TV Review: Walliams & Friend with Harry Enfield, BBC1

After last week’s edition in which David Walliams teamed up with youngish turk Jack Whitehall this week he teams up with oldish master Harry Enfield. And not surprisingly, given Enfield’s sketch comedy pedigree the result is very good indeed and at some points positively brilliant.

As with the first show the humour is very mainstream and route one. There are jokes about BBC stars’ salaries, the Queen doing Who Does One Think One Is?, spoof ads, Jeremy Kyle send-ups and a Masterchef pastiche in which Gregg Wallace (Enfield, admittedly looking a little too much like Harry Hill) behaves like a fussy, petulant child who doesn’t like fancy food.

Unlike the opener which teamed Walliams with a stand-up comic the idea of comedy double acts casts big shadow over this edition. Because Enfield has often worked with Paul Whitehouse there are sketches here where it feels as if Enfield is doing what he always does and Walliams is simply standing in for Whitehouse. This is most notable in the running gag where the duo play elderly men flirting with an elderly lady. Not only does this feel like it could have been Enfield/Whitehouse, it almost feels like a geriatric Fast Show sketch (yes, I know Enfield wasn’t in The Fast show, but his spirit certainly was).

The most interesting part of this show, however, comes towards the end when things go very postmodern for mainstream BBC1. Enfield plays himself being interviewed for a South Bank Show-style documentary and he starts talking grandly about how in the 1980s he used to dump rejected ideas in a skip. We then see some of these rejected ideas – “Typewriter says no” "Lou and Randy” “I’m a Transvestite” …Basically the gag is that Little Britain ripped off Enfield by climbing into his skip and retrieving his old scripts.

It is not just a funny, self-referential conceit, it is beautifully executed with everybody in on the gag about “the bald man and the unfunny one” and happily reimagining old Little Britain sketches as if originally made in the 1990s*. For someone who has watched all these comedians in their different guises over the years it’s a strange thing to see as two worlds collide. OK, it's not as smart or meta as a Stewart Lee gig, but it did make me laugh and it reminded me of when Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith did a parody of The Two Ronnies, except that neither of the Ronnies were actually involved in that.

Anyway, if you have any interest in comedy over the last two decades and weren’t planning to watch Walliams and Friend make sure you catch this episode on catch-up if you missed it when it went out.

*Note - The rough cut preview copy I saw had no credits so I can't hat-tip the writers who came up with this idea by name, but well done, you know who you are and that's what's most important isn't it?

Walliams & Friend, Fridays, BBC1, 9.30pm.


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