A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou review: Not as brilliantly silly as Stath
Jamie Demetriou is so hot right now. From Stath Lets Flats to his scene-stealing cameo in Fleabag, the British-Cypriot comic’s fantastically strange style of comedy has not only won him Baftas, but also caught Hollywood’s eye: he starred in Apple TV Plus’s The Afterparty and is appearing Greta Gerwig’s forthcoming Barbie movie. Before Barbie, though: Demetriou’s biggest project yet, his Netflix musical comedy special A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou. The comic material is decidedly British, with a Netflix sheen: silly, but lacking the sharpness of Stath or his live sketch characters. It’s that attempt to straddle both worlds that leaves Demetriou’s comedy feeling surprisingly watered down.
In the opening scene, an adult Demetriou lies curled up in a ball, in utero. His life flashes before him in sketch form, the comic playing a lolloping child in a tight primary school uniform, an emotionally volatile best man organising a stag do, even a pensioner on his deathbed. It’s a great showcase for Demetriou’s comic range, his ability to transform with every role – sometimes to the point where, thanks to the excellent hair and make-up team, you don’t even clock it’s him.
Its cultural references, and at times its tone, might be very British, but you can see the US comedy influence in A Whole Lifetime. Some sketches hint at Andy Samberg’s musical sketch group The Lonely Island (a teenage Demetriou and his girlfriend, played by Ellie White, sing a duet as they try and have sex for the first time); others wouldn’t be amiss in Tim Robinson’s wacky Netflix sketch show I Think You Should Leave (Demetriou is an anxious dad who keeps trying to strangle other parents). The latter sketch is a clear highlight in the show, Phoebe Walsh deftly holding her own as she implores her husband: “Please Geoff. If you strangle people, you could really kill them.”
There’s a lot of singing in the special, usually from Demetriou in the Nineties-style R&B whine he does so well. Otherwise, the sketches lack a tonal throughline. There are nuggets of comedy gold, but the scenes are overly long – in particular the later-in-life sketches – and the really good, really bizarre stuff gets lost.
Despite the inconsistent material, the performances, coming from a real who’s who of the British comedy circuit, are faultless. Kiss Villa, a sketch about a Love Island-esque reality TV show where only one boy and one girl are attractive, is a hilarious ensemble piece, with a strong turn from Big Boys favourite Jon Pointing as the cheeky chappy host, while White, Sebastian Cardinal, Mark Silcox, Sian Clifford and Shivani Thussu are genius as the non-hot contestants.
This may not be Demetriou at his silliest, but, in some ways, I can understand why. There are people who think Stath Lets Flats is the best comedy of the last decade (me) and some who just don’t find it funny (my parents). Purists might feel that the Netflixisation of Demetriou’s comedy has slightly dampened his shine, but anything that brings his work to more people is a good thing.