Life’s Too Short - The Complete First Season

by Louise Adams
Monday Jan 21, 2013
Life’s Too Short - The Complete First Season

The funniest sketch ever performed about bad improvisation is in the DVD set "Life's Too Short." Co-executive producer/writer/stars Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created this 7-episode vehicle for dwarf actor Warwick Davis, who plays a skewed version of himself: a has-been Hollywood, now London-based, actor and little person talent agent in the middle of a divorce trying to square a quarter-million pound tax bill.

Each episode features cameos by A-listers taking the piss out of their images, from Johnny Depp's revenge on Gervais for his real-life evisceration of the popular pirate when he hosted the Golden Globe Awards, to Sting's insufferable philanthropy and love of the lute. Other notable star turns include Cat Deeley as a rent-a-celeb, Helena Bonham Carter as a costume drama diva, one-hit wonders Right Said Fred ("I'm Too Sexy") as themselves, and Liam Neeson's stern desire to work on his comedy chops.

With dauntless deadpan, Neeson riffs with Gervais in a hipster office, breaking every improv rule in the book, from joking about being riddled with full-blown AIDS to asking too many questions and denying his partner's reality. When Gervais play-enters Neeson's grocery store, the bell goes "Tring," and the "Schindler's List" actor says "We're closed," an improv Kryptonite denial that ends the scene posthaste. I've watched that scene with my improv group dozens of times and every time we laugh until we weep. It's a brilliant cautionary tale.

Some of the documentary-style episodes are well-timed while others drag on. The DVD extras include ten behind-the scenes clips, deleted scenes, outtakes, and "The Making of 'Life's Too Short,'" where Merchant appreciates that viewers are "constant witnesses to every humiliation."

I am grateful to this series for giving me a shorthand expression for a terrible performer or performance. All I have to say is "Tring."

"Life's Too Short"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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