Jam

What is it?

Jam (2000) is Chris Morris’ dark comedy sketch show starring Amelia Bullmore, Julia Davis, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, and David Cann. It ran one season, totaling six half-hour episodes. It is based on the three-season radio show Blue Jam, which contained many of the same sketches.

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Where can I see it?

It’s on DVD (region 2/PAL), which contain some really crazy special features (and a few legit ones). There are also some illegal uploads of Jam and the re-edited Jaaaam on YouTube.

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Tell me more.

It used to be that I heard the word “jam” and sing-songedly thought, “Jam jam jam,” and remembered Dylan Moran tossing a piece of toast onto the ceiling in Black Books. But now when I hear “jam,” I think “When you wake up wondering where you are only to find that the rest of you is wondering where you’ve gone…welcome in Jaaaam,” and remember Mark Heap’s head on a table horrified as he discovers there’s nothing below his chin but a wriggling spinal column. Jam has changed jam forever.

Jam is what they call a pitch black comedy, the darkest that dark comedy can get with subjects like miscarriages, rape, child abuse, and mental illness. If it were a straight up comedy sketch show, laughing at these subjects would be appalling, but the show is shot as a horror sketch show and so takes its subjects very seriously. Not for the faint of heart!

The actors all play diverse characters, a real nice showcase of their many talents. You’ve seen them all in other programs before. Many sketches are in documentary form, such as reportage of The Gush, a condition that causes men to ejaculate until they die. There are a few running sketches, such as a doctor (Cann) who does inappropriate things like pull down his trousers or talks dirty on the phone while seeing a patient  but always with excuses that are just acceptable enough for the patients to stay thinking maybe there’s a good reason for this. There’s also a reoccurring sketch where Mr. Ventham (Heap) visits his therapist every time the most minor thing happens, like if he misplaces his keys. Essentially, every sketch has the faint echo of a thought or feeling that you’ve had at some point, which makes it more terrifying when things go awry for the characters. Think your electronics seller is giving you the run around? You’ll sympathize with the couple who bought a TV from Mr. Lizard. Feel like the guy selling you the house is playing games with you so that he can get more out of you? You’ll sympathize with the couple who offered sex to make up for what money they didn’t have to close the deal on the house. Ever so desperate the logic circuits in your head convince you that maybe doctors aren’t the only ones who know how the body works? You’ll sympathize with the woman who called a plumber to fix her dead baby.

I’m not a huge fan of sketch comedy, but this is different. This is like if someone took The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Strange Frequency, that thing Robert Englund did in a diner, Stephen King movies, and the Twilight Zone and stretched it to the fringes of good taste. Everything is just about plausible in the world of wicked people and feeble rationale, and that makes it all the more disturbing. If you like scary movies, this is a definite recommend.

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