The Alternative Comedy Experience: Review


The Alternative Comedy Experience

Comedy Central – 5th Feb 2013 at 11PM

Well done, Comedy Central. For too long, your schedules have been filled with repeats of Mike and Molly, Two and a Half Men, King of Queens, and a whole host of other mind-numbingly awful American sitcoms. Just when you were starting to wonder whether the name ‘Comedy Central’ was some sort of sarcastic joke in itself, they pull something like The Alternative Comedy Experience out the bag, and fair play to them.

The first episode of this 12 part weekly series is remarkably simple. Short clips of the comedians’ performances, with very short interviews between them and Stewart Lee dotted throughout.

There’s no Live at the Apollo-style fog machines, wall of lights or celebrity guests – The Alternative Comedy Experience is very much an antidote to the superstar comedian culture that we have in this country. In a world where Lee Evans can sell out stadiums just by sweating and walking funny, a show shot entirely by a fixed camera in the back of an Edinburgh comedy club is exactly what we need.

So, what is this hipster-sounding ‘alternative comedy’ thing anyway? It’s never quite explained, and it’s hard to describe in words. Stand-up David O’Doherty calls it comedy where “every second joke’s funnyâ€?, but that doesn’t quite cut it.

Rather than having some dogmatic label preached to them, the viewer is left to realise what ‘alternative comedy’ is for themselves, just by watching the performances of comedians like Henning Wehn, Isy Suttie, David O’Doherty, and less known performers, like Boothby Graffoe and David Kay. It seems to be a strange mix of surrealism, long expanses of silence, awkward self-reference and laugh-out-loud gags, and it works.

Honestly, you’ll either love or hate this show. If you like your comedy laden with catchphrases and performed to an audience of thousands, you should give it a miss. However, if you’re willing to have a look into a side of stand-up that almost never gets on television, it’s the only comedy show that you need to watch this year.