Darkly Surreal UK Comedy Masterpiece "Jam"

Richard Metzger is the current Boing Boing guest blogger

Reclusive British comedy genius Chris Morris came out with his darkly surreal masterpiece of weirdness, "Jam" (based on his "Blue Jam" radio show) in 2000, but sadly because of expensive music rights issues, "Jam" has seldom been seen outside of the UK. This is a shame, because "Jam" is a uniquely...um... well... ah...hmmm... I hesitate to call it "comedy" because it's so odd and disturbing, but if I called it "David Lynchian" comedy, we'd be in the right ball park at least. "Jam" is like a bad --make that very bad-- acid trip played for laughs. Take a look at one of the show opens:

Not exactly "funny ha ha" stuff. In fact, there's nary a traditional "joke" in the entire series. There are six episodes of "Jam" and although I'd classify myself as a huge fan of the show, six episodes of something like this is plenty!! The style would've become a creative dead end. But a great talent like Chris Morris wasn't to repeat himself anyway --his next project, the wonderfully vicious satire of dotcom dickheads, "Nathan Barley" was quite a shift away from the brooding psychopathy of "Jam." I eagerly await his feature comedy debut, rumored to be about Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers.

This is one of my favorite "Jam" moments, "Mister Lizard" featuring the always brilliant actor, Mark Heap --he's in tons of stuff-- as a creepy television repairman.

Here's another great "Jam" clip with another UK comedy auteur, Julia Davis, creator of the "wheelchair Gothic" classic, "Nighty Night" as a particularly stupid woman:


  1. Ah yes Jam. I watched this series early last year. Truly disturbing – some sketches more so than other.
    The most disturbing sketch for me is the woman accusing her partner of cheating on him as she saw him with another woman. The man replies he was just raping her. The woman is relieved, happy, and they make up – just bizarre. Not for the faint hearted.

  2. The guy who jumped from the second floor window thirty(?) times for fear that he might change his mind on the way down from the thirtieth floor is one of my favorites.

    I’ve watched the whole thing maybe twice in the last several years, and although it is a very funny and rewarding experience, it is also somewhat taxing, and the idea of repeat viewings is rather daunting.

  3. We used to watch Jam every night… and listen to Blue Jam (the radio version) before that.

    My favorite was the Princess Diana funeral remix, which never made it to TV (and was allegedly even pulled from the radio…)

    I left the UK before “Ideal” started, but I have you to thank for recommending that one Richard (while you were guestblogging at BB last year). Thanks!

    BTW, how about a big-up for “The Thick of It”, Armando Ianucci’s political satire (soon to be hitting the big screen as “In the Loop”)?

  4. #3 BP yes, in case he changed his mind – then the killer line “Clearly he didn’t.” Great stuff.

  5. Hopefully we will get this soon in Australia. I can see this popping up late at night on ABC2. If it involves people from Nighty-Night it must be bad/good, that was the only show I was ever unable to watch because the humour was too dark for me.

    Can anyone help me identify the guy who had lizards in his TV. I recognize him from somewhere, and it’s driving me bonkers trying to work it out.

  6. Thanks for posting this, I love this style of humor. I ended up ordering the DVD from Amazon (UK).

  7. Brilliant! it’s like they amplified the awkwardness of Little Britain, removed the obvious physical comedy and then traversed dimensions into your dreams.

    I’m trying to place the music in the lizard-television one, I think it’s a regular on one of the SomaFM stations… probably drone zone or something. Perfect for the piece.

  8. (Apologies for shady filesharing site. George Carey, by the way, was the Archbishop of Canterbury.)

  9. I’m a big fan of Jam and Blue Jam, oddly enough a lot of the radio gags work splendidly as visual gags. Personal favourite:
    “That’s your leg.”
    “Yes. Yes it is… It’s much nicer than yours…”

    Not entirely sure if I should share Jam with my wife. Only in the second year of marriage and would like to make the third.

  10. Got turned on to Jam when I went to England for the first time back in 2002. I remember there was the regular version, and then there was the late night stoner version where they put a bunch of unnecessary audio and video effects over the regular broadcast.

    Doc Cock and Bad Sex are my faves.

  11. #7

    That is the excellent Kevin Eldon:

    He is also a part of the fraternity of comedians that was in my fav sketch show of all time: “Big Train”.

    I one day hope to do a big mind map type of chart showing all the links to various shows and actors of that particular comedy scene (you know, Graham Lineham, Simon Pegg, Chris Morris, Amelia Bullmore, etc). I don’t know what it would actually achieve but why should I let that stop me!

  12. Julia Davis is hilarious – Nighty Night is an excellent show.

    I haven’t heard of this, which is a bit of a surprise considering some of the people involved are all involved in at least one show or project I’ve followed intensely.

    Thanks for the introduction, I’m getting it now!

  13. “Thick people are very good at winning arguments, because they’re too thick to realise that they have lost.” The bare essence of politics in one sentence.

  14. The third video disturbs me greatly. It’s very accurate.

    Work retail for even a month and you will see that.

  15. Not sure about ‘rarely seen outside the UK’. You can buy the DVD from Amazon and ship it anywhere you like.

  16. ahhh at last, the rest of the world catches up.
    Jam is excellent, very dark comedy. I have the DVD since it was 1st released eons ago.

    Child murders the baby sitter at point blank with a pistol, doorbell rings.. child opens door to a policeman and screams…. ‘DADDY just shot the babysitter!!!!’

    … who would you believe?

  17. Well worth getting the DVD just for the extras, a continuation of the mind-bendery of the series itself. I love Chris Morris and the entire cast of this show :-)

  18. The best Jam sketches are “The Gash” and the one where the plumber who “fixes” baby.

  19. I helped put on a stage production of Jam sketches in my second year at Uni. You should have seen the baby hooked up to the boiler – it was awesome.

    More awesome was that the guy who plays the doctor actually came along to watch!

  20. #18 It’s probably worth noting that Jaaaaam is actually the “remixed” version of Jam. As such it achieves the seemingly impossible feat of being even more bizarre and difficult to watch than the (frankly brilliant) original. The DVD comes with both versions (or at least it certainly used to).

    Believe it or not I’ve seen some of the doctor sketches used in medical training…

  21. I think the most disturbing Jam sketch I ever saw was of two proud parents, enthusing at length about their little girls sex change operation. They had decided (“recognised”) that she was actually a 40 year old man, trapped in the body of a six year old girl.

    So they have her fitted with a 40 year old man’s penis and testicles. And then proudly show it off to people.

    My favourite by far, from Blue Jam, was the parents whose child is murdered, and they’re so middle-class and apathetic they can barely be bothered to go pick up his body from the morgue:

    “Can’t you just stick him in a cab and send it over here?”

  22. Fans of Jam should hunt down his previous TV satire shows: Brass Eye, The Day Today and its radio predecessor On The Hour (which was recently released on CD by Warp Records). Also, well worth the effort is “Dead Set”, a zombie holocaust TV series based in the Big Brother house from the writer of Nathan Barley (and author of TVGoHome (www.tvgohome.com).

  23. Echoing earlier suggestions, the DVD is well worth buying / importing / whatever you need to do. The alternate versions raise the psychotropic effects of the show to alarming new heights. It’s like something a Burroughs character might stumble across on Interzone TV at 3am.

    I expect the best way to experience Jam would be to know nothing about it and discover it in mid-flow after having fallen asleep in front of the TV and awoken with a groggy and malleable brain, ripe for the washing.

  24. “Also, well worth the effort is “Dead Set”, a zombie holocaust TV series based in the Big Brother house from the writer of Nathan Barley (and author of TVGoHome (www.tvgohome.com).”

    Yeah, Charlie Brooker, who has been posted on BoingBoing a few times in the past, is fucking great.

    I just sent a submission to BB about his new series, Newswipe, but it ain’t been put up.

  25. #30 posted by 13strong

    My favourite sketch too. Fortunately online.

    “Incidentally, did he come home from school today?”

  26. It’s also worth taking a look at the sublime Adam & Joe’s pastiche of Jam, ‘Goitre’ (which won’t make any sense unless you’re familiar with Jam…).

    This featured in their own TV show, but is also included on the Jam DVD boxed set (Amazon UK do ship overseas, you know!) because Chris Morris is cool and clever.

  27. Oh and anyone who’s figured out how to access BBC iPlayer outside the UK would do well to seek out “Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00jhpy6/Stewart_Lees_Comedy_Vehicle_Television/)

    Lee was half of Lee & Herring (whose TV output is still criminally unavailable on DVD), who both write for the Armando Ianucci-produced Chris Morris-starring “On The Hour” radio show, before falling out with fellow writer/actor (and now famous playwright) Patrick Marber…

    His new BBC stand-up show (a very loose description) is stupendous.

  28. I love a lot of BBC output, but this…not so much. I can see how it would be funny to some, but it really doesn’t do it for me. I prefer my comedy more in the IT Crowd/Black Books/Monty Python/Young Ones vein.

    I like my comedy to make me laugh. This stuff isn’t really trying to do that, which is fine, but not for me.

  29. This show is one of the few Chris Morris projects I never really liked. The whole thing just seems like he’s trying way too hard to be edgy and shocking. I got tired of the doctor bits quickly since it was just the same joke over and over.

  30. “paedophilia special” is indeed a work of serious comedy. My i also recommend as said before “Ideal” which seems to go totally unrecognised at times. And the writer of “Dead set” Charlie Booker (who has a charming and bile filed book called “Dawn of the Dumb”) and recently “Screen Wipe” and now “News Wipe” on telly….

  31. “I like my comedy to make me laugh. This stuff isn’t really trying to do that, which is fine, but not for me.”

    It made me laugh.

  32. Blue Jam was awesome, as was the telly Jam stuff linked to above. The Day Today also super (it was there that Brass Eye kinda spun off from, I suppose). I remember stories about a woman speared by frozen piss from an aeroplane…and elephant that got it’s trunk stuck up it’s bum.

    What makes me laugh about Morris is that the folks he was lampooning don’t seem to have realised why. Charlie Brooker showed a clip on Screenwipe of this ridiculous programme Noel Edmonds does on Sky over here in the UK. And you’re like this “wtf, Noel? Don’t you remember the Brass Eye “Cake” debacle!?”

    Kenneth @39, I’m sure that Fist of Fun is linked to from Stewart Lee’s own website. Something make me think that it’s on Google vids. Will check. But yes, Stewart Lee: very funny.

    Been to see him live a couple of times…stupendous. Go see him if you get the chance!

  33. “My favourite by far, from Blue Jam, was the parents whose child is murdered, and they’re so middle-class and apathetic they can barely be bothered to go pick up his body from the morgue”

    The radio version of that sketch (“Unflustered Parents”) is even better. The kind of thing where you laugh uproariously at something, then immediately think “Oh my god, I can’t believe I laughed at that.”

  34. I will say honestly that stuff like this I don’t get.

    Like, some of it’s funny. But a lot of the stuff just left me bewildered and unsettled.

    I mean, was that the point? Is this stuff more a joke played ON the viewer than a joke delivered to the viewer?

    I don’t know, but I’ll give them credit: Shit has been stuck in my head ALL DAY. I’m gonna try to buy it on DVD.

  35. I love Jam. I have the BrassEye Dvd…its splendid. Check BrassEye out if you love Jam…another Chris Morris project.

  36. #10: The background music to the TV Repairman sketch is from “Selected Ambient Works 2” by the Aphex Twin … none of whose tracks have titles, so I can’t tell you the name of it =)

  37. twelfth and thirteenthed. I’d laid off the acid some years before stumbling over Blue Jam on late-night Radio 1, which was just as well.

    As others have linked to virtually everything else I was going to hiply namedrop, all that’s left for me to suggest to anyone who’s never heard of cmorris before, but despite watching the stuff above still wants more, is the comedian’s comedian meeting the other comedian’s comedian. Burbling fluids…

  38. Hey, you BB snots,

    This site used to host all the radio Blue Jam episodes in semi shit quality.


    I can’t see it now, but that may be due to work firewall.

    Google blue jam haddock, and you’ll find more stuff.

  39. I love this ‘Thick People’ sketch.

    One time my car got booted and towed. After recovering from the panic that my car was not stolen, I went down to this Mad Max post apocalyptic DMV wasteland where cars were crushed and stacked like a sea of mini skyscrapers.

    I stood in line for hours. As I was just approaching the front, this small soft spoken Hispanic man in front of me, who barely spoke English, handed in his papers.

    ‘I nee my car.’

    This weathered African American woman, looks at his papers and thrusts them back in his face.

    ‘Sir! Your car has been crushed!’ She says.


    She looks and waits.

    ‘Where iz my car?’

    ‘Its been crushed sir.’

    ‘Yes but where eeez my car?’

    She raises her voice,’Sir you don’t understand. Your car has been Crussshed!’

    ‘I wan my car’

    Now shouting, ‘See this?’

    She points out the window to the flaming stacks of burning metal rice crispy treats.

    ‘This is your car.’

    She takes his papers placing them on the desk. She slaps her hand down, as hard as she can sending a sharp echo everyone looks up.

    ‘Your car! Has been been Crrrrusssssssheed!’

    He looks around Back at me, back at her.

    Sincerely, ‘But where iz my car?’

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