Watching Britain’s Got Talent last night I did wonder if it was just me and David Walliams who understood that Lorraine Bowen was actually a comedy act and a very clever one to boot.
Judging from reactions on Twitter I get the feeling most people did not, but those that did thought she was hilarious.
This made me very sad, and worried. It also explains why so few comedians try their luck on Britain’s Got Talent,even though they were a staple on TV talent competitions in the past.
The main reason is that the act has to be quick easy and accessible. You have to strike immediately and most comedians, except impressionists and quick fire stand ups, do not work like that. There needs to be time for a set up and when you present yourself as a comedy character this is usually not possible and would ruin the joke.
Imagine Keith Lemon or Dame Edna coming on stage explaining who he/she really is and only then going into their respective character. The act would lose quite a bit of it’s magic, would it not?
But remaining in character risks the audience and judges not understanding. I truly wonder if they would have buzzed for Alan Partridge, Vic Reeves, Rik Mayall’s Poet character or his Kevin Turvey and so many others. They probably would have, as their jokes would have to be understood immediately and the dreaded X would have been pressed long before the punchline. David Walliams last night already showed how this lack of patience can lose you a gem when holding out on buzzing Luca Calo. He sensed that something would be happening.
The same happened to Lorraine Bowen: she was odd and judged on appearance the moment she walked on-stage. This in itself is an interesting social experiment: she was odd, and this is why a lot of people that did not understand her act did not deem her worthy of the Golden Buzzer. These viewers saw her appearance and zoned out, never bothering to look at what was going on on-stage or listening to her funny lyrics.
The sad thing is that even the media did not bother to research who the act they reported on is. While a simple Google search reveals: Lorraine Bowen has been touring with The Lorraine Bowen Experience for years and is well known in the underground comedy scene. In the 80’s she was a member of two bands and also worked with Billy Bragg, Lynda Bellingham, Simon Pegg and Steve Coogan among others. She was part of many BBC Radio 4 radio shows as both a writer and actress.
In the 1990’s Bragg told her to create her own shows and she has done so ever since, building a small fan community. She chose to go on Got Talent to show her work to a new and bigger audience.
David once again was the only one to use his buzzer the way it was initially meant: to champion an act the other judges don;t get but deserves another chance. Had he not pressed Gold when he did, there would only be one act representing comedy on to the next rounds and the world would not have got to know Lorraine. In the next few weeks people might discover who she really is and hopefully begin to understand her act. It was good to see that some people in the audience did alter their initial impression and went along with it, with many cheering at the end.
What this episode has made painfully clear is that we truly need a talent competition for comedians, preferably without buzzers and with patient judges.