A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou Delivers Half-Hearted Laughs

Comedy Reviews Jamie Demetriou
A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou Delivers Half-Hearted Laughs

The sketch comedy revival has taken the comedy world—and Netflix in particular—by storm in recent years. Tim Robinson rightfully picked up an Emmy for I Think You Should Leave in 2022 (and you know we just can’t wait for the third season), while under-the-radar gem Would It Kill You to Laugh? gave stars Kate Berlant and John Early room to explore their hilariously uncomfortable sketch ideas. Unfortunately, the most recent addition to Netflix’s sketch comedy roster, A Whole Lifetime with Jamie Demetriou, falls closer to the flatness of The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show than one would like.

A Whole Lifetime brings together disparate sketches by vaguely organizing them around a narrator telling a fetus (Demetriou in a haunting get-up) what their life might be like. It’s not a bad conceit, but it’s one that’s underutilized; by just about 10 minutes in, we’re at adulthood, and we all know how much ridiculousness can be wrung out of childhood and adolescence. Of the brief bit we do get, Demetriou proves funnier in the outright silliness of a kid pranking him on the playground versus an overwrought (and under-delivering) song about “Soft and Dry” attempts at teenage fornication.

Perhaps Demetriou would have been better off with the non-sequitur blast of “Baby Bay” courtesy of John Lewis like in ITYSL, but that still wouldn’t make the limp sketches any funnier. Unfocused can work if bits are consistently hilarious, but most of them don’t fully land here. You just end up with lumps of comedy spaghetti being thrown fruitlessly at the wall. 

One of the special’s weak points is Demetriou’s self-indulgent music, which tends to be sonically and lyrically underdeveloped and, as a result, not all that good. The songs are tacked-on half-thoughts, usually involving some R&B, that’ll have you longing for the more effective works of Bo Burnham or Flight of the Conchords. Good musical comedy requires real commitment, but only a few of the songs in A Whole Lifetime are fully fleshed out (the only real highlight here is Clive’s dying song, which keeps getting unceremoniously interrupted by uncouth medical staff, or the cyclist in the final number). 

That doesn’t mean that all of the sketches are duds, though, or that good elements aren’t extant in the special. Demetriou has some pretty adept social commentary, especially about royal family worship and aspects of the patriarchy. Act Two, Adulthood, starts off with a skit skewering how weirdly punishing and aggressive bachelor parties (or stag dos) are, and Demetriou is great as a blustering best man. The following scene is another highpoint, depicting a broadcaster named Peter Ring (Demetriou) interviewing patriotic crowd members slobbering over the prospect of a royal wedding and lamenting the emptiness of their own lives in comparison. Demetriou’s unphased enthusiasm and a cameo from Katy Wix of UK Ghosts fame sell it all, especially when things spiral out of control at the end of the sketch. In the following skit about parenting, there’s an unabashed goofiness to Demetriou singing in a deep voice “I gotta get ‘em,” as he plays a complacent dad who keeps trying to strangle people, but it’s not enough to make the half-baked writing work. 

Real kudos, though, has to go to one of the final sketches, about an old man named Terry who feels disconnected from his grandkids. Demetriou pops up as a South African tech whiz called Anthony Clance ready to help Terry, and things quickly get weird. Everything, from the idiosyncratic character attributes to the directing choices (at one point it feels like a surreal sci-fi or horror movie) to the acting, is just pitch-perfect here. 

Sadly, the reason this bit stands out so much is because most of A Whole Lifetime disappoints. There are funny one-liners, and Demetriou’s slapstick is charming as ever, but the disparate pieces don’t come together as well as you’d hope. But hey, that’s life.  

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

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