There are some partnerships where the names are instantly associated with brilliance in their given field. Dolce & Gabbana. Cheese & Tomato. Bill & Hillary… ok, possibly not.
BY LEWIS CARTER
But within the world of contemporary British sketch comedy, you will by now likely have heard the names Mitchell & Webb. The two men in question, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, are a modern day comedy partnership not too dissimilar to the venerable British comedy duo Fry & Laurie (Stephen Fry, who graces our screens in QI and Hugh Laurie who has been slowly making the world bankrupt from his salary for starring in hit US medical drama, House M.D.). This similarity is all the less surprising as they come from the same comedic talent proving-ground, the famous Cambridge Footlights.
Chances are, even if their names don’t ring a bell, you will have seen some of their stuff- if not a sketch from their sketch show That Mitchell & Webb Look, then perhaps an episode of the BAFTA award-winning cringe-comedy masterclass Peep Show.
Regardless, I found myself some years ago becoming a huge fan of the unique and brilliant comedy these two guys produce, and while additional writers lend a hand with the material, I’m given to understand that they still write a healthy core of it themselves. Oh and they also star in it all, with woefully under-appreciated acting skill.
This article therefore counts down my own personal opinion (read: objectively correct facts) on the Top 5 best sketches from That Mitchell & Webb Look, that you should go and watch immediately, if not sooner.
No.1: “Hans… are we the baddies?”
The sketch that people most often quote. I know this from scientifically recalling the number of times I’ve heard people mention it in the pub, which is how any decent scientific theory starts (and usually, ends). David Mitchell’s passion for history is well known, and so it is natural that a lot of their sketches either reference or are set during historical events. There’s not an awful lot to explain with this one, as it’s essentially a one-liner, built up magnificently by the context of two Waffen SS officers planning an attack in the Second World War, and one of them asking the other if he’s noticed that their cap badges have skulls on them. Brilliant stuff that makes you ask- why has no one done this before?!
No. 2: “Did I hear someone say cricket…?”
As part of a recurring sketch about two lazy writers who can’t be bothered to properly research their projects, this sketch was all about a sports movie. About cricket. Mitchell & Webb appear to have a gift for utterly taking the infected proverbial out of sport in a way that even die-hard fans of that sport can’t help but laugh at. This is no exception, and it is friends of mine who are cricket fans that perhaps love this sketch the most. A recent interview with Chris King of famous bat maker Gray-Nicolls by Betway Insider had reported that the size of a cricket bat isn’t all that important. I find myself wondering if a certain piece of dubious wisdom in this sketch wasn’t the inspiration behind this. When the coach of a rag-tag cricket team hears one of his players complain that the bat is perversely narrow, he promptly explodes with rage. He then angrily informs them that the first rule of cricket is to “never call the bat narrow! What the bat is… is very very wide… and very very short…”
Grays-Nicholls would be proud.
No.3: “Oh and that’s a BAD miss”
Another recurring sketch, this time poking fun at snooker commentary, though taking a general pot shot (pun thoroughly intended) at the sport as a whole. How such a delightfully out-of-left-field little collection of sketches set around the banter between two ex-snooker players giving radio snooker commentary could have been this funny, god only knows. From the catchphrase of David Mitchell’s character saying “Oh and that’s a BAD miss” as his standard piece of in-depth commentary for every match, to the discussion of the touching circumstances under which Robert Webb’s character came out as gay years ago, you will find yourself wishing they made more of these two characters. Which they did, with a short sketch named Screw Back in Anger, which looked at the two men’s snooker careers. Wonderful stuff.
No.4: The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar
This recurring sketch is a strange one. Not everyone entirely gets it. It’s certainly niche comedy. The general gist is that Robert Webb and David Mitchell play violent, scheming, alcoholic, homeless tramps with delusions of grandeur, named Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and his sidekick Ginger, respectively. They go around thinking they are a sort of Sherlock Holmes/Dr Watson twosome- or at least as much as they can whilst being homeless and penniless and alcoholic. It ain’t half odd, but points certainly have to go to it for originality. And I happen to love it.
No.5: Brain surgery vs rocket science…?
The ultimate example of a comedy sketch that you can’t for the life of you figure out why no-one had made before now. Lionel, played by Webb, arrives at a cocktail party and wastes no time telling everyone what his vocation is- and annoying all the other guests off by rather unfavorably comparing their jobs to his (I’m given to understand that this is the sort of person we all have waiting for us at the types of parties we get invited to after the age of thirty). The coup de grace is delivered when Mitchell’s character turns up, having been “kept late at the space centre”, and I hardly need to explain what happens as it’s a sketch all about waiting for what you KNOW is going to happen, but laughing and applauding anyway. Sheer genius.
BY LEWIS CARTER