It’s always interesting when comedians turn their hand at directing – there’s simply so much expectation and scope for things to go wrong. After all, writing and directing a feature-length script is a whole different ballgame to writing a stand-up comedy gig or a sketch show.
Taking on this challenge is Ben Miller, one half of successful comedy duo Armstrong and Miller, who, seated firmly in the director’s chair, has created Huge with a considerably small budget and tackling the notoriously difficult subject of the aspiring stand-up comedian.
Based on a theatre show of the same name, Huge is about aspiring comedy duo Warren (Johnny Harris) and Clarke (Noel Clarke). Burly Warren has always wanted to be a stand up comedian, in fact he is so blinkered by delusional self-belief, it’s all he talks and thinks about. Warren meets the dorky Clarke, a Greek restaurant waiter who is happy entertaining crying kids with his ventriloquism, when Clarke heckles Warren as he is dying (not literally) on stage at an open mic comedy night. Warren is convinced he has found his comedy partner, tracks him down and convinces a hesitant Clarke to move in with him and become a double act. The random, and badly dressed, duo tackle the comedy clubs struggling to get some stage time, which they seem to spectacularly stuff up every time they do.
Miller delves into the duo’s highs and lows and their budding bromance, Clarke’s crippling self-doubt and Warren’s staggering self-belief. That is until it all come crashing down after they break into the Comedy Awards for a taste of the high life they so desperately crave. Here they bump into the fabulous Thandie Newton, who does a star turn as a coke sniffing American agent. Miller also manages to rope in every British comedian you could possibly imagine (Jack Dee, Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and so on) to fill the VIP bar, which is also a rather inconvenient group of people to be wheeled past when it all goes south.
Harris and Clarke are unusual choices to star in a film about comedians as neither of them are known for their funniness. As expected they aren’t very funny either, but is this the point? Do Clarke and Warren deserve to see their dreams realised or are they simply kidding themselves? It’s not entirely clear. There is one scene at the end of this very short film where Clarke and Harris manage to raise some laughs as Clarke, dressed as a giant chicken, has a row with his former partner about whether to do one more gig together.
It is telling that Huge is a debut effort as it generally lacks in substance and could do with more character development and general action. Harris and Clarke are under used and the ending is extremely predictable and Hollywood-like. While, Miller hasn’t replicated the success of Sacha Baron Cohen or Ricky Gervais – two darlings of Hollywood who have bigger budgets and higher profiles – he does show promise as a comedian who has crossed over to a director.