Trigger Happy TV
is a hidden camera comedy television
programme. The original British edition of the show, produced by Absolutely Productions
, starred Dom Joly
and ran for two series on Channel 4
from 2000-2001. Joly made a name for himself as the sole star of the show, which he produced and directed with cameraman Sam Cadman
The programme consisted in Joly deliberately entering into ludicrous or embarrassing situations in public places, all of which was filmed surreptitiously by Cadman. Sketches took place in a variety of locations, though most appeared to be filmed on the streets of Central London.
The humour in the programme is derived mainly through observation of the public’s reactions to Joly’s shenanigans. This signalled a departure from the usual hidden camera format, where members of the public are themselves pranked or "stitched-up" by show producers. The comedy is also known for its contrastingly sombre musical soundtrack, which was released commercially.
Following the success of the show in the UK, the format was exported to other European countries and the US.
Memorable and recurring sketches
- A random customer about to enter a grocery store is told by Joly (with several women) that he is the millionth customer and gets anything he can get in his cart in one minute for free. The customer proceeds to speed through the store filling up his cart while Joly and the other actors remove the set and quickly leave.
- As a humorous commentary on rude folks who use cell phones inappropriately, Joly often places himself in a somewhat public location, such as an internet cafe or a restaurant. A Nokia ring tone sounds and Joly will stand up holding a comically enormous cell phone and scream "HELLO?!" into it. He will then proceed to slowly exit as he yells conversational dialog about what he is doing.
- Joly is seen dressed in a Halloween burglar costume standing outside of a house. He asks passersby to borrow a ladder. On one instance he asks a man to hold the ladder for him while he climbs down, but once on the ground runs away screaming, "We burgled the house! Me and him just burgled the house!" — leaving the man holding the ladder.
- Joly, dressed in a porkpie hat and white jumpsuit, walks up to a couple sitting on a bench in a park. He proceeds to do a terrible Morris dance. He then stops and calmly places his hand out as if asking for change.
- Joly is seen in a laundrette with boxer shorts and an undershirt on, and wearing a hockey mask on his face, a la Jason Voorhees. He stuffs a bloody jumpsuit into the washer.
- Outside an incongruous location (such as a pornography shop or public toilet) a crowd has gathered, complete with horn players and a television crew. When a customer leaves the shop fanfare erupts and an interviewer tells the person they are the millionth customer.
- Joly stands in front of an enormous picture of himself plastered against a wall that says "Do not trust this man!", but still manages to get passersby to talk to him and do things for him. In one memorable sketch, somebody actually comes up to him and asks him for directions.
- People sit down to have Joly, dressed as a French artist, paint their portrait. Rather than actually painting the portrait, Joly paints a comical phrase or picture on the canvas and walks away, leaving the customer sitting in the pose with a funny message in front of them.
- Persons are stopped at random on the street and asked to take a blindfolded taste test of a new cola. Once the person is blindfolded and given a cola in each hand, the interviewer and crew silently walk away leaving the person standing there. Sometimes a noticeably different crew replaces the original one.
- Joly lands an interview with a British celebrity, but while talking to them is gradually distracted by an enemy, stomps off in anger, chases after an ardent fan who has just kissed him, is kidnapped right in front of the interviewee by a van of hoodlums, or has some other kind of mishap.
- Joly pretends to be a punk (complete with piercings and mohawk; see punk fashion) and asks people in the park directions to classical music concerts or upmarket restaurants. He tends to quote poetry, speak with a Received Pronunciation accent, and turn around, showing his jacket, which says "FUCK OFF"
- Joly, disguised in trench coat, dark glasses and hat plays the role of a KGB spy. In some situations he approaches someone on a park bench and attempts to hand them his suitcase using code words such as "grey squirrel" and "red fox" to the bewilderment of the member of the public. The most elaborate set up involved an unsuspecting phone-box user becoming the centrepiece of a bizarre money exchange laced with secret codes involving a "nun" and a "doctor".
- Joly, dressed as a Swiss tourist, holding a Phrasebook, asks a person a distorted request, such as "Where may I go to empty my bottom?" (go to the toilet). Some people laugh; others genuinely try and help him.
- Various sketches involving actors in animal costumes copulating, urinating, or violently assaulting others, in the presence of ordinary people. The actors in animal costumes are some of the more famous of the sketches. Other examples are the "___-a-gram" services, wherein Joly delivers an actor in costume to an inocuous business location (often a laundromat) and the actor proceeds to stand in the corner, looking completely forlorn and sighing often after Joly leaves.
- Assuming the role of a park-keeper, Joly attempts to vilify elderly park goers, accusing them of behaving like young hooligans. Each sketch starts with the park-keeper saying that he had been "tipped off" and that someone "matching your description" was acting improperly (setting off fireworks, doing graffiti, joyriding, etc) When the elderly victim pleads innocence, the park-keeper relentlessly continues his interrogation.
- Joly, dressed as a traffic warden, accuses motorists stopped in traffic or at traffic lights being illegally parked much to their amazement. This over-zealous jobsworth repeats his mantra, "not on my patch, never" even to a street cleaner and forces him to move his wheelbarrow of equipment away from the double-yellow lines. Joly also stops buses at bus stops, and presents them with parking tickets.
- Joly or other actors wearing "fat suits" and trying to fit into tight places, such as a telephone booth or narrow alleyway. One memorable example included Joly and another actor in fat suits holding up an entire escalator full of people.
As well as being shown on UK's Channel 4
, it also caught on in America
. Subsequently, a series was produced in America in 2003. It starred additional American actors, presumably so the characters would be more believable to the American onlookers. Dom Joly predominantly made appearances as foreign characters. It was broadcast on the American television station Comedy Central
, as well as free, standalone episodes available on Comcast
Cable's ON Demand service.
In Austria, a similar programme called Echt fett
runs on ORF 1
. Until 2004, another similar, more vulgar show called Unkürrekt
was shown on ATV
Belgian TV Channel KANAALTWEE
also launched a set of Trigger Happy
videos. Some include remakes of the British version, but also a number of unique situations have been caught on tape. After some copyright problems with a German production company called Trigger Happy Productions
, the name of the show was changed into "Tragger Hippy" for the second season. This change of name has become a gimmick, so the producers decided to change the name of the third season, that started on March 17nd 2008, into Hagger Trippy
German TV Channel Pro Sieben
adapted the format and called it "Comedy Street". Simon Gosejohann stars in all six episodes as the main character supported by numerous relatively unknown actors.
Dutch TV broadcaster BNN
also adapted the format and called it "Tequila". The show started in November 2006.