Obviously, when they commissioned Fast and Loose, BBC2’s new comedy improvisation series, it was all intended to be funny. But anyone who’s ever seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? will find it a pale imitation. Some sketches run too long and sometimes the performers are clearly stumped for ideas (unfortunate, that, because they’re a bit of a prerequisite for improv).
However, there’s one segment of the show that’s guaranteed to make you giggle. It’s when a strange-looking little man takes to the stage alone and does a mime. Now, that might sound more tragic than comic. It might even sound like your idea of the worst variety act ever.
But you’d be wrong. For this, my laughter-loving friends, is “Interpretative Dance” with David Armand. (If Strictly ever gets bored of ballroom, they could do this kind of hoofing for a fraction of the budget and they wouldn’t need Bruce Forsyth or Ann Widdecombe for the laughs, either.)
It sounds simple enough: a man mimes along to a well-known pop song, while two people wearing noise-muffling headphones name that tune. In practice, it’s anything but simple. It only takes a second to sing a word; it takes a little longer to turn that word into a meaningful mime. How much harder, then, to act out a line, build up a verse, make a chorus seem fresh the second time it comes around.
But Armand makes it look easy. Not effortless – some of the comedy comes from him overegging how much he’s exerting himself – but he’s on top of every lyric and never runs out of ideas (or out of puff).
It’s not just how ridiculous he looks as he bends his body about and pulls horrendous faces that has the audience – at home and in the studio – doubled up. It’s the connections he makes between words – so “given” becomes “gibbon”, “trust” becomes “trussed” and, of course, a reference to “I can’t bear” is that much dafter when you pretend you’re a grizzly.
Fast and Loose isn’t all bad. The occasional line finds its mark, there’s a decent ratio of male to female performers and, unless you count reruns of Whose Line..? on Dave, it’s nice to see a show that isn’t a variation on something already being done successfully on six other channels.
Given time, as the various combinations of comics get more comfortable with each other and the production team throw in a wider range of sketch ideas, it has the potential to be a much funnier show.
Until then, you could just tune in to see David Armand’s interpretative dancing. But you’d better make sure you’ve got a box of tissues for your tears of laughter and a stash of sutures to sew your sides back together. You’ll be needing them.