Very Important People
When I first saw the advert for Channel 4’s new impressions show Very Important People, I had low expectations. Yes, the sample of impressions in the ad were spot on, but accurate impressions does not a side-splitting comedy make.
However after watching the show I was pleasantly surprised: Very Important People is not simply an impressions show, but a comedy in its own right. Undoubtedly Morgana Robinson and Terry Mynott are superb in their impersonations, but the show is not reliant on them for laughs. I remember being in stitches at Alastair McGowan’s impressions when I was young, but now I’m older and grumpier the mere ability of someone to pinpoint a celebrities’ quirks and exaggerate them feels somewhat tired and tame.
Where Very Important People sets itself apart, then, is in building its humour round the often bizarre ways celebrities make their fame, leading to hilarious sketches of Natalie Cassidy ambling around reading takeaway menus in her latest documentary “Natalie Cassidy is just doing this now”, and Danny Dyer taking on the hardest commutes, eventually becoming overwhelmed and having to bail at Didcot Parkway (although it bears more than a passing resemblance to Jon Culshaw’s Ross Kemp parodies, it’s funny enough to get away with it).
The show also works hard to feel cutting and current. Not only does it send up celebrities who are not often fodder for impressionists, giving us fresh laughs, the show doesn’t just rely on uncanny impersonations; it also takes a scathing look at the darker side of our obsession with a variety of unseemly celebrities. The ‘Fame Skillz’ sketch, whilst admittedly not the funniest part of the show, took a pop at throwaway celebrity culture and the absurd circus of the fame-hungry treading the well-worn route through perfume release, drug abuse, rehab and tabloid scandal, all hosted by an aggressively excited Fearne Cotton (a scarily accurate impersonation).
Amongst the send-ups of paint by numbers Jennifer Aniston movies (“Aniston and Owen Wilson in – Some Sort of Disagreement”) and Gordon Ramsey angrily demanding people get behind an anti-bullying campaign, the show also keeps itself right up to date, with a news segment that comments on the very latest celebrity scandals, allowing a take on the Cowell/Minogue revelations and a perfectly judged send up of The Voice mentors (it was dope, as Will.i.am has led me to believe the cool kids would call it). Even here we get a glimpse at the bite the comedy has: Amy Childs, hosting the news, finishes off with a passing comment on how lots of people are dying in Syria or something.
If you’ve written off Very Important People as just another impressions show, it really does deserve another look. Bolstered by the brilliant performances of Robinson and Mynott, if it can maintain its freshness and its satire, and avoid repetitiveness by taking on a big enough cast of characters, it could be the cleverest take on the genre that we’ve seen in a while
Very Important People airs on Fridays at 9.30pm on Channel 4.