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Big Boys Review – So Funny I Almost Choked

It is 2014, and “the gayest summer in British history”. The first legal gay marriages are taking place. Conchita Wurst has won Eurovision. But for Jack, the hero of Big Boys, one very particular cherry is about to be dropped on top of this towering rainbow cake: Alison Hammond has signed up to do Strictly Come Dancing.

New British comedies are so rarely afforded the time or space to find their feet these days, but every now and then a sitcom comes along fully formed and feels like a dead cert from the off. The first series of Big Boys was one of the unicorns, landing with its own voice, its own style and, crucially, a huge amount of warmth and pathos that set it apart as something special.

Writer Jack Rooke’s loosely autobiographical show tells the story of “mummy’s boy” Jack (Derry Girls’ Dylan Llewellyn) becoming the first in his working-class family to go to university. When he arrives at Brent uni, he comes out, moves into a big blue shed, and becomes best friends with Danny (Jon Pointing, who, with roles in Murder Is Easy and Smothered, has had a very busy Christmas). The gay-straight alliance is mined for humour, but their utterly lovely relationship is the true heart of the show, as they help each other through various personal crises.

There is a wider focus on the friendship group for series two. This year, they want to live with Corinne (Boiling Point’s Izuka Hoyle), who Jack likens to the viral Scottish mum who calls her Cher Lloyd-loving kids “disgustin”, and Yemi, “student fashion icon and gay best friend”, both of whom feel more developed this time around. In a later episode, we discover how Yemi makes his rent money, and it really hands Olisa Odele the spotlight. After Jack and Danny spend the summer at Jack’s mum’s house, the stress of finding a student house to rent in 2014 is enough to drive a mini-wedge between them (they would hate 2024), and the hunt makes Stath Lets Flats’ properties look like Selling Sunset.

But this is a comedy, after all, and the old gang get back together in the end without too much fuss. Cannily, there’s more of Jack’s family too, at least in the first episode, before term starts up. Cousin Shannon (Harriet Webb) is pushed to the front, brilliantly, as she receives potentially life-changing news. I only hope it doesn’t jeopardise the future of her party-planning business – named so well, in such a casually thrown-away line, that I almost choked on my tea.

You can tell Rooke and Pointing are from the comedy world. The show prioritises gags and has me laughing out loud from the off. Humour is subjective and obviously not everyone will have the same reaction, but getting stuck into Big Boys again reminds me how rarely I do actually laugh out loud when watching comedy. It descends into slapstick – you could say slaps-dick, after one particular scene in the pub loo – and it gets more raucous as it goes along. Never has a mother’s offer of a kiss been so rightly rejected.

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But it has its darker moments too. A brief flashback to Danny’s childhood, which goes some way to explaining his present-day troubles, is almost unbearably sad; it takes a deft hand to drop an interlude as gut-wrenching as that into the middle of gags about Jeremy Clarkson books and sweet chilli sauce, yet somehow that makes it all the more touching. Grief, too, is handled perfectly. Jack and his mum commemorate his “dead dad’s 60th” with a trip to the pub, a finger buffet and a mobile DJ with ulterior motives called Keith.

It’s nowhere near soppy enough to say it explicitly, but it’s all about, and driven by, love. Danny and Corinne set up a will-they won’t-they for this season very nicely, while Jack and his mum (and his nan, via a cocktail) are the picture of unconditional love. But it’s Jack and Danny at the core. They are different kinds of men; in the voiceover, addressed to him as always, Jack describes Danny as the sort of man who “bought yourself Lynx Africa boxsets”, while Jack is moved to fury by the idea that he might miss out on voting for Alison Hammond on Strictly by watching the repeat. Yet they adore each other, and learn from each other, and work out how to exist, together. To highlight just how gorgeous and poignant Big Boys is almost feels like a disservice to the comedy. There are plenty of knob jokes too. But it is a beautiful blend, and it deserves all the success it has had.

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