During its 800-year history, Cambridge University has educated lots of Britain’s royals and prime ministers. It can also claim more Nobel Prize–winning affiliates than any other institution in the world. But what of its very serious contribution to laughter? John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Peter Cook, and John Oliver all mastered silliness while in the ridiculously prestigious Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe — as did David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Who?
That Mitchell and Webb Look (Series 2 on BBC America just ended, but YouTube is thick with clips) is the latest, perhaps the funniest, and hands-down the smartest sketch-comedy series to travel west to America in ages.
Like that of Ricky Gervais, Mitchell and Webb’s humor rarely stymies us Yanks. A sketch about football (soccer) fanaticism works over here because it could easily be about football (not soccer) fanaticism. The pair’s crowning achievement, however, is the surreal, hilariously mind-boggling parody of every game ever, “Numberwang” — which could someday earn them, and Cambridge, the Nobel Prize for Physics.
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