A triumvirate of Scots comedy shows have broken through to critical acclaim in the last couple of years, gaining support from the likes of Grace Dent despite their availability on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall being limited to iPlayer.
‘Gary: Tank Commander’ recently finished its second series and has become a surprise overseas sitcom hit for BBC Scotland, while sketch comedy ‘Burnistoun’ – responsible for the voice activated lift skit that went round everyone’s inboxes last year – is due to return at Easter.
But it is Limmy’s Show which has become the media darling. Writer/director/star Brian Limond’s mix of silliness and pitch-black Glasgow humour, often within the same sketch, have put him on a higher plinth than his friends and contemporaries, following on from the cult success of his web animations and ‘World of Glasgow’ podcasts a few years ago, and his appearances on ‘Consolevania’ & ‘videoGaiden’ (with Burnistoun’s own Rab Florence).
Following an acclaimed pilot in 2009, the first series last year proved patchy yet given to moments of twisted genius. From the success of that came fame, with Limond being feted by the likes of Matt Lucas and turning up on ‘The IT Crowd’ (he’s the window cleaner who dumps his bike on Roy in the most recent series).
Now Limmy’s Show has returned. His supporting cast from last year – Raymond Mearns, Tom Brogan et al – have curiously been dumped in favour of slightly higher profile figures, but the mix of silliness and brutality remains the same. Indeed, much of the show is informed by the dark vein of humour that traditionally informs Glasgow comedy, but ramped up to 11.
Take, for instance, new character Raymond Day. What starts out seemingly as a spoof of Colin Fry and similar grief parasites gets increasingly darker and more uncomfortable as he passes on ‘messages’ to a grieving father from his son. Or the guy who sells neon ‘open’ signs to takeaways – something that stars out as a silly piece to camera, and ends in oddly nasty territory.
There’s still a couple of familiar figures from last year – Falconhoof, host of a ‘Knightmare’ style adventure game, returns – briefly accompanied by a new sidekick before one caller does what we’ve always wanted to. It’s perhaps telling of the popularity of the show that ‘Kill Jester’ was trending on Twitter in Glasgow during the show… Meanwhile hardcore stoner DeeDee, one of the few characters brought over from the ‘World of Glasgow’ podcasts, finds himself interacting with kids TV in another sprawlingly odd monologue.
Some of it doesn’t work – animation Major Boo Boo feels like a rejected idea for ‘Viz’, and the Let’s Go Girls skits, featured so heavily in the trailers for the new series, come across as another excuse for Limond to drag up now he’s dumped the Jacqueline McCafferty character from last series.
But sketch comedy is, of course, an entirely subjective experience. One person’s instant classic is another person’s turn-off, and ‘Limmy’s Show’ is divisive even in its homeland. In many ways it’s ironic that the show has become such a favourite with the critics down south, because it’s the hardest sell of the three. ’Gary: Tank Commander’ is broad brushstroke fun, while Burnistoun is in many ways a spiritual successor to ‘Naked Video’ – almost traditional sketch comedy, but with a Scottish accent.
‘Limmy’s Show’ is a far more curious beast – a rare example of authored comedy. It’s nearest equivalent in recent times has been ‘Tramadol Nights’, but while Frankie Boyle’s recycled stand-up and in-your-face offensiveness failed to wow viewers and burned out quickly, Limond’s far subtler approach seems to have much more staying power. Whether it will , and Limond advance to major UK-wide public recognition, still seems unlikely – but hey, the best comics have always been cult figures anyway.
‘Limmy’s Show’ – Series 2 is currently on BBC 2 Scotland, Thursdays 10pm and is available via the iplyaer in the rest of the UK. Series 1 is available on DVD.
Iain Hepburn’s regular contributions to Scotland’s The Thumbcast podcast can be found here.