Screen savors: Repetitive, Miss Jocelyn

There's nothing the former member of the 3 Non-Blondes trio won't do for a lugh

jocelyn jee esien 88 (photo credit: )
jocelyn jee esien 88
(photo credit: )
Little Miss Jocelyn mugs for the camera. Little Miss Jocelyn talks in kooky accents. Little Miss Jocelyn does outrageous things. Too bad not much of this makes Little Miss Jocelyn consistently funny. UK comedy star Jocelyn Jee Esien, the first black woman to have her own regular TV sketch show, gets full marks for trying. After all, there seems to be nothing the former member of the 3 Non-Blondes trio won't do for a laugh, and that includes rubbing her lower extremities on a rug and declaring: "I've got worms." Esien rose through the ranks as a stand-up comedienne, and has finally gotten her own gig, one that draws on her Nigerian roots and her youthful years in London to create a variety of characters. So here's the grumpy Nigerian cab driver who in a flash turns his vehicle into a driving school, advising a new student that when she comes to a "No Entrance" sign she should "ignore it - it's meant for experienced drivers," and who assures a female fare that she can get in because "I'm not going to rape you - I don't have time." Or here's Jocelyn as a business woman in line at the airport who, on being told there are no seats left, begins bawling like a baby and screaming: "I WANNA GO ON THE AEROPLANE!" while kicking and screaming on the floor until the reservations clerk gives in. While those two characters got a smile out of us, her recurring taxi-warden character with the awful accent and horrible eye shadow - Inspector Clouseau's distant cousin - began to get tedious after what seemed, to borrow the character's own phrase, "l-o-o-o-n-g" exposure in both shows we saw. That's not the only tedious part. Ditto the Nigerian family going for marriage counseling, the (say it with us - they always do) Um-o-po-po-pos. While Esien, as the wife with (at last count) three husbands looks absolutely hilarious, and her sudden bouts of facial flirting with her husband ("Don't look at my nose; you make me feel n-a-a-a-ked") are funny the first time around, by the fourth time in two weeks they've just gotten silly. Not that there aren't flashes of absolute brilliance and biting social commentary as well, such as Fiona, a secretary at a prestigious company who is certain that "absolutely no one knows I'm black," and is determined that the dashing young black delivery guy isn't going to give away her secret. But before she knows it, she's astride the bewildered fellow, going on about black sexual prowess and making a complete idiot out of herself. Even Jocelyn as a crazy National Health dietician who uses a combination of voodoo, bizarre charts and simply awful exhortations ("Oooooh, you're fat! Get off my scales before you break them!") on her patients before she throws them out was funny the first two times, but by the third sketch in one show involving that character, it was too much. Ditto her attempt at portraying Condoleezza Rice as a ridiculous, Stepin-Fetchit-talking characterization based on every bad film portrayal of American blacks. Sketch humor isn't easy; not all characters work. Lily Tomlin was brilliant at it, with her Edith Ann and the telephone operator; gifted UK comedienne Tracey Ullman also had a knack for it. But unless the writing is spot on and the characters totally endearing, bringing 'em back time after time just doesn't work, even if critics in the UK are raving and the papers are calling this show "the black Little Britain." Not quite. Licking the face of a friend's mother after she's just buried her sister is outrageous, but not funny. A killer baby who's got mom and dad wondering just what the hell is in that crib is funny, but it's been done before. And talking funny while making faces - and to be fair, Jocelyn makes some incredible faces - isn't always enough to carry a half hour of comedy. As for the political zingers, there aren't enough of them, and it seems that Whoopi Goldberg got it all done much better with simple, intelligent monologues, with little need for funny faces or accents. While Jocelyn's an immensely talented woman, and fans of sketch humor and those who enjoy characters with crazy catch phrases should get a rise out of her show, for us overall Little Miss Jocelyn (YES Stars, Mondays 21:05) is like what ticks off her traffic-warden character: too many vehicles stuck in the same place for too l-o-o-o-n-g.