This Christmas sees David Walliams return to his sketch show roots with a new BBC One special on Christmas Eve called Walliams & Friend.
The 40-minute special is designed as a pilot for a series that would see Walliams pair up with a different comedian each episode, the ‘friend’. For the pilot, he has teamed up with the wonderful Joanna Lumley, best-known for playing Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous.
Together with Morgana Robinson (House of Fools) and Mike Wozniak (Man Down) the pair of them film a series of sketches in front of a live studio audience, including a brilliant sketch set in a tanning shop, ‘Tanya’s Tans’ where Lumley plays Tanya, but you can call her Tan, and Walliams plays her daughter, Tammy, but you can call her Tam.
The episode opens with a clever sketch from the Head of the BBC, played by Walliams, where he apologises for the product placement on the broadcaster. Other broadcasters are of course available, ITV, Channel 4, Sky etc.
As well as playing fictional characters, there are a couple of sketches in which Joanna Lumley plays herself. One of those reveals the truth behind how Lumley is able to find time to do all of her work, she has a team of Joanna Lumley’s who take care of various jobs, amongst the Lumley’s are ‘Funny Lumley’, ‘Do-Gooder Lumley’, ‘Voiceover Lumley’ and even ‘Totty Lumley’!
In another sketch, and one of my favourites, Lumley, playing herself, is hounded by a ‘fan’ asking for a “Cheeky selfie” by shouting the word “SELFIE!” every time he sees her.
Another of my favourite sketches is ‘Liars Anonymous’, much like Alcoholics Anonymous, the sketch sees a group of liars sit around in a circle seeking therapy.
Of course 99.9% of what they’re saying are total lies which makes for a very entertaining sketch where you have to believe the opposite of what they’ve just said.
And finally, I have to talk about The Great British Bake Off sketch, which sees Walliams dress up as Paul Hollywood, and Lumley as Mary Berry for a scene in which the pair of them flirt outrageously.
Mary Berry is wearing a pink blouse because, according to Hollywood, it makes her look like a “naughty fondant fancy” whilst Paul admits he “masterbakes” thinking about her Mary invites Paul to make her bottom soggy!
Along with most people, I first became aware of David Walliams through his work on Rock Profile and of course Little Britain. As much as I love his Christmas adaptations of his children’s books and him as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, it’s great to see Walliams back doing what he does best, sketch comedy.
For me Walliams & Friend mixes the best of Walliams’ comic abilities, the impressions from Rock Profile shine through in the Bake Off sketch, his clever writing shines through in so many of the sketches, especially Liars Anonymous and one featuring the inventor of autocorrect, and of course what Little Britain was best at, was creating characters that resonated with a modern audience, in particular the guy constantly shouting “Selfie!”.
Whilst Big School, his sitcom which ran for two series was great, I think sketch comedy is where Walliams really shines, and fingers crossed Walliams & Friend makes it to series, as I would love to see who he teams up with next… could a reunion with Matt Lucas be on the cards for one episode?
I guess we’ll have to see how well the special performs on Christmas Eve before we start speculating about a full series, but having seen most of the comedy output this Christmas, this and Catherine Tate’s Nan are miles ahead of anything else on telly over the festive period. So in other words, the BBC would be fools not to commission a full series.
Walliams & Friend airs Christmas Eve at 10:05pm on BBC One