TV Review: The Alternative Comedy Experience


The return of The Alternative Comedy Experience has got to be a Good Thing. Even though maybe its job is already done. When the first series went out last February it was championing the kind of comedians who don’t fit into shows such as Live at the Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow so don't get the TV breaks. Since then, however, it feels as if this alt-comedy brigade has been on television almost as much as John Bishop and Micky Flanagan.

Bridget Christie has done Have I Got News For You?, Tony Law has done Never Mind The Buzzcocks and I’m sure other women on TACE will benefit from the recent BBC policy of featuring females on every panel game show. Meanwhile others featured here have generally had more exposure thanks to television suddenly realising that a lot of people like watching comedy. Henning Wehn just co-starred in his own World Cup-based series with Mark Watson, Kia's Road To Rio, on Dave. 

But The Alternative Comedy Experience puts these class acts back in their natural habitat – a basement room in Edinburgh (aka The Stand club). The opening episode suggests that stylistically speaking nothing major has changed since the first series of TACE. Some of the acts are different, but there is still a devil-may-care playful, irreverent punk rock attitude, and, as I said at the outset, that is definitely a Good Thing. 

The programme is also a good opportunity for stand-ups to do proven material that club goers will know well but that hasn't been in heavy rotation on the box. So Tony Law does his “banter” routine and his chat with “Pol Pot” that fans of his Foster’s-nominated show will know. Bridget Christie does an edited version of her Stirling Moss riff from last year’s A Bic For Her.

Both are excellent and Law hilariously undercuts the now cliched Live at the Apollo technique of homing in on celebrities in the audience. TACE can’t home in on the audience here though, the budget presumably doesn’t run to enough cameras in different positions.

Paul Foot is also good value, reading out his jokes, or “disturbances” as he calls them. Michael Legge rants into the microphone until steam comes out of his little Irish ears and Kevin Eldon does his “I Haven’t Got A Catchphrase” song, which I suspect he did in his BBC2 series as he has been doing it live for a while. Still, it’s always good to hear it again. 

Stewart Lee is on hand to interview the talent backstage, sitting in a big armchair and grinning sagely like a crumple-faced Confucius. All put together, excellent television, even if there might be a whiff of deja vu for hardcore alt-com fans. Future guests include Isy Suttie, David Kay, Simon Munnery, Maeve Higgins, Josie Long, David O’Doherty, Henning Wehn, Helen Arney, Ginger & Black, Nish Kumar, Helen Keen, Liam Mullone, Grainne MaGuire, Susan Calman and John Hegley.

The Alternative Comedy Experience is on Comedy Central on Tuesdays at 11pm.

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