James Sherwood made his name in topical comedy, writing one-liners for commercial radio stations. During the 2005 general election campaign, his political material appeared on BBC Radio 1, 2, and 4. He has also written for Private Eye and is a frequent studio pundit on the Sky News Paper Review.
He is also a musician, mainly a classical singer, but also a pianist, composer and arranger. His vocal arrangement of the University Challenge theme tune featured in a BBC2 documentary about the TV quiz. He is a regular choral singer on the London church scene, despite not being a Christian - a contradiction he explored in his 2006 solo Edinburgh debut I Know What You Did Last Sunday.
In his pre-comedy career in public relations, his campaigns included the UK launch of the Blackberry handheld email device.
Trivia: his great-grandfather (also James Sherwood) scored the only goal in the 1914 Amateur FA Cup Final.
James Sherwood Videos
James Sherwood: I Fed My Best Friend Her Favourite Cow
Not every comic has to push boundaries and challenge taboos – so while James Sherwood’s comedy is rather too mild for my liking, you would be hard-pressed to deny that his gentle wit has understated charm.
However, the intriguingly titled I Fed My Best Friend Her Favourite Cow isn’t entirely playing to his strengths as a musical comedian. There are only two original compositions here, and the central contrivance of this modest lunchtime show gets stretched to near breaking point.
It is a supposed examination of good versus evil, inspired by the clues we get in music. So he deconstructs song lyrics that reference good and bad, wilfully confusing phrases like ‘a good thing’ to mean a thing of virtue rather than a thing of enjoyment in a conceit that’s it’s hard to accept fully. Still, this self-styled ‘eminent musicologist’ has some fun with the idea, producing a couple of convoluted puns along the way.
Following this analysis, if we can grandly call it that, he concludes that music postulates two theories of goodness. The first, based on the Dukes Of Hazzard theme, asserts that to be a ‘good ole boy’ you just have to be ‘meanin’ no harm’; the second suggests that you have to be more proactive in being good – or in the words of Wham!, you have to ‘do do do do do do do do’.
So Sherwood suggests a set of reasons why he might be good or bad himself, as a well-mannered, middle-class man with no major vices, preferring a cup of tea and a nice nap to a Class A thrill. This is stand-up of the gentlest kind, slightly self-deprecatory and subjecting the smallest trait or everyday incident to scrutiny it doesn’t really merit.
The brace of witty songs he composed conclude these sections. They are character portraits, perhaps as you might get from the Kinks or Tracy Jacks era Blur, as Sherwood introduces us to Aubrey Hood (how convenient his surname rhymes with ‘good’…) and Beverley Tring, who lives in constant fear of doing anything that might be wrong. But the best song of the show is the closer, his subtle rearrangement of My Favourite Things.
Aptly enough, as a show I Fed My Best Friend Her Favourite Cow turns out to be neither strongly good or bad, but a down-the-middle three-starrer.
And the intriguing title? It’s just a comment one audience member gave him when he was asking for the worst things they had ever done. Shame, as there’s probably a great story there, which we never get to hear.