Little Britain is a sketch-show whose cast of grotesque characters give audiences permission to laugh at obesity, disability, cross-dressing and a host of other human frailties. The creators Matt Lucas and David Walliams on Thursday night delivered a one-off special about Brexit for Radio 4.
‘Little Brexit’ opened with the show’s narrator, Tom Baker, using irony like a blunt weapon. ‘Brexit has united the country as never before.’ Some jokes – like the quip about our economy receiving a boost from scared shoppers stockpiling food – felt pretty ancient. Ditto Matt Lucas’s brief cameo as Boris explaining how he reached Number 10.
‘We asked a handful of men who live in Tunbridge Wells who should be prime minister, and they said me.’
One of the best-loved characters, Vicky Pollard, is an idiot-savant from Bristol whose garrulous soliloquies are mired in contradictory indecisiveness. Her catch phrase ‘yeah but no but yeah,’ was deployed to satirise Boris’s alleged vacillation over Brexit before the referendum. She summarised Nigel Farage’s political outlook with a curious mixture of blather and accurate detail.
‘Nigel Frog started stirring it all up and saying, “It’d be better if there wasn’t all these foreigners here, apart from my wife who’s German.”’
Andy and Lou are a pair of characters beloved of diehard fans. Some, like me, even know that their names are derived from Messrs Warhol and Reed. Andy is a wheelchair-bound curmudgeon whose doting carer, Lou, indulges his every whim. Their sketch was set in a charity shop for the blind. ‘I don’t like blind people,’ carped Andy. ‘They never let their dog off the lead. And they never throw the dog their stick.’
That was ingenious rather than funny. The pair discovered a remaindered copy of David Cameron’s autobiography on sale for 5p. ‘His face looks like an on-the-turn slice of ham,’ commented Andy. Hardly comedy gold. He persuaded Lou to buy 100 copies of the unwanted book. Why so many? ‘Run out of bog-roll.’ The pair have enjoyed better outings.
‘Computer says no,’ is the catch phrase of a passive-aggressive bureaucrat who thwarts every demand made on her and blames technology for her personal obstructiveness. This time she appeared in a sketch set in a travel agency named Sun-Searchers. A hopeful tourist asked about trips to Spain, Italy and France. ‘Brexit says no,’ came the reply each time. This wasn’t as funny as ‘computer says no,’ because it was based on the false premise that Britons will lose visa-free access to EU countries after Brexit. That’s not true.
Daffyd Thomas, played by Matt Lucas, is a camp Welsh exhibitionist who proclaims himself, ‘the only gay in the village.’ It’s impossible to account for the character’s irresistible appeal. But Thursday’s sketch was under par. Daffyd declared that he was forming a body called Ukip, short for, ‘the UK institute for poofs.’ Another disappointment.
David Walliams did a complicated turn as Dennis Waterman, a real-life actor and singer, who has performed the theme-tunes in some of the shows in which he has starred. He appeared in a sketch with his agent who wanted him to play Andrea Leadsom in a TV drama about Brexit. Waterman/Walliams was keen to accept the role but insisted on improvising a song that might become the show’s signature tune. For me, this was the best moment of the show. Inexplicably funny.
It was evident that Lucas and Walliams regard Brexit as an act of folly but they made one or two attempts to appear even-handed. Only in the closing moments did they break cover. Tom Baker signed off his narration with this burst of acid.
‘The country is now closed. Please don’t call again. We’re perfectly happy, sitting here in our own excrement until the end of time. Good bile.’ That wasn’t funny either but least the writers were being honest.