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Philomena Kank is weird enough to take on the world

Philomena Kank interviews Oxford University professor Martin Kemp about the Renaissance for a BBC program investigating human history.

“Which was culturally more important, the Renaissance or Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’?” she asks scholars earnestly.

Kemp pauses before answering patiently. The Renaissance sought to reform entire cultures, he says.

Cunk is puzzled and responds:

Played by actress Diane Morgan, the fictional Kunk is confident, brash, and mostly wrong. Too ordinary and too strange to be screened in a real documentary, Kank has spent the past decade doing satirical shows for the BBC and segments on lofty topics such as Britain, time and Shakespeare.

Morgan said in a recent video interview, “I love the idea that she’s not from any time or place. Charlie Brookercreated a character.

In the five-part mockumentary “Cunk on Earth,” currently streaming on Netflix, Cunk tackles the daunting task of investigating an entire human civilization. (In the UK, the series aired on the BBC last year.)

The show has all the hallmarks of a BBC lofty documentary, with sweeping drone shots of the host standing in expansive landscapes and dramatic reenactments. Morgan, 47, keeps her smile and plays her Cunk completely straight.

“We tend not to say this is a comedy very often,” said Brooker, the show’s executive producer. “If you watch this with the sound off, you’re like, ‘This is like a real show.'”

But Cunk’s observations ranged from the silly (“Was there a development as important as rap metal or the invention of writing something like a flash of a pot?”) to the surprisingly insightful (Jesus is “Are you the first celebrity victim of cancellation culture?”). Her factual memory is also questionable. She refers to Christopher Columbus as “Italian sailor and detective” Christopher Colombo. In her interviews, her questions often baffle or upset real-life scholars.

Morgan “was able to say incredibly silly things with a completely straight face without being afraid to leave a very awkward pause,” Brooker said. ”

“Cunk on Earth” fits perfectly into Brooker’s satirical work. This is partly defined by a commitment to bits. “First episode of”black mirror, an anthology show he produced and wrote, is a thriller that begins with the British Prime Minister being blackmailed into having sex with a pig. Elsewhere, he was the mastermind.”touch of clothis a series in which dramatic actors parody British police procedures.

Cunk was born on the BBC satirical news show Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, which premiered in the UK in 2013. She was originally conceived as an upper-class and ignorant person, but her character’s trajectory changed after Morgan suggested at the audition that she speak in English. She has her own North British accent. She initially had a role as the head of Talking Her, but soon her show had longer segments, leading to spin-offs and even books.Kunk on everythingwas released in 2019.

For Morgan, the character’s appeal has a lot to do with the script and her own dry performance, but Cunk also provides audiences with catharsis. “A lot of people fantasize that they can say whatever they want without worrying about it,” the actress said.

In films like 2020’s, the mockumentary form is often steeped in resonance around real-life issues.Borat Subsequent Motion Picture Films“or”Abbott Elementary School— “Cunk on Earth” feels a little different. For its creators, the show isn’t necessarily trying to make a specific point about politics, academia, or even the documentary format.

“It’s funny to take something that’s supposed to be awe-inspiring, serious and grand, and scribble in the corner of it,” said Brooker. “It’s a childish impulse.”

Still, the script contains poignant expository moments. In assessing human history, Kunk comments on religious hypocrisy, genocide, and whitewashing. Brooker and the scriptwriters also made this latest series of kanks more “post-truth” than previous iterations of the character, he said.

During the math segment, Kunk tells the scholar that he saw a video on YouTube that says the number only goes up to 700. “That’s what scares me in the real world,” Brooker said. “The confidence that people start claiming what they read.”

Still, the show is first and foremost a comedy vehicle. “I just want to make something really interesting,” Morgan said.

“It doesn’t have to mean a lot to me,” she added. “I’m not trying to change the world, I just want people to have fun.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/02/arts/television/cunk-on-earth.html Philomena Kank is weird enough to take on the world

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