A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou: ‘I laughed harder – and for longer – than I can remember’

This Netflix comedy special is a gift for viewers bereft by the loss of Stath Lets Flats. Comedy doesn’t get more punishingly funny or magnificent than this

If, like me, you find yourself in a state of bereavement about the loss of Stath Lets Flats, the news that its creator and star, Jamie Demetriou, had turned his attention to an hour-long Netflix sketch comedy special – entitled A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou – might have prompted some complicated feelings.

On one hand, hooray. Demetriou has spent the last few years developing one of the most unique voices in British comedy. His characters – particularly Stath – show a flair for awkward, marble-mouthed slapstick, while hinting at a deep sense of desperation. Any comedy special he makes is likely to plough the same territory, which has to be a good thing. After all, some Jamie Demetriou is better than none.

On the other hand, there was probably a fair amount of trepidation. There is something about the form (a ragtag bunch of sketches loosely assembled around the concept of life) that hints at a lack of focus, a sense that Demetriou isn’t entirely sure what he wanted to achieve. It’s hard not to think of The Meaning of Life, the last-gasp film where Monty Python tried to grasp at something profound, but eventually just flung a bunch of mismatched skits together.

In truth, both presumptions are somewhat justified. There is no real defining thread to the special, no huge truths to be excavated. Although its framing device – a baby in the womb is taught about the various stages of life – would have you believe that Demetriou is grappling with the big issues, that isn’t the case at all. There’s a sketch about Love Island. There’s a sketch about royal weddings. There is one sketch where Demetriou just walks through the same door over and over again for several minutes. As a concept, the whole thing barely hangs together at all.

Thankfully, that doesn’t matter a jot. Structure aside, A Whole Lifetime is very funny. Punishingly funny, in fact. I laughed harder, and more often, during these 52 minutes than I have at anything for as long as I can remember. The sketch in which Demetriou repeatedly walks through a door, as slight as it sounds, is now definitively the sketch about someone repeatedly walking through a door. It is both beautifully observed and physically astonishing, a masterpiece of clattering limbs and hidden hurt. To watch Demetriou walking through a door again and again is to feel bad for all the other comedians who will ever attempt to make a sketch about someone repeatedly walking through a door, for they will never come close.

Scene from A Whole Life with Jamie Demetriou
Like much of the comedian’s work, the funniest moments in A Whole Life with Jamie Demetriou are often less about what is happening than the background. Photograph: Netflix

In truth, a lot of the characters here share Stath’s core DNA. There’s a teenager too bored and scared to have sex, who is extremely Stathy. A middle-aged man awkwardly trying to profess his love for his disinterested wife, in song, could have appeared in Stath. My favourite sketch of the special involves a best man who is wildly out of his depth, trying to mimic the dumb masculine cruelty of a stag night to his obvious mental detriment. It is tremendous, and plays like a great lost Stath Lets Flats episode.

Like a lot of Demetriou’s work, the funniest moments are less about what is actually happening, and more about the overstuffed background details. A royal correspondent lunging at children’s ice-creams like a rabid terrier. A gameshow host fixated on abbreviating the word “barrel” as much as possible. The phrase “pesto pasta”. There is so much going on here, the cumulative effect is quite dizzying. It feels like a fully realised world. If Demetriou were to do a full series of this, it would undoubtedly be magnificent.

But that’s the question. What is Demetriou going to do after this? The man is a major talent, with a necessary voice, and at this point he can pretty much write his own future. If A Whole Life feels like a stepping stone to something bigger, then we’ll all be very lucky to see what that is.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
I Think You Should Leave: the TV show so good it beats the Succession finale hands down
This impossibly hilarious Netflix sketch show’s third season is incredible. It’s so impossibly funny that the antics of the Roy family are no longer even this week’s best television

Stuart Heritage

30, May, 2023 @4:14 PM

Article image
Jamie Demetriou: ‘Crisps are the sensory soundtrack of childhood’
The actor, 34, on gherkins, slugs and choosing his own bedtime

Michael Hogan

18, Dec, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! review – Jamie Foxx’s first flop?
This lazy Netflix comedy about a cringe-inducing parent who’s not very cringe-inducing at all is a rare misstep for the entertainment polymath

Ellen E Jones

14, Apr, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Hot property: Jamie Demetriou on the rise of Stath Lets Flats
In the first of a series exploring the stage origins of hit comedies, the actor remembers creating the delusional letting agent at Bristol University

Rachael Healy

28, Jan, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘I’m heavily reliant on slapstick’: Jamie Demetriou on imposter syndrome and his surreal childhood
In the Bafta-winning Stath Lets Flats, Jamie Demetriou unleashed a trail of comedy carnage. Here, he talks to Alex Moshakis about body contortions, dealing with ‘feeling thick’ and finding inspiration in the chaotic antics of his Cypriot family

Alex Moshakis

19, Feb, 2023 @8:00 AM

Article image
Jamie Demetriou: ‘When I won the awards, I almost felt sheepish to have good news’
The creator and star of Stath Lets Flats, who scooped three Baftas last year, on the incomparable boost of winning big in Covid times

Kathryn Bromwich

11, Apr, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Would you rent a flat from this guy? Meet Stath, Jamie Demetriou's clueless estate agent
He was Bus Rodent, the creepy love interest in Fleabag. Now Jamie Demetriou has his own sitcom – about a wannabe wideboy in the grotty world of property. Will his ‘asexual innocent’ be a hit?

Rachel Aroesti

24, Jun, 2018 @2:00 PM

Article image
‘Don’t blowtorch my head!’ The Home Alone recreation that nearly fried James Acaster and Guz Khan
Swinging paintcans, electrified sinks, a drop from a zipwire … in The Unofficial Science of Home Alone, James Acaster and Guz Khan are fall guys for the Christmas classic’s brutal booby traps

Alexi Duggins

19, Dec, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
Detectorists Christmas Special review – the best thing you will watch all festive period
This special isn’t quite as perfect as the original, but revisiting Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones’s precious sitcom is pure pleasure. It beats all other yuletide TV hands down

Jack Seale

26, Dec, 2022 @10:15 PM

Article image
Colin from Accounts review – at last, a female character that’s not a stereotype!
This unfailingly funny, perfectly acted Australian sitcom features a lead that’s neither a hot mess nor a manic pixie dream girl. It’s honest, kind and goes from strength to strength

Lucy Mangan

11, Apr, 2023 @9:30 PM