Screen Savors: Two for the funny

Taking shots at just about anything and everything, two British comedians prove that if you can't laugh at it, it's not worth showing on TV in 'The Armstrong and Miller Show.'

armstrong and miller (photo credit: )
armstrong and miller
(photo credit: )
The Armstrong and Miller Show isn't everybody's cup of tea. Especially if you don't fancy your dentist regaling you with every disgusting place he's had his hands of late. But the UK Channel 1's program, screening locally on Yes Stars Comedy, is about as soothing as a shot of Novocain to quell our modern woes, with its mostly hilarious sketches and characters. Back at the dentist's office, an unfortunate patient is forced to hear exactly what gross things the dentist's hands have been up to as the doc prepares to stick them in the poor bloke's mouth. This is just one of the running gags offered in this series of blackout sketches that star Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller. Despite having run from 1997 to 2001, picked up again in 2007, this duo is new to this non-Brit who's pleased to make their acquaintance. Featuring about a dozen vignettes per episode, the show certainly pulls no punches. How else to explain a program in which a character is busy having sex with a watermelon while his wife hollers up that JFK has just been killed? There are definitely no sacred cows in this show - not even the Pope or Santa Claus. After blessing the masses at St. Peter's Square or bouncing a young child on his leg, respectively, each simply orders an underling to, "kill them" - a repeating gag in the show. Much like Monty Python, the show succeeds by smartly employing shocking or absurd notions. One of our favorites was a bastard of a chef who constantly chews out his staff. When a member of which has finally had enough, he hits him with a skillet. Of course, there's no way the sketch ends there. The rest of the staff joins in with their respective kitchen gear until they've killed their tormentor. "He certainly makes a fine casserole," says one diner partaking in that evening's special. "Doesn't he now," the murderous waiter offers with a knowing reply. It's the sheer variety and cheekiness of the bits and pieces that makes it so much fun. Fans of Jane Austen-like novels will undoubtedly enjoy the dance numbers. In them, the participants' make breathless references to their bursting bodices - and other articles of clothing - straining for a moment of raw, passionate sex. And then there are the sequences portraying a couple of RAF airmen, talking in a kind of modern jive, which goes on to include a similarly parodied Churchill. Beyond priceless, they exemplify the great comic timing between the pair. Our particular favorite was the sketch titled, "The Origin of Art Criticism." In it, the two appear as cavemen examining, for its artistic value, an image of a mammoth, chiseled on a rock face. "It doesn't even look like a mammoth," Miller says. "It looks like a squirrel with a horn." Armstrong insists, "It's not important that it look like a mammoth. What's important is that it feel like a mammoth." Miller calls him a wanker and walks away. Then, in yet another sketch, there are a variety of failed individuals who've decided to do the next best thing: teach. "Failed in the real world?" the announcer asks, "Then why not be a teacher?" And, in what at first seems like a light-hearted outing in the park, the son asks Armstrong, playing the dad, why things didn't work out between him and his mom. Without hesitation he tells him, "It was all your fault…sadly, you destroyed our relationship," and then challenged the shocked youth a jolly race to the cafe. In one of the more devilish scenarios, Miller heads off to BBC 1 headquarters to star in the fictitious program Who Do You Think You Are, in which famous people find out more about their families. Anxious to know more about his mother's side of the family, the researcher is happy to inform him that in 1921 his grandmother earned her wages as a whore. "But not to worry," he's informed. The 1931 census shows that she had moved up to brothel keeper - "management" notes the researcher. Dad's side turns out not much better. He worked at a bottling plant where, after work, he'd offer young boys candy for dalliances, warning them not to tell their parents. Finally, another favorite features Armstrong as the prime minister, walking quickly down the hall - West Wing style - while a bevy of advisers offer him totally useless advice. "Bruce Lee was the hardest man who ever lived," he's told by one ahead of his next important meeting. We can only hope our new PM fares at least as well as this British duo and that the good folks at Eretz Nehederet keep up the kind of jibes at the government that Armstrong and Miller take at life in the UK. The Armstrong and Miller Show airs on Yes Stars Comedy, Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 8:30 p.m. and Mondays at 7:30 p.m.