New panel comedy show on C4?  Well known comedians?  Topical humour?  Surely what Britain's only free semi-avant garde channel is crying out for?


Forgiving the infantile humour of the title, F A Q U, I approached this new offering with some hope.  After all, C4 has given us some fantastic comedy over the past 5 years - Peter Kay in Phoenix Nights, Mark and Jeremy in Peep Show, and the sublime Mark Thomas.

This turned out to be a big mistake.  I can forgive the overactive troll-boy presenter who seems to think that the essence of comedy is making vastly over the top faces and talking with a regional accent.  I can forgive the lack of even a C-list comic on the panel.  What I can't forgive is the undeniable fact that this isn't funny.  Not "My Family" unfunny, which you can sit through whilst raising an occasional chuckle.  Not even "Last of the Summer Wine" unfunny, which makes you want to become a suicide bomber and target the Yorkshire Dales.  F A Q U is so deeply unfunny that I was actually wishing for a plane crash to happen so that a breaking news flash would interrupt it.

The panel appeared to consist of the said troll-boy presenter, who responds to everything in the ballpark of funny with a face that suggests he has piles, three struggling male comics who, on their performance on the show, are one step away from turning tricks at Kings Cross for a hot meal, and a token woman who's appearence suggested she was there more for the drunken idiots who will watch this than for any comedy input.

Let me put it simply - the questions asked were good questions, and in the hands of anyone with a modicum of talent, could lead to a very funny show.  What was supplied was a succession of knob gags, jokes about Germans and badly executed single entendres.  Have I Got News For You is still funny after 16 years because the panel have the intelligence to pull their jokes off.  QI works because Alan Davis' feigned stupidity puts a slant on what could be a high-brow show.  The common denominator?  Talent.  When we got to the second half and the photo of Prince Harry appeared, wearing a beret, I knew the Frank Spencer jokes were coming, and I wasn't disappointed.  This supposed comedy show has nothing to redeem it, save for the fact that it is only 30 minutes long.  I'm all for giving new talent a break, but there is an operative word in that sentence - talent.  Chris Morris lost the plot with "Nathan Barley", but compared to this offering it looks like a masterpiece.  Whoever comissioned this should be shut in a dark room and made to watch a repeating tape of Bill Hicks, Mark Thomas and Lenny Bruce until they appreciate that topical comedy is the most difficult of arts, and requires more than sitting five Muppets in front of a camera and telling them to get on with it.


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