I am sorry to have to say this, but. Little Britain. You jumped the shark. In several ways, not least, yep, racist.
Season One, I thought was mostly hilarious. Loved Vicki Pollard. Loved poor enabling Lou and selfish Andy. Loved the absurdity of the ever-shrinking soap actor-whosis you were making fun of. Loved the sheer randomness of Ray McCooney, and a number of the one-offs. Loved Daffyd, and Emily Howard. The first six or eight times, at least. Thought Marjorie Dawes was brilliantly awful, and had a great payoff at the end of the series--I honestly wasn't expecting to see her character return. And I mean, "anti-minstrel discrimination"--as in, they were meant to be actual fulltime minstrels, gloves and all, a la Shakes the Clown--that was actually kind of clever. I thought.
Season Two, you were already getting a bit stale and, if not actual shark-jumping, certainly you were playing fin hopscotch--
The Mr. T lookalike thing--well, y'know, blackface at all? Really kind of dodgy? But I suppose in and of itself, assuming (big assumption) that in some world, dressing up as Mr. T. is no more offensive than dressing up as an unsuccessful transvestite or an eccentric bucktoothed-and-glasses'd Scottish inkeeper--or any white celebrity--then i suppose that sketch was relatively innocuous, of itself. if not terribly, you know, funny. Sadly, that was actually true of a lot of Season Two. And yeah, that "exchange preacher" business really raised my eyebrows. "Al Jackson" the funny hallelujah blackface preacher in the stodgy British church. Is there some particular reason he needed to be black, besides clearly you just -really really- wanted to play with the makeup? Oh! I get it! Al Jackson! Haha! That's so--oh wait, actually, that's really lame.
but so then, now, I rented Season Three.
Glad I didn't buy this one. "Ting Tong." for fuck's sake.
Pretty much I agree with this take.
However, the moment Ting Tong, the mail-order Thai bride played by Matt Lucas, appears on the screen, the pretence to sophistication vanishes. Ting Tong is nothing more than the pathetic flogging of another crass racist stereotype - yellow makeup, dodgy buck teeth and an inability to pronounce one’s “r”s and you have a winning formula.
And let's not even get into Desiree. Well, yeah, let's, actually. Hey, what's funnier than a man in a nekkid lady fatsuit? Have "her" flighting with a man in a grotesquely-featured frizzy-haired blackface fatsuit. Over a handsome man, well, that's the least of it.
Before, the joke was mostly that "Bubbles" was living for months on end at the spa without paying her formidable bill, and her dodges to get out of it. And her delusions about herself (as with pretty much all the main characters). It did segue into the sheer oh icky icky factor of the fat ugly woman making a pass at the men pretty fast. And, as with so many other running gags on LB, we -know- what the punchline is going to be right from the beginning: the clothes come off, lookit the funny suit, isn't that nasty. Okay. Whatever.
But Jesus Mary, I mean--
You know something? I can't speak for anyone else, but personally? When I say, "this is not funny," in this case at least, I don't mean, "that upset my sense of propriety, I -would- laugh, but my sense of morality says no." [oh yes, I also did love "Computer says No" travel agent].
I mean, "I don't get it."
No, seriously? Why is this funny? What am I missing? Is the joke supposed to be anything other than the sheer grotesqueness of the two "women?" And that a handsome "normal" man is attracted to them?
And yeah, it was sort of the same thing with the granny-chaser in season one, but somehow i never felt quite as much i was laughing at the expense of the actor (played by a real woman of That Age, which did up the "shock" factor a bit) so much as the guy, and the incongruity of his lustiness and her cheerful oblivious. "Such a nice boy. Is he a trained podiatrist?" That shit's kind of funny. I think.
But this--yeah. And the same with "Ting Tong." Another one I don't get: humor is supposed to be based on some sort of recognition, right? That's one way in. But, the only source for that sort of humor seems to be any number of equally unfunny and racist white folks' very lazy 'typing. In other words: if it weren't so familiar to me from any number of other unfunny non-Asian people, the funny accent and so on would just strike me as, "huh?"
Yeah, Daffyd's a flaming stereotype as well, but the joke is that he's a stereotype because he thinks he's -supposed- to be one; the town is filled with perfectly respectable men and women who like "a bit of bum fun."
Or, a commenter at the Pass the Roti thread put it,
Dafydd is gay. Matt Lucas is gay. They’re the same minority. Matt Lucas has said publically that Dafydd is based on his own experiences growing up. The sketch may be one-dimensional, and desperately tired three series in, but it’s not unsympathetic. Questionable judgement, lazy writing, but not actually bigoted.
Mat Lucas is not, you may have noticed, Thai.
I think all the problems with LB come down to the very first thing you mentioned - the trouble it has getting beyond one dimension, at most. There’s no reason why Matt Lucas shouldn’t dress up as a Thai bride, providing there’s actually something funny in the character other than the fact that, hey, it’s Matt Lucas with slitty eyes.
To put it another way, if Ting Tong was actually played by an overweight, buck-toothed Thai actress, would there be anything amusing about those sketches? I doubt it. Whereas Vicky Pollard would still get laughs if she was played by somebody else (which is a good thing for Catherine Tate), because there’s genuinely good lines in those sketches.
I think some would argue that there's no reason why Lucas shouldn't dress up as a Thai bride, given the historical really not funniness of yellowface; but I agree that if he'd actually been, you know, funny--seeing as how, unlike oh say a political campaign, "being funny" is supposed to be the whole point of this show, it would've... helped.
In that vein--you know what I kept waiting for? Some sort of fourth-wall revelation that the character was actually a white British man who was doing this for his own reasons. Yeah, it'd be like every other sketch where that happens--Ann, Lou-- but at least you'd have had to work a bit to come up with an interesting reason why he's doing this.
But no: the joke is that the wily little lotus flower runs the poor zhlub out of his own apartment, by opening up a restaurant in it.
Which is really funny, I suppose, if one is already of the mindset that yep, ain't that the truth: give 'em an inch and...
That's all I can fathom anyway. Because the sheer absurdity of a restaurant in the guy's apartment (having been built apparently in the few hours he's been away)--not really enough to carry it, I'm afraid.
Yeah. Bottom line: for me, it's funniest when:
-it's mocking the actually powerful
-the sheer absurdity carries me away.
This last season, besides the repetition and the ever-increasing reliance on "gag" jokes (streams of vomit, floods of piss), what I noticed was that the punchline seemed more and more to be at the expense of the victim rather than the asshole. Biggest example: the horrible secretary in the university office. First time, it's surprising enough to get a laugh: sweet little lady ends up viciously mocking the student in front of her.
But then, as with all their sketches, it keeps on happening, and you know the punchline (that the woman is a creep, and she's going to say something very mean about the student, who will go from smiling to hurt) from the beginning, so the -real- punchline can only be the insult itself.
And generally, they're not very clever; and I dunno, but somehow, watching someone who's been painted as perfectly decent get mocked for no reason doesn't really crack me up in the same way that does oh say Andy leaping out of his chair and beating the crap out of the yobs who've been mocking him while Lou (of course) chatters on oblivious.
Or Andy pushing the temp nurse to her death over a cliff; because she's clearly horrible, and we feel sort of sympathetic to Andy by now; he's just sort of pure Id, and he misses his Lou.
And there was no real payoff to that one either, the secretary.
It's kind of getting like (cringe) Saturday Night Live, tell you the truth. That is not a compliment, no. To quote one last commenter:
The thing that makes LB potentially offensive is exactly the same thing that stops it bringing anywhere near enough funny - far too often, the sketches are a single idea, played out far too long and far too straight, with no other merits. Poor Dafydd’s been stuck in the exact same sketch for three series now, for goodness sake, over and over again like some nightmarish, PVC-clad version of Groundhog Day.
But hey, I like repetitition myself, sometimes, it's true; and third time's the charm. Per Donna, then:
I'm always curious when someone has the impulse to protect the powerful against the weak.
Or, in this case, spend so much time targetting the weak when they could be targetting the powerful (more often) for far funnier results.