Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Sketch Show

Go To

The Sketch Show is a British, well... sketch show which ran between 2001 and 2004. The five-person cast was composed of comedians Lee Mack, Tim Vine, Jim Tavaré, Karen Taylor, Ronni Ancona (for Series 1) and Kitty Flanagan (for series 2). With no overall plot, the show's episodes were composed entirely of short comedy sketches.

It spawned a short-lived American remake, headlined by Kelsey Grammer, though he only appeared in the opening and closing scenes of each episode. The ensemble cast included Malcolm Barrett, Kaitlin Olson, Paul F. Tompkins, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Lee Mack, often though not always as the characters he played in the original. Most sketches were line for line based on the original show, though with some variation in the punchlines.

This show provides examples of:

  • Absurd Phobia: The "Phobias Workshop" sketch is about a support group for people with these. The group has one member who is afraid of the word "Aagh!", one who is afraid of apologies, one who is afraid of repetition, one who is afraid of awkward silences and one who doesn't have a phobia but who compulsively barks at other people's. They keep setting one another off.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: In the English Course sketch, Tim has a problem with his emphasis, causing him a lot of awkwardness as a speech therapist.
  • Adaptation Decay: In one sketch Tim is reading a book in the theater with Lee and Jim sitting next to him. When they ask him what he's doing, he says that the book is better than the film based on it.
  • Black Comedy: One sketch features a character at a suicide hotline assuring the man on the other end, that the pills he's taken won't be enough for an overdose - and then stupidly gives him advice on what he would need to take, realising his mistake only after hanging up.
  • Blatant Lies: One sketch involves Tim, who's standing on the other side of a fence, boasting to Karen about all his achievements, including owning the Ritz hotel, marrying Claudia Schiffer, and giving Bill Gates his first job. Then we see a warning sign that reads "Beware of the Bull".
  • Brainless Beauty: In one sketch Karen and Tim are husband and wife at a bar. Karen is completely inept at reading trivia cards and repeating drink orders.
  • Cargo Ship: In-universe. One sketch opens with Tim on a date saying "I just wanted to give you a break from washing dishes tonight." Cut to reveal that he's on a date with his dishwasher. A followup sketch later in the episode has his washing machine walk in on them.
    Tim: Honey, I can explain this!
  • The Cast Showoff: Tim Vine's regular comedy shtick is the Incredibly Lame Pun. He uses this in some of his sketches, most notably when he plays a warden with Lee as an officer and Jim as a convict hoping to leave.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: A sketch depicts a group of cavemen inventing fire. Once the fire is going, one of them immediately uses it to light a cigarette.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: One sketch has Lee telling Ronni, a secretary, that she should stop working on a typewriter and join the 21st century. Cut to Ronni typing on a computer, getting to the end of a line and, out of habit, pushing the monitor off the table.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Inverted in a sketch set in an ancient Roman flower shop. A customer asks for a spider plant, to the florists's confusion. When he then asks for Chlorophytum Comosum, Lee replies, "Well, why didn't you just say that you pretentious prat?"
  • Fishing for Sole: Spoofed in a sketch with a visual gag of a clown sitting by the pond boasting to another fisherman that he caught a really big shoe the day before.
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": Variant. "Hello and welcome to the plaza film line general information. Please say the name of the cinema you are calling for, for example, say 'Bromley.'" Lee's speech impediment doesn't help matters ("Blomley." "I think you are calling for the plaza cinema in 'Burnley', is this correct?"), but the voice still makes him jump through hoops to get back to that first menu, and seems to be deliberately messing with him when it asks "Is this wrong?" instead of "Is this correct?", or offers him the film title, The Brunette Bride that Brainwashed the Brigadier.
  • Hand Signals: One sketch has Lee as a sign language interpreter "helping" with the announcement of a new community centre, whose increasingly bizarre and distracting signals start getting on Ronni's nerves - specifically, he does chicken impersonations to represent different percentages, and he keeps accidentally slapping her when miming "big", "massive" and "far left of centre". Ronni ends up stumping him when she announces a special offer at the restaurant on opening night: 25% off half a chicken.
  • Harassing Phone Call: In one sketch, a harassing caller tries to do this to a woman by claiming to know where she lives and that he is calling from upstairs. He's saying this to someone who's standing in a phone box.
  • How Did That Get in There?: Parodied by Inverted Trope. A college professor is presenting a slideshow about bikinis, with pictures of women wearing them. He then advances to a picture of a building and, well, you know.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In one skit, Tim is a film lecturer teaching the rest of the cast ahead of exams. After spending most of the skit correcting their mistakes, he is corrected by one of them after confusing Citizen Kane for Ace Ventura.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: Possible Trope Namer. The show had a brief sketch where a woman going through customs is assured that her tub of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" is okay to go through. The customs officer them pulls out a bag labelled "I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin." Beat, and Oh, Crap! from the woman. Then, "I think that's all in order."
  • I Have This Friend: Parodied and subverted when a man tells his doctor that his friend is a woman (Pauline) trapped in a man's body - and that that woman has a man (Alan) trapped in her's, who in turn has another woman in his (Jackie, who apparently doesn't get on with Pauline). The doctor asks if he's talking about himself. He denies it, saying that it's his flatmate. Further subverted when she asks him to bring his friend to see her. He then pulls out a Matryoshka doll and opens it up.
  • Imaginary Friend: A sketch took this to an over-the-top degree. The sketch concerned a psychiatrist, Ronni running a group therapy session to persuade people that their imaginary friends weren't real; her patients were Lee, who used his imaginary friend as a cover for alcoholism (the joke being that he walked into the meeting by mistake while looking for an AA meeting for his "friend"), Karen, a lonely and lovesick woman (whose imaginary friend had the same name as her last boyfriend), and Tim, who thought he himself was the imaginary one. At the very end of the sketch, it turns out Ronni was actually addressing an empty room.
  • Jive Turkey: In one sketch, two gangsters try to interrogate a clueless guy in a warehouse while talking entirely in slang. He doesn't understand a word they're saying, to the point of interpreting "start singing, or we'll unload in your face" by actually singing.
  • Judicial Wig: There's a short gag about justice wigs in a sketch where the (bald) judge is happy to take off "that silly wig" at the end of a hard day's work at court. Then he immediately puts on a Dodgy Toupee.
  • Lack of Empathy: Karen plays a recurring character in episode 1 who responds to messages of distress and pain with mocking imitations of the person she's "attending".
  • Literal Metaphor: Several sketches rely on this type of gag, including one where a famous "sex symbol" is interviewed (♂), and one of an "extremist sports club" (members include muslim terrorists, nazis, and klansmen).
  • Male Restroom Etiquette: At least two sketches parody this.
    • In one sketch, Jim and Lee are in the restroom and awkwardly making idle conversation when Lee finishes and is about to leave. Then Jim finds himself unable to finish his own business so to "perform" he asks Lee to stay, who grudgingly obliges.
    • In another sketch, Tim, Jim and Lee are all standing next to each other in front of the urinals. One of them is drinking a beer, another needs to light and smoke a cigarette, and another is minding his own business. Inevitably, at least two of them are no longer holding their own old fellas after the exchange.
  • Mixed Metaphor: The US version of the "English Course" sketch has a woman who has trouble with these.
  • Motor Mouth: Lee portrays a few characters that have this quirk for various reasons. Most notably, the jockey.
  • Mustache Vandalism: In one of the sketches, Ronni introduces her boyfriend Lee to Karen by showing her a picture of him, which has a red mustache, red glasses and red hair doodled over it. Karen asks her why she did that, but it turns out that's what Lee really looks like.
  • Need a Hand, or a Handjob?: Discussed and invoked in a sketch where a man tries to solicit the "assistance" of a streetwalker. His annoying obfuscation (starting with him bluntly asking for sex when she offers "company") eventually causes the hooker to walk off.
    Ronni: Say if I were to point you in the right direction with my hand, that would be 30, if I were to give you oral directions, that would be 60 pounds, and if I were to take you all the way to your destination, that would be 80.
    Lee: And how much would it be for sex?
    Ronni: Get lost.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Lee plays a bingo caller who keeps getting complaints from the students in the audience about his descriptions of the numbers, such as "Legs 11" being sexist, "Blind 30" being offensive to the visually impaired, "Two Fat Ladies, 88" being sexist and offensive to the overweight, etc.
    Female student: Bingo!
    Lee: We have a house!
    Male student: Capitalist!
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: Many of the sketches are only a line or two long, just enough to deliver a pun, Sight Gag or sometimes both. An example is Jim playing an interviewer asking "What's it like being a sex symbol?" Cut to his interview subject, a sign with a ♂ on it.
  • Rattling Off Legal: There's a sketch where Lee is selling Ronni various insurance policies before quickly rattling of all the legal stuff he doesn't want his clients to know when she's not paying attention. After he asks her out, he makes an aside in the same manner that he's a serial murderer.
  • Reactive Continuous Scream: Done repeatedly in one sketch with a support group for people with phobias. Lee had a fear of screaming, Jim had a fear of apologies, Karen had a fear of repetition and Ronni a fear of awkward silences, while Tim shows up because of a compulsion to bark at people's phobias. It culminates in this:
    Lee: Okay, Jim, would you like to tell the group how this problem started?
    Jim: Yes, well it all began when I first tried on my grandmother's stockings.
    Ronni: Aagh!
    Lee: Aagh!
    Karen: Aagh!
    Lee: Aagh!
    Tim: Woof!
    Jim: Sorry. Aagh!
    Lee: Aagh!
    Karen: Aagh!
    Lee: Aagh!
    Tim: Woof!
  • Really Gets Around: The wedding photo sketch reaches the point where the photographer asks for a photo involving everyone who slept with the bride. That turns out to be seemingly every man at the wedding (and in every previous photo), as well as the (female) photographer — except the groom.
  • Reveal Shot: In one sketch it looks like a haggard Tim is being tortured by Ronni during a hard interrogation. The shot then reveals that she's dragged him along to go shopping.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: In the English Course sketch, Lee can't spill to save his loaf, and has to rely on the spill chock on his compluter.
  • Running Gag: Some episodes will have a single recurring gag, such as the one where Jim plays a boxer who punches out anyone ringing any kind of bell, or the "weird snooker" sketches.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: One sketch has Lee meeting Karen at a school reunion and rather cheerfully reminiscing about the sadistic bullying he and other students used to put her through. He then asks her what she does for a living these days. When she replies that she works with bullied children who've been traumatised, he asks, "So, what got you interested in that?"
  • Scrabble Babble: Lee's tactic is to include his made-up words in the conversation before his turn starts. First he does this with "quazoosl", referring to someone being so attractive that they come across as intimidating (the example he gives is Elizabeth Hurley). In a later sketch, he asks Tim if he wants a glass of "saxisquith". Tim replies, "Don't even think about it."
  • Stupid Crooks:
  • Suddenly Shouting: In the English Course sketch, Karen has a problem with her punctuation, leading her to add gratuitous exclamation marks by mistake!
  • Surrounded by Idiots:
    • Ronni in the California Dreaming sketch, whose backup singers just can't understand the concept of repeating after her - in fact, they all come to the same wrong conclusion each time.
    • Kitty in the restaurant naming sketch - Lee wants to name it after himself, Tim keeps suggesting names that would be appropriate for foreign cuisine, Jim keeps suggesting names that are taken by famous franchises, and Karen keeps suggesting names that would be appropriate for completely different businesses (hairdressers, carpets, etc).
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Played with in a sketch where Ronni is listening to her husband Tim talk in his sleep in the hopes that he'll mention the name of a woman she suspects he's having an affair with. Each time he appears to be talking about a woman, he finishes his sentence in a way that turns it into something innocuous, such as "Allison... I'll listen to anything you say, Ronni!" Then finally he mentions Karen's name, who tries and fails to finish Tim's words in a credible way.
  • Undisclosed Funds: A sketch played with this, in which a woman discusses with a repairman his prices using onomatopoeia (whistles for high prices, "eh" for low prices, etc.) At the end of the sketch, the woman asks how much it would be if she pays cash, and he replies, "£50".
  • The Unintelligible:
    • One sketch has a Lee as a Motor Mouth Irish jockey being interviewed after a race. Ronni can't understand him and the best Lee can manage is to repeat sentence fragments (without actually slowing down) until she does. Worth noting that the viewer will probably figure out what he's saying at least one repetition before Ronni does.
    • One sketch has the five in a board meeting. Kitty keeps taking drunken rambling from Lee as helpful suggestions, mystifying the others. Eventually Karen and Tim decide to just imitate his rambling, which works, but when Jim tries it, Kitty tells him to go home because he's pissed.
  • Womanchild: One skit features Ronni as a grade school teacher who is hopeless at the alphabet (she only goes up to c). Lee as the principle has to teach her the full alphabet and she whines and tries to get out of it as much as possible.