ICYMI: Christopher Macarthur-Boyd on Fleabag
Long live Fleabag creator and star Phoebe-Waller Bridge. May her knowing glances and wicked wit forever grace our screens 'cos she’s really good at it.
One of my favourite things about Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag is the butt-rock theme music that plays over the closing credits. Composed by her sister Isobel, it’s a 46-second slice of downtuned nu-metal testosterone riffage choc-a-bloc with palm-mutes and pinch harmonics. It’s like the intro to a mid-album filler track by some dreadful band like Static-X or Mudvayne – entirely devoid of wit or nuance. Every time it kicks up at the end of an episode I howl, because it couldn’t be any more unlike the 25 minutes of comedy genius that invariably precedes it.
With the last episode just having been and gone, it looks like the entirety of Fleabag is fleetingly just going to be two series of six episodes each: two and done, like Joy Division, except limited by creative intent instead of tragic suicide.
If you haven’t seen the show, it charts a course navigating through a handful of nervous breakdowns by the sex-addict owner of a guinea pig-themed cafe played by Waller-Bridge. There’s loads of jokes about farts and nipples and grief and haircuts and cum and fannies and arses and dicks. It’s very very funny.
A lot of the tragic hook-ups, featuring characters who are referred to in the credits by such names as Hot Misogynist and Arsehole Guy, bring to mind the very best bits of Girls by Lena Dunham. There’s great use of breaking-the-fourth-wall where the main character talks directly to the viewer. So much so, that if there was a Standard Grade exam in Television, I think a good question would be, 'To what extent is Fleabag influenced by Malcolm In The Middle? (20 marks).'
I actually read an interview with Waller-Bridge from Bustle a few years ago where she spoke about how influenced Fleabag was by Louie, the avant-garde sitcom by Louis C.K. (the article was published a few months before the sexual misconduct allegations officially came to light). I was a really big fan of that show, and I like Fleabag for the same reasons: they share a slightly heightened reality that allows exploration of the worst of human behaviour while staying grounded enough for the emotional beats to land.
But in light of the #MeToo revelations, I find it difficult to rewatch Louie. For the same reasons I struggle to enjoy his old stand-up specials like Chewed Up and Hilarious – the same ones that inspired me to try stand-up in the first place.
Sitting on the floor of my flat watching the last scene of the series finale of Fleabag with a smile on my face and tears welling in my eyes, I realised that the recently disgraced comic heroes of my teens have already been replaced by a new wave of kind-hearted, dirty and hilarious comedians.
Christopher Macarthur-Boyd can be seen at The Stand Comedy Club, Glasgow 16-18 May, and is currently one of the stars of Up For It on BBC Scotland, which is available on BBC iPlayer