By Will Barber Taylor
Johnny Lazar (Guinee), a talented but deeply troubled stand-up comedian, blows what should have been his big break on a top US show. He is sent by his manager to the UK for a fresh start.
He proves a hit on London’s comedy circuit, and after meeting the beautiful Nula (Fairley) he appears to have overcome his demons.
But trouble soon rears its head again after he witnesses a ruthless gangland murder.
Determined to stay out of trouble, Johnny keeps quiet about what he has seen until the police arrest the wrong man (Lennie James). Will Johnny’s conscience force him to come forward and risk becoming the next target?
A dark and disturbing comedy, Comics is like the Italian opera in its combination of dark satire and mesmerising drama. The scintillating and ingenious mind of Lynda La Plante is never more striking than it is in Comics. As is demonstrated by her other work, such as Above Suspicion, Trial and Retribution and Prime Suspect, there is a great deal of emotional resonance in the drama which speaks to us all. Johnny Lazar may be a stand-up comedian, but he is also a representation of the brokenness of society – dejected and unloved he finds himself forced to go across the world to try and find some hope of redemption. The message of morality and doing the right thing is ever present in La Plante’s work but it is never more so seen here as Lazar is forced to confront not only his own morality but also the very meaning of right and wrong – the central question to the drama is whether Lazar will do the right thing and ensure that justice is done. This is the key to why Comics is so compelling and so enjoyable.
The cinematography is stunning. From the shocking opening sequence of the first episode, the visual nature of the story fully arrests us and ensures that we keep ourselves watching the drama throughout. The initial scenes set in the very back end of the London comedy club scene are not only gritty but have a faded glory that one would associate with such venues. This gives the drama a certain authenticity that helps it to feel realistic and thus make us care about the characters that we see.
Comics is a shadowy and thrilling drama that provides its audience with a much darker portrayal of the life of stand ups than you might expect. It is a troubled and psychologically fascinating piece of work that will leave you wondering what dark secrets lie behind the eyes of the people who make you laugh.