There’s something cathartic about watching Richard Ayoade and Jon Hamm interact in Channel 4’s Travel Man Christmas special, which was filmed in not-so-festive Hong Kong earlier this year.
The two are starkly different: Ayoade, the neurotic who gets queasy on every single mode of transport; Hamm, a walking embodiment of the masculine ideal – well built, unfathomably handsome, unshaken by the various cultural oddities delicacies they encounter.
While it’s clear what role these two would have filled on the playground, there is a distinct difference here: on Travel Man, Ayoade is the alpha male, often cutting the Mad Men star down with sharp one liners and rebuffing his attempts to join in on the banter: “If I wanted to book Jim Carrey, we would have booked Jim Carrey,” he tells Hamm after an earnest attempt at a gag, “We tried to book Jim Carrey actually..”
In truth, Ayoade knows that Hamm’s earnestness makes him a much better comedy partner than Carrey. Ayoade can sharpen his claws and prey (in jest) upon his weaknesses, like his evident desire to move into comedic roles (see 2016 flop Keeping up with the Joneses).
Along the way, Ayoade bounces off his travel companion, picking fun at his TV show – likening an eccentric tai chi session to the ambiguous series finale of Mad Men – and littering his conversation with British pop culture references (Peter Andre, Ross Kemp, the Cheeky Girls) which, rather understandably, fall upon deaf ears.
Unfazed by all of the gags sent his way, Hamm is a delight, and he grows increasingly confident about cracking jokes as he shakes off his jetlag (he had flown 16 hours from LA for a 2 day trip).
Over the course of the episode they take in some beautiful scenery, eat some odd stuff (one word: tongues), and build a fine friendship that will last, in our minds at least, far beyond the faux Christmas special.
The Travel Man Christmas Special airs on Tuesday 26th December at 8pm on Channel 4