit much for me. But the thing about JAM is that it stays with you. It has this unusual and unsettling effect that stays with you that will either really make you admire the show or absolutely hate it.

Some of my favorite sketches from this show were taken down from YouTube. One of my favorite being a man who has his funeral early in the prime of his life. But here are a few to get the gist of what JAM is like.

The show only had a 6 episode run, but can be found on for purchase.

More recently Chris did a show called Nathan Barley, where he once again utilizes his keen sense of satire and targets youth culture in the UK and their style of "news" and entertainment in the blogosphere.

Here is part 1 of Episode 1

It is said that Chris is working on a new short film for the BBC satirizing terrorism. Based on his past work, we can rest assured it will push some buttons. Hopefully Chris Morris will continue to treat us with his unique and fantastic vision and hopefully one day get the recognition he deserves.

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