Laugh Lessons | Our critical guide to all 20 of BBC Three's new comedy shorts © BBC

Laugh Lessons

Our critical guide to all 20 of BBC Three's new comedy shorts

BBC Three has today launched a series of 20 shorts under the Laugh Lessons banner, showcasing new and diverse comedy talent, put together from production houses across the UK. Here’s our episode guide – but do watch out for the irritating trailers iPlayer insists on serving up before every three-minute clip!


1. Toxic Ting: Ehiz Ufuah

Since Ehiz Ufuah already has 10million followers on TikTok, it’s possible the BBC need him more than he needs them.. But this is a banging track – a well-spoken drill rap, though unlike the superficially similar Munya Chawawa, that juxtaposition is not the joke. Instead he uses his lyrics to raise questions about the social artifice of gender, with inventive lyrics that prove as witty as they are unexpected.

2. Becoming a Karen: Francesca Tomlinson

It’s a slightly obvious premise: a guide to becoming that epitome of middle-class white woman privilege that has become known as a   Karen. But Francesca Tomlinson does a nice job with the simple concept, with a nicely character-driven sketch, that also incorporates some underplayed silliness as well as a little commentary – her alter-ego finds a hitherto absent  ‘sense of identity’ in being a Karen. And there’s even a real Karen, Karen Traynor, playing her mam. No need to demand to see the manager about this one…

3. BBC Flats: Jamie D’Souza

A parody of MTV Cribs, but for those renting tiny, substandard overpriced flats from dodgy, money-grubbing landlords. No wonder there’s an air of authenticity about D’Souza’s commentary, trying to put a positive spin on the unsanitary, cramped and possible deathtrap conditions . Even though Stath Lets Flats might have cornered this subject matter as far as TV comedy is concerned, the comic wrings some new gags out of his real-life misery.

4. Disabled in Da Club: Jack Carroll & Peter Selwood

Comic Jack Carroll could be channelling Tony Hancock when he deadpans of his sexual technique: ‘I thrust up and down a bit when I can.’ There’s a strong sense of self-deprecation in this short, yet it’s delivered with the confidence of a young man who knows himself – and the often patronising attitudes to him as someone with cerebral palsy. He and co-star Peter Selwood have a nice chemistry - you can envisage this a sampler for a longer series - and the short has a neat story arc. Shame about the dodgy green-screen work, but where are producers going to find a working nightclub to film in these days?

5. Support Group: Hannah Platt

This meeting of ‘girls who are not like other girls’ is a bit messy and heavy-handed, but has a strong sense of purpose: namely that narrow notions of femininity are at best unhelpful and  at worst damaging.  As the leader of the group of women who like football, video games and  Star Wars, Platt spells it out very explicitly, calling out the media for portraying the whole gender as ‘one-dimensional’ and the cancer of internalised misogyny.  The result may need finessing, but this is a good venting of a strong opinion that isn’t heard enough. With Jain Edwards, Mary O’Connnell, Roisin O’Mahoney and Chloe Petts.

6. 4ft And Fierce: Fats Timbo

A first-person piece about Fats Timbo, giving her perspective on being a 4ft model, dancer, comedian and, judging from this film, queen of the sideways glance. Delivered with a lot of cheek and vigour, she amusingly strikes back at those who stare, take pictures, patronise and, worst of all, use the M-word in her presence.

7. Podcasting For Dummies

The ubiquity of podcasting and the self-centred shallowness of so much of the output forms the basis of Beth Rylance’s short. It’s a fairly straightforward parody of privileged content creators, but whips along with a jaunty spirit and at a decent crack.

8. How We Ruined the Internet: Raul Kohli

Given that Raul Kohli is a stand-up, a monologue is the obvious choice for his Laugh Lesson, as he offers a brisk commentary on the evolution of the internet, jollied up with plenty of fast-moving graphic tricks. It’s inevitably a little superficial as he blames human nature for the cesspit the online space has become, but Kohli’s a lively and entertaining guide – and you could easily see this slotted into something like The Mash Report, had the BBC not axed it. And it ends on a top gag.

9. Community Roadman

Former CBBC star Tendayi Jembere’s fast-talking, street-smart alter-ego is something of a force of nature, dominating every situation. Including in this short, where he doesn’t really get the chance to interact with other characters, given the premise is his steamrollering personality. It’s strong persona, even though it would be best showcased against something more grounded, and again the skit has a great closing line…

10 Posh Witches

Blood sacrifices don’t have the same vibe on Zoom,’ says Evelyn Mok’s Malia, setting the tone for this virtual coven meeting. Sian Docksey’s script is essentially a witty allegory about appropriation, as a privileged posho dips her well-pedicured toes into a culture she doesn’t really understand – in this case, witchcraft. The sketch is underpinned with silliness and the sheer number of irritating middle-class expressions Pippany  (Abigail Weinstock) manages to squeeze into her appearances is strangely impressive.  Also starring Charlie George and Eleanor Morton.

11. Coke, Weed And Bananas: A Guide To Drugs Today

Joby Mageean has an effective anti-drugs message: how can anything be cool if your mum does it? Though he’s one to talk, given how he’s happy to lean into a dad joke, as a comedian willing to embrace his own uncoolness. This short is, more than most here, driven purely by gags, and Mageean’s engaging sense of frivolity. Again, this would work well in some topical magazine-style comedy show.

12. The Secret Life of an Influencer

In real life, the Instagram of Manrika Khaira, the Brummie star of The Circle, is typical influencer fare: lots of glamorous pouty poses at home and out on the town, mixed with a few commercial messages for the likes of teeth whitener and McDonald’s (which she might want to label as ads before the Advertising Standards people notice). Her Laugh Lessons mocks the fact this lifestyle is largely fake, which is unlikely to surprise anyone, mixed in with a lot of fart gags. Not the most promising of first impressions as she shifts into comedy.

13. Five Signs You’re Becoming  A P.R.*.C.K

Perhaps in response to critics who think the BBC is in thrall to the woke brigade, this is an attack on ‘Politically Righteous Intolerant Cantankerous Killjoys’ from echo-chambers on both sides of the ‘culture war’, united only by their distrust of the mainstream media. There’s no brilliantly fresh insight from writer and star William Wyn Davies, but he has great fun with the polarisation of society in a sketch that takes a distinctly odd turn towards the end.

14. V Plates

Laura Marcus is starting to worry about when she’ll lose her virginity - after failing to convince even herself that it’s empowering to be hanging on to it - but finds herself with limited options. This rite-of-passage short might not be laugh-out-loud, but it’s witty and surely very relatable for anybody is, or who remembers, their anxious teens. And for a home-shoot, this young filmmaker has achieve a pretty classy look and feel.

15 Friends With Kids

These tongue-in-cheek life hacks flip of the usual trope that friends become no fun once they become parents. Instead Shikira Porter argues the advantages of well-stocked pantries and bathroom cabinets – and a source of unpaid child labour.  But for all that, adorable Arabella-Rose Butler steals every scene from under her.

16. Mukbang Lover

Akafi Ali has become a star on social media (780,000 fans on TikTik) with his mukbangs – a genre of videos in which the host eats various quantities of food while talking to the audience. But in this Laugh Lesson, he’s seen grappling with his inner critic, an anxiety-inducing voice in his head undermining his confidence as he prepares to go on a date.  It’s a weird, unpredictable film, full of a nervy energy, but with a hugely likeable authenticity underpinning the enjoyable oddness.

17. What Is Modern Art?

Mocking the pretentious absurdity of contemporary art is probably as old as art itself, and here Alex Cubb and Remi Yenn take the guise of students Billi and Séan (pronounced See-En) offering their parody. The duo have some nicely preposterous fake artworks, not far from the real thing, but they offer no new twist on well-covered ground.

18. Northern Mindfulness

As Northern Power Blouse, this trio - Cassie Atkinson, Kat Butterfield and Jack Robertson – have been on the live circuit for a while, promising good things with their enviable performance skills and upbeat silliness, which is rather too carefully rationed here. New-Agey meditation is a big, easy topic, and having the session led by brassy Northerner Bev rather than a more hippy-dippy guru is a funny, if predictable twist. And this single gag is stretched a thin over a full sketch, despite their best efforts at building on it.

19. Sex Ed: We Deserve Better

Although it starts as a sketch about why sex education lessons, with pupils asking awkward questions of an easily-embarrassed teacher, Steph McAteer’s Laugh Lesson is much more polemical than funny as she calls for more LGBTQ+ inclusivity in education, and less shame about the subject. McAteer, known to her 700,000 TikTok followers as Steph-fanny, may have a point, but for a comedy film, it’s short on gags,

20. First World Problems Of An Influencer

Amber Doig-Thorne is another Instagrammer and TikTokker (combined fan base of more than 500,000) mocking that very world. But the fact she uses the same gag as Khairia - that influencers don’t pay for things - suggests a limit to how much this topic can be mined. There’s an odd thread about foot fetishists, which end with a comically gross image, but otherwise this might only really be for Doig-Thorne’s existing army of followers.

Review date: 17 Jun 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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