It’s a well-known fact that we Brits like to complain. On average, we are likely to have a moan of some sort or another at least three times a day. Whether it’s about poor service, shoddy merchandise, traffic jams, the weather or just other people, it all provides a rich source of material for new panel show The Complaints Department which is currently airing every Monday night at 9pm on Comedy Central.
The series, which began on Monday 13 September, is hosted by Jason Manford and takes a light-hearted look at some of the funniest moans from the British public in online reviews, local newspapers and TV clips.
Each week, two teams of comedians and some other famous faces, who will battle it out in a series of rounds about the nation’s grumbles and groans. The next episode on Monday 20 September features Sarah Millican, Hal Cruttenden, Suzi Ruffell and Eshaan Akhbar.
When does The Complaints Department air?
The Complaints Department airs on Monday nights at 9pm on Comedy Central.
Here, Jason tells us more about the show, his own experience of complaining, going on tour and his late pal, Sean Lock…
What are your favourite kinds of complaints in the show?
“I like pictures of people pointing at things in local papers. Maybe it’s a pothole or a hair in a pie, but there’s always a picture in a local paper of someone pointing at the thing they’re complaining about. That’s probably one of my favourite very British ways of complaining. I would say that if you’re going to complain about something make sure you get a picture taken of you pointing at it.”
Do you think any of the complaints in the show are valid or are they mostly just ridiculous?
“I sided with a lot of them. Twenty years ago, I would have thought, ‘These people are ridiculous, why are they complaining? Chill out!’ But now I’m in my 40s, there were quite a lot of complaints where I thought, ‘No, I agree with you.’”
One of the rounds in the show looks at some funny and bizarre real-life petitions. If you were to start a petition, what would it be for?
“I’d petition for small cars to have their own spaces in car parks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tricked by a little car hiding behind a big car. Just when you think you’ve found a parking space, a little Cinquecento is hidden by a massive Jaguar!”
You also feature some famous people complaining, don’t you?
“With celebrities, you tend to think ‘What have you go to to complain about?’ What I think I learned from the show is that everything is relative. Your problems are relative to you. We have a clip of Ringo Starr telling his fans that he doesn’t want them to write to him anymore. It’s probably been bothering him for 25 years and he’s finally snapped. I’m slightly biased but I think it’s all right if they want to kick off about something. I think everyone should be able to complain. I think the Queen should be able to have a moan. If the Queen moaned about something I’d be fine with it. She’s been around long enough to be upset about something. I’m sure she’s got a few grumbles, especially after the last few years.”
Have you ever lost it with someone?
“I’m mostly laidback but I did snap at somebody on a plane a few weeks ago. I’ve been checking the papers everyday to make sure it’s not made its way in! My three-year-old son needed to go to the loo and I had to clear up the place first because whoever went in there before us had made a horrible mess. Anyway, I get my son to sit down and it was the worst thing that I have ever seen or smelt come out of a three year old! It was disgusting. There’s a bit of turbulence as I’m trying to wipe his bottom. The stress levels were so high. When I came out, this bloke says ‘Can I get a photo mate?’ Usually, I’d be ‘Of course, no problem!’ But I lost it a bit with him. I said, ‘Mate, I’ve still got poo on my hands!’ I felt so bad that when we were collecting our luggage I found him and had a photo with him.”
Tell us about some of the guest panellists that are appearing on the show…
“We’ve got Sarah Millican on in the second episode. Everyone speaks highly of her. She’s a lovely, softly spoken woman so it’s weird to hear her lose it about something. When someone like Sarah Millican loses it that’s when you know you’ve messed up! It’s such a great subject for comedy because it really levels everybody out. Everyone’s got a complaint. Everyone’s got something they would lose it over or have lost it over. It was really rich pickings for all of us.”
When was the last time you made a complaint?
“Actually, I made one a couple of days ago. We’re having a room turned into a gym and I ordered some weights online in May, but they were taking ages to come. I emailed them the other day and said, ‘Look I’ve been waiting for these dumbbells for three months now and it’s taking the mickey a little bit.’ They told me they had been delivered and signed for by someone called Matthew. They said, ‘Is he a neighbour, maybe?’ So I said to my wife, ‘Do we have any neighbours called Matthew because I ordered these weights back in May and they haven’t come. And now they’re saying they have been signed for by someone called Matthew.’ She said ‘You mean the ones by the back door?’ It turned out that our builder had signed for them and they had been sitting by the back door since they arrived… in May! I must have passed them about 1200 times!”
What sort of complainer are you?
“In a restaurant, I’ll secretly complain to my wife but when the waiter comes over and says ‘Is everything alright?’ I’ll say, ‘It’s fine, thank you.’ Sometimes my wife will want to complain about her meal and I’ll say ’No, let’s just swap. I’ll eat it.’ I’d say I’m a cowardly complainer.”
Have you ever had any complaints made against you?
“There was this guy once who said, ‘The thing that annoys me about Jason Manford is that he wants people to like him.’ I thought, I’m in a catch-22 with him I can’t get him to like me because that’s the thing that annoys him most about me!”
You’re a few weeks into a 178-date tour of your show Like Me. How’s it going?
“It’s full on, but it’s my bread and butter. It’s what I do. I enjoy it and the crowds have been fantastic. They’re so happy to be out of the house, it’s a bit crazy. There are times when they’re really laughing and I think they must be delirious.”
We were sad to hear about the death of your friend and colleague Sean Lock. What made him so brilliant?
“He didn’t care whether you liked him or not. There’s a freedom in not caring whether people like you or not. He knew his audience would find him and people love that and respect that. When you’re not a people pleaser, you actually end up pleasing a lot of people. I don’t think you’ll ever find anyone like Sean again. He was one of a kind.”