Javone Prince. That may not be a name you recognise now, but once The Javone Prince Show airs on BBC Two, it will be... and for all the right reasons.
Unfortunately the brilliant PhoneShop won’t be returning, so instead Javone is turning his attention to his own show, aptly called The Javone Prince Show.
Javone was only part of the brilliance of PhoneShop, Phil Bowker, who wrote and directed PhoneShop has ditched Channel 4 for the BBC, and together with Javone the pair have created The Javone Prince Show.
Speaking about the writing process at a special press screening the other week, Javone said:
"I think this show was the first time time there were two white people in the room and four black writers. It was really lovely and refreshing. No idea was a bad idea, and everyone at the BBC were backing our ideas because they were funny, not because we’re black."
Javone was of course referring to the recent drive to improve BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) representation on and off-screen in the TV industry, following a speech by Lenny Henry at last year’s BAFTA Television Lecture.
Having watched the entire series of The Javone Prince Show, it’s no surprise to learn that Lenny Henry was a big comedy inspiration for Javone, as were Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, citing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as the film that made him want to do comedy.
“The sketch show is dead” is a phrase you hear all too often these days, and I may have been guilty of saying it myself. However earlier this year, Keith Lemon proved otherwise with The Keith Lemon Sketch Show which returns for a second series next year on ITV2, and Javone is hoping to do the same with The Javone Prince Show.
Channel 4 for example are no longer commissioning sketch shows and Shane Allen, BBC’s Controller of Comedy Commissioning, took a swipe at his previous employer Channel 4 for not recommissioning PhoneShop and not being interested in The Javone Prince Show saying the channel want to "...focus on new talent and are making Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages instead,
Penelope Keith of course being one of the stars of the 1975 BBC sitcom The Good Life.
Never one to shy away from an opinion or two, Allen went on to address the argument that YouTube and people’s short attention spans have killed off the traditional sketch show...
"YouTube is the sort of comedy for people sitting around in their pants. This (The Javone Prince Show) is stuff you spend months writing and rehearsing to make it brilliant.
Things got a bit cool and ironic in sketch land. Javone is a brilliant character actor, and he’s bringing back the principles we loved with Morecambe & Wise and Dave Allen, which is lots of personality and a bit of variety, with stand-up, sketches and music.
I’ve lived through "The Office has killed the studio sitcom” and "stand-up doesn’t work on television". So I think sketch shows will be here forever.
That’s right, The Javone Prince Show isn’t just made up of sketches, there’s a live element to it as well which for me sets the show apart from recent sketch shows.
In-between sketches, Javone, together with UK soul legend Omar who makes up the house band and Stephen Harvey who takes on the role of MC, Stephen, entertains a room full of people at The Rivoli Ballroom in South East London.
One of the opening sketches is a Gogglebox style sketch, where two guys are sat on the sofa watching The Javone Prince Show and criticising the show and questioning Javone’s credentials as a comedian.
“This guy’s a joke you know. Why’s his head so big?” and “I’ve had funnier shits than him” are just some of the put downs Javone gets and as the series goes on, in one sketch they tweet the BBC asking them to “...bring back Lenny Henry and his normal sized head.” This may appear to be an odd choice for a comedian about to launch his debut show to make, but speaking at the screening Javone explained:
"Sometimes black audiences are hard to please. So with the ‘Goggleboxers' I wanted to show that before you can think of something to say, we’ve done it. You want to say “Why is he dressed as a woman?” - Well I’ve just said that."
Speaking about who he’d like to watch the show, Javone said:
"I know that black people will tune in, so I’m not worried about them watching the show. I want England to watch the show. I haven’t made this for a specific type of person, I’ve made it for England. I want them to enjoy my England the way I enjoy it."
avone also spoke about how honoured he was to be handed a series by BBC Two and recalled the moment he told his his mum over Christmas dinner. His mum is usually fairly dismissive of the channel’s he’s on, but when he said the words “BBC Two” she was straight to church telling everybody!
Other sketches in the series include Made In Peckham inspired by the hit series Made In Chelsea, the Black Pack who treat us to a special rendition of 21 Seconds and Bredren, a detective drama “From the people what brung you Luther”.
But quite possibly my favourite sketch from the entire series comes at the very end of episode four, and that's Real Talk. A sketch where a news reporter visits a council estate to speak to the Young Gentlemen Crew, flipping the perception of young people on con cil estates on its head. The sketch really is a brilliant observation of 21st century life, something I know Javone was very keen to achieve with this series. And if wanting to look good as a woman was something Javone wanted to achieve, he might have just achieved that too... but you didn’t hear that from me!
Towards the end of each episode we are treated to a musical performance from the likes of Mica Paris, Alexander O’Neil and Carleen Anderson. But the music doesn’t stop there... I guarantee that by the end of each episode you’ll have Candy by Cameo in your head as Javone gets everyone up to do the Candy dance!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Javone Prince Show, and having now watched all four episodes it’s a shame the series is so short, as by the end of the third episode the series really gets going, and in my opinion really finds its feet.
So I urge everyone over the next four weeks to watch the show, and prove that the sketch show may not be dead after all and of course ensure that The Javone Prince Show is given a second run. I was lucky enough to interview Javone a couple of years ago for PhoneShop and said hello to him at the press screening for The Javone Prince Show, and he really is one of the nicest up and coming guys in comedy and I wish him every success for the future.