Star rating: ***
Monday 2nd November 2015
You wait 19 years for a replacement to the much loved stand up comedy and sketch show ‘The Real McCoy’ then, a bit like waiting for a bus, 4 new black comedy shows come along at once. That was the situation TV viewers had at the beginning of November as ITV2 premiered 4 brand new pilot shows for stand up comedy – ‘Pranksterz’, ‘The Comedy basement’, ‘The Ky and Ty Show’ and ‘All about the Bants.’
Whilst delighted to see ITV2 embracing diversity with a raft of new black comedy shows, all specifically commissioned as part of the build up to the MOBO’s, broadcast on 4th November 2015, the final show ‘Pranksterz’, attracted the most pre-broadcast criticism. Originally with what ITV belatedly described as a working title of ‘Sniggaz’, designed to poke fun at racial stereotypes, it seemed that they may have been mainly poking fun at the black viewers they hoped (or maybe not) would be watching the show. There appears to be a real concern that any self-respecting Black comedian would associate themselves with a show recorded with the working title ‘Sniggaz’.
A social media uproar forced ITV to clarify that it was just a working title and yet it took them until 21st October 2015 to announce the new title. The change was welcome but the lateness of the announcement was, shall we say, interesting and somewhat undermined by an earlier statement from the production company, ‘Renowned Films’: “Pranksterz will poke fun at the stereotypes and prejudices that most of us are too afraid to discuss. Watch out UK, the sniggaz are coming…”
Essentially the programme did what it said on the tin in terms of being a hidden camera prank show. Nothing new or original about that, however there were two unique angles from a British TV perspective. Firstly, it predominantly featured four black stand up comedians, Axel Blake, Judi Love, Jimmy James Jones and Eddie Kadi, plus one white comedian, Jamie Howard-Moore. Secondly, it sought to pick apart racist attitudes and turn them on their head through a variety of silly and amusing pranks. Did the show achieve that?
Well there was an amusing running joke driving the show (pun intended) featuring two black traffic wardens (Axel Blake and Jimmy James Jones) stopping white drivers from parking or even driving down certain streets because they were “driving whilst white” at times when they were only allowed to drive or park on said roads if they were black. That was quite funny and a neat spin on what could well have been a plausible reality in South Africa during apartheid. It also reminded viewers of the stupid, bare faced racism many African-Caribbean and Irish people faced in the 60’s and 70’s when landlords would blatantly display signs and adverts saying, “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs” to make it crystal clear black and Irish tenants were un-welcome.
I loved the sketch with Axel Blake and Jimmy James Jones stopping a white man for no apparent reason whilst he strolled through a shopping mall minding his own business. This was quite a clever, funny example of highlighting the frustration black people feel when stopped and searched by the police for what seems to be for no good reason.
Such sketches make you think that the show is in fact not just aimed at black people, but aimed at the white majority to portray how it feels to be un-fairly singled out and victimised by the authorities based solely on the colour of their skin.
The teach yourself rhythm dancing sketch featuring Axel Blake and Judi Love was hilarious. Judi Love really stole the show. Her role in the keep fit class, the Leicester Square based prank phone calls and TV show recordings, using a heavy patois accent, were all a real joy. Judi Love is a relative newcomer to the stand up comedy scene and on this showing she could have a bright future ahead of her.
Pranksterz wasn’t particularly revolutionary but was very enjoyable and I’m sure many viewers would welcome another series. As a prank show it did what it was meant to do and tickled the funny bones. In sending up stereotypes it was successful in the show’s aim of poking fun at negative perceptions wider society and some in authority have of black people.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
- Pranksterz on ITV player. Available until 2nd December 2015
- Tiemo’s review of the current and future prospects for Black comedy on television – No Laughing Matter: Black Stand up Comedy – Media Diversified – 23rd November 2015
- Tiemo Review – Comedy Gold Unearthed in The Comedy Basement – 21st November 2015
- Tiemo Entertainments Funny Ha Ha on-line store
- Tiemo article – Why has Black comedy failed to progress beyond the Real McCoy? – 30th December 2013
The other three ITV2 shows – ‘The Ty & Ky Show’, ‘The Comedy Basement’ and ‘All About the Bants’ can all be viewed on ITV Player until 2nd December 2015. Please feel free to share your views on here if you get to watch them.