“Badly Drawn Boy”
till 26th August
Contrary to popular belief, critics take no pleasure in slating execrable performances. We don’t get off on assassinating shows. Sometimes, however, it behoves us to be cruel to the artist to be kind to the paying public.
Knowing that doesn’t make the job any easier though. It still feels bad. It feels like taking a lame carthorse to the pasture, caressing Dobbie’s mane one last time and unleashing the 12 bore square between the eyes.
With his sex offender specs and wiry frame, Sam Fletcher is reminiscent of Jarvis Cocker at his Sorted For E’s & Whizz peak. That’s OK, though. Geek chic is in right now. We can laugh at geeks. With them. Whatever. Right?
Not this geek.
Fletcher’s between-joke banter is good; his filler chat is spot on. All that’s missing is the jokes. The LOL ones. The ROFL ones. Or even the mildly titillating ones. It’s not awkward. It’s not painful. It’s just not very good. Our host may be chirpy, amiable and upbeat, but he’s about as funny as a two-star comedian.
When does the show start anyway? Sam Fletcher’s preamble seems to have its own preamble.
‘I’m joking of course – I’m joking,’ he exclaims at one point in response to some line he was joking about. Any comedian who needs to point out their own jokes is clearly a funny guy, as sure as this sentence is drowning in its own sarcasm.
Like a child clamouring for acknowledgement of their bellyflop into the shallow end, Sam Fletcher desperately wants to be loved. There would be nothing wrong with that were it not for the fact that Fletcher isn’t five – and we’re the ones who are supposed to be left nursing aching bellies.
During the course of the show, we’re treated to sketches involving Siri, graphology and Morgan Freeman, whose name is amusingly inserted into such songs as More Than a Feeling and Flashdance’s What a Feeling. Fletcher then segues into a sequence about wanting to quit his day job and go freelance. Morgan Freelance of course. Only we never get to laugh at that joke because Sam Fletcher never thinks to use it. It’s a missed opportunity – one of many.
Credit where credit’s due: Fletcher’s doodles, which are projected on-screen, are rather good. Were the audience still in small trousers, we’d all be laughing heartily. In fact our bookish host would likely have a promising career as a children’s presenter – if only the year were 1994. Part Andy Peters, part Rolf Harris, Fletcher’s banter is tailor-made for Children’s BBC. Some lightning-fast caricatures – ‘Have you guessed what it is yet?’ – a quick Jimmy Savile cameo and the young audience would be in stitches.
Sadly this is 2013, and Fletcher’s career in entertainment looks as promising as that of the aforementioned presenters.
The final sketch sees the audience watch Sam Fletcher speed type an overdue report on laser surgery for his boss. It’s actually more amusing than the premise might sound. Just. There’s nothing more damning than the sound of faint laughter. Still, should an opening arise for a charismatic CBeebies presenter to read out birthday greetings ‘from mum, nan and everyone at Ashford Play Centre’, Fletcher’s got the gig.
It’s not Sam Fletcher’s fault that he looks like Jarvis Cocker. It’s not his fault that the projector fails in the ultimate sketch. But it is his fault that we’re left waiting 45 minutes for a drawn-out punchline that never comes.
Somewhere in a field in Hampshire, a carthorse just left an important part of its brain. It was for the best.