The Sketch Show

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The Sketch Show
StarringLee Mack
Tim Vine
Jim Tavaré
Karen Taylor
Ronni Ancona (Series 1)
Kitty Flanagan (Series 2)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Running time23 minutes
Original networkITV
Original release10 September 2001 (2001-09-10) –
24 April 2004 (2004-04-24)
Related showsNot Going Out

The Sketch Show is a British television sketch comedy programme, featuring many leading British comedians. It aired on ITV between 2001 and 2004. The show was first commissioned in 2001 and was co-produced by a company owned by Steve Coogan.[1] Despite the first series winning a BAFTA for Best Comedy, the second series was cancelled due to poor viewing figures. Lee Mack states in his autobiography Mack The Life that the final two episodes have never been broadcast.

A spinoff of the same title was produced in the United States. Similarly to the UK version, the final two episodes were never broadcast.

The show started at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1999, and starred Mack, Catherine Tate and Dan Antopolski.[2] Mack later expressed regret at not including them in the TV show, stating: "I'm not a great believer in regret, but looking back over the last eighteen years of me doing this job, not keeping our sketch show Bits together and jumping at the first offer to put a version of it on telly is probably the biggest mistake I've made."[3]


The original line-up of the cast was Lee Mack, Jim Tavare, Tim Vine, Karen Taylor and Ronni Ancona.

For the second series, Kitty Flanagan replaced Ancona, who left to concentrate on BBC One's Alistair McGowan's Big Impression (which was shortened to simply Big Impression to reflect Ancona playing as many parts as McGowan himself). Again, sketches featured performers using their own names.

With the exception of some child actors in certain sketches, there were no guest stars at any point during the programme.


All of the cast contributed to the writing of the show; however, Lee Mack is credited as the lead writer. Other comedic writers/actors, such as Jimmy Carr, Ricky Gervais, Matthew Hardy, Stephen Colledge and Daniel Maier were also responsible for the show's humour, though as mentioned earlier, were not featured in the show.


A DVD of the first season was released by Visual Entertainment in Australia on 12 September 2005. It is a region-free DVD and the only extra on the disc is a short photo gallery. All 8 episodes on the single-disc release are combined into a 3-hour feature. The opening and closing credits have been removed for all episodes, and a number of sketches have been edited out to fit the series onto a single disc.

Notable sketches[edit]

Episodes feature short fast-paced sketches and traditionally ended with a sketch featuring the entire cast, and many of these have become famous among fans of the show. Some examples include:

  • The Jockey Sketch - in which Mack plays a winning Irish jockey who speaks too fast for Ancona (a reporter) to understand. A YouTube link to the sketch is included in Mack's autobiography and he cites the sketch as one of his favourites to have written and performed.
  • The Surfer Sketch - in which Mack is instructing the rest of the cast in surf safety (in a very broad Australian accent), a conversation which moves into a discussion of circus theatre. The sketch also features Mack's question of "Whaddaya do if a shark attacks ya?", to which Tavare holds up an arm with no hand and responds, "I know what not to do, ey?"
  • California Dreamin' - in which Ancona is attempting to record a cover of the Mamas & the Papas' song of the same name, featuring the rest of the cast on backing vocals. The backing vocalists consistently sing the wrong lyrics (or with the wrong emphasis on the words), which eventually results in Ancona storming from the room. As a result of this sketch, many fans of the show deliberately sing along with the original song incorrectly. This sketch was repeated on the American versions of the show with Kelsey Grammer.
  • The Phobias Sketch - All five actors are in a phobias workshop, phobias include a fear of the word "Aagh!", a fear of apologies, a fear of repetition, and awkward silences. Vine enters, with a problem where he barks at other people's phobias. The different phobias cause long chains of screaming (Such as apologies, Aagh, Repetition, Barking). For example: The one with the phobia of awkward silence will scream, the man next to her has a phobia of the word "Aagh!" so he screams, since two "Aaghs!" has been screamed (thus a repetition), so the one with the phobia of repetition screams, the one with the problem of barking at other peoples phobia barks next to the ear of the person with the phobia of apologies, scaring him and then he says sorry which makes him scream, and the chain continues.
  • The Imaginary Friend Sketch - Ronni, as a therapist, counsels three of the other cast members, each of whom have an imaginary friend: one claims that he was looking for Alcoholic's Anonymous for his friend, one claims to have a boyfriend with the same name as her (presumably real) ex-boyfriend, and one who claims to be the imaginary friend of someone else. By the end of the sketch, it is revealed that the entire room which Ronni believes to be filled with her "patients" is actually empty – she is the one with the hallucinations of imaginary friends.
  • The English Course Sketch - in which the cast is taking an English course and each one has a particular problem with an aspect of the language, which comes out in their cafeteria conversation. Tavare has a problem with his grammar ("I sometimes have trouble with grammar, isn't it?"), Mack can't spell ("I can't spill to save me loaf, have to rely on the spillchock on me compluter"), Vine can't put emphasis on words correctly ("I have problems with my emPHARsis at different parts of my senTENces") - which causes him problems as a "speech theRAHpist", Taylor places exclamation marks randomly at the end of sentences and shouts the final word ("Sorry, I sometimes put an exclamation mark at the end by MISTAKE!") and Ancona has a very small vocabulary ("It's alright for you lot, I've got a very small vocabulary").
  • The Therapist - Karen plays a therapist in three sketches who after the victim tells her what happens she replies saying, "Ooooooooh I'm crying, my mum left me and I'm stuck on the moon boooo-hoooooooo" in which she makes fun of them. This sketch made a reappearance as a recurring gag in Touch Me, I'm Karen Taylor.
  • The Scrabble Sketch - This sketch revolves around the often tried method of cheating in Scrabble by claiming to the other player(s) that your seemingly useless collection of letters forms a real word and they are simply unaware of its existence. Mack and Vine are playing Scrabble and Mack begins a conversation by announcing that he went on a date the previous night. When asked by Vine how the date went, Mack replies "Nice girl, bit quazoosl". He then goes on to explain "you know, quazoosl - when someone is so good looking they become intimidating". He then gives an example stating that Liz Hurley would qualify as quazoosl. When the conversation finishes Mack asks whose turn it is and when Vine tells him it is his, he knowingly replies "Is it really?" and unsurprisingly all his letters spell "quazoosl". Later in the same show, Mack asks Vine if he fancies a glass of "saxisquith", to which Vine replies "Don't even think about it..."
  • The Sign Language Sketch - Ronni is presenting a feature about the opening of a new building, standing in front of the camera with Lee to her right performing sign language. Lee's unusual and over-expressive actions infuriate Ronni and she regularly has to stop her speech to question what he is doing. Actions include flapping his arms like a chicken to indicate 50% (100% would be flapping his legs as well, and 25% is just a pecking motion) and hitting Ronni in the face with his arm as she says "far left of centre" in her speech. Ronni finally stumps him by using the words "25% off half a chicken."
  • The Gangster Sketch - Mack works in a warehouse when Vine rushes in and holds him at gunpoint, while Tavaré is asking for information about a "broad" Mack is seeing but the way they talk; "now I don't bother to take no bullshit so you're gonna give it to me straight, you've been hanging with some broad who's been shootin' her mouth, and me and my homie wan's a name and if you so much as think about jivin' with my butt, you're gonna wind up a sorry mother with a wasted ass"; makes it difficult for Mack to understand what they are saying therefore he can't answer their questions properly, eventually ending with them pulling guns on him saying "you better think long and hard about what you say next or else you ass is going down so what do ya say?" with Mack just responding with "Cherish the love we have...."
  • Card Salesman Sketch - Mack tries to sell stupidly specific cards to a shopkeeper, but she refuses. Mack ends up sending one of his cards to her.
  • The Urinal Sketch, featuring the three male cast members, is the most notable sketch on online video websites. However, it was uploaded by online users instead of ITV.
  • 'The Astronaut' - Various short sketches featuring a figure in a space suit landing on a new world and encountering various mishaps, such as locking themselves out of the luna module, bringing the flag of Imperial Japanese Army instead of the United States flag, and a female astronaut trying to descend the ladder in high healed shoes.

International versions[edit]

United States[edit]

An American version of the show, produced by Kelsey Grammer, aired in early 2005 on Fox. The main cast consisted of Malcolm Barrett, Kaitlin Olson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Paul F. Tompkins, as well as Lee Mack from the British version of the show. Grammer only appeared in short opening and closing segments in each episode.

Many of the sketches from the British version were recreated, such as the California Dreamin', English Course and the Sign Language sketch.

A notable sketch from this version had Grammer waking up from a nightmare, which he describes as: "I dreamt that Frasier was over, and I was on this Sketch Show!" The sketch is a spoof of the Newhart series finale.

The series was filmed in London, England at Teddington Studios, with a British audience.

Only six episodes of the show were made, and it was cancelled after only four of them had been shown, but all six were aired.[citation needed]

It was replaced by American Dad! on 6 February 2005.


A Quebec version ran between 2004 and 2006 on the channel TVA. Most sketches in this version are translations or adaptations of British and Australian sketches with little original material. The main cast consisted of Emmanuel Bilodeau, Réal Bossé, Édith Cochrane, Catherine De Sève and Sylvain Marcel.


A German version called Die Sketch Show has been on the air since 2003. It was produced by Brainpool for the TV channel ProSieben. Mack states in his autobiography that the show also utilised sketches that were written by the UK team but never recorded.


A sketch show called Skertsakia (Greek: Σκερτσάκια, a play on Sketch and Scherzo) was broadcast during the 2006-2007 season, incorporated scripts from both seasons of the Sketch Show along with sketches from the Spanish comedy show Splunge! It was wildly popular with young demographics and produced 30 episodes and a Christmas special. It was produced by TFG Lt. for ANT1.


An Israeli version called Ktsarim (Hebrew: קצרים‎, literally shorts) aired from 2004 to 2009. One of the episodes featured a sketch heavily inspired by the California Dreamin' sketch, with the song "HaTishma Koli".


An Indonesian version called Sketsa aired from 2008 to 2015 on Trans TV. Most sketches in this version are translations or adaptations of British sketches with little original material. The humour style remains faithful to the original. They only change the names and locations to Indonesian version.


An Italian version called Sketch Show has been on air since October 2010. The cast was principally made of Ale e Franz, two Italian famous comic actors. There were other actors and also live sketches, sometimes with famous guests.


  1. ^ Deans, Jason (8 February 2001). "ITV orders comedy sketch show". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Lee Mack and Catherine Tate to star in remake of Everybody Loves Raymond". Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  3. ^ Solutions, Powder Blue Internet Business. "Lee Mack: I shouldn't have ditched my mates : News 2012 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Retrieved 13 August 2016.

External links[edit]