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4 October 2011

Comedy update

Private Eye at the V&A, the Onion's UK arrival and Atkinson hints at Blackadder 5.

By Androulla Harris

Satire news

Private Eye at 50 exhibition at the V&A

In celebration of 50 years of Private Eye, this free exhibition will look at how the British magazine combines humour with investigative journalism. It will include original artwork of the publication’s finest cartoons, from long-running strips to caricatures. Plus, the magazine’s editor Ian Hislop has selected 50 of the best front covers, one for every year that the magazine has been published.

At its best Private Eye is bold and scathingly satirical. Take the 4 February 2011 cover on the phone hacking scandal, where “Murdoch answers critics” with his hands clasped: “I overhear what you’re saying.” Another outstanding cover was that of 22 July 2011. It used the tabloids’ conventional style to triumphantly bellow “Gotcha!” over photographs of Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks.

The Onion News Network’s UK debut

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The Onion News Network will have its UK television premiere in November on Sky Arts 1 at 11pm. The mock-news channel was created in 2007 and shown on the Onion‘s website. Its presenters include Brooke Alvarez (Suzanne Sena) and Tucker Hope Todd (Alan Crain.) The news programme often features personal advice by Alvarez, such as “How to Look Good for the End of the World.”

Founded in the late 1980s, the Onion’s humour ranges from straight-up satire, such as “Future U.S. History Students: ‘It’s Pretty Embarrassing How Long You Guys Took To Legalize Gay Marriage'” to more wacky and surreal jokes: “Justin Bieber Found to be Cleverly Disguised 51-Year-Old Paedophile.”

One of the Onion’s often provocative headlines recently caused a stir on Twitter. It tweeted, “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building”, which was later linked to this story: Congress Takes Group Of Schoolchildren Hostage. It led some followers to believe that it was a real news story, and controversy ensued about whether the Onion had gone too far. Andy Carvin, Senior Strategist of Social Media Desk, who tweeted extensively about the Arab Spring, sounded aggravated. He tweeted: “Wondering if NYers would find it as funny if @TheOnion had made a similar joke about an attack on Wall St and lower Manhattan.” By contrast, English comedian and actor Peter Serafinowicz tweeted: “God I love @theonion!”

The Onion‘s hostage piece clearly had an absurdist tone:

Obama, holding his head in his hands [said] “I know Speaker Boehner personally, and I know that he and his colleagues will not hesitate for a second to kill these poor children if they don’t get their way … Trust me, this Congress will do it”.

New television comedy

Rowan Atkinson hints at Blackadder 5

Rowan Atkinson, star of Mr Bean and Not the Nine O’Clock News, has said that there may be a fifth series of Blackadder. With each of its four series set in a different historical context, the sitcom ran between 1983 and 1989. This exciting prospect was raised during Atkinson’s chat with ITV’s Daybreak about his role in Johnny English Reborn, a spoof spy film.

If the fifth series does happen, it will be interesting to see whether Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson and Miranda Richardson will star again. Atkinson commented: “It would be nice to get them all back together.”

Arrested Development back with 4th season

Fans of the Emmy-award winning American sitcom Arrested Development have reason to celebrate; five years since it was last on our screens, its creator Mitchell Hurwitz has announced plans for a new series to precede the film spin-off. The sitcom focuses on the life of the formerly rich Bluth family.The cast includes Jessica Walter, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi and Michael Cera. Although the sitcom never achieved especially high ratings, it has a devoted fanbase.

Life’s Too Short: Gervais and Merchant’s new comedy about a dwarf

Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Life’s Too Short is a fake documentary about the daily life of actor Warwick Davis
(Return Of The Jedi, Harry Potter.) In the new six-part series scheduled to air this autumn, Davis plays a fictional version of himself, a self-absorbed and underhand character in charge of a talent agency called Dwarves For Hire. Davis is always trying to take advantage of others, including his own clients. The show’s premise is that Davis takes part in the documentary to raise money to pay his taxes. Check out some clips of Life’s Too Short here.

The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff: Robert Webb stars in Dickensian comedy

Gareth Edwards, producer of That Mitchell and Webb Look and Mark Evans, writer of the Radio 4 comedy Bleak Expectations, are creating a four-part comedy set in Victorian London. Robert Webb is leading the cast as Jedrington Secret-Past, a successful seller of eccentricities. His wife Conceptiva will be played by Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd.) The Dickensian comedy adventure will screen first in a Christmas special, followed by three episodes due to air in early 2012.