Review: My Sexual Abuse: The Sitcom, Channel 4

Review: My Sexual Abuse: The Sitcom, Channel 4

Is humour healing? Can it help you deal with the darkest of events? That's what comedy writer/performer Mark O'Sullivan explores in his powerful Channel 4 documentary My Sexual Abuse: The Sitcom. When he was 12 years old O'Sullivan, now best known as the co-creator of blokey comedy Lee and Dean, was sexually abused by his 'uncle' Steve.

It was only many years later that he addressed the elephant in the room, prompting a trial. In this compelling documentary he addresses it again and looks at it through the prism of comedy. Has finding the funny side of life been a way of coping? Is it the best way of processing trauma?

O'Sullivan, and his best mate and frequent collaborator on other projects Miles Chapman, certainly think so as they banter away about it here. Creating laughter is certainly a way of diffusing the situation for them. Looking it in the face without the pain of looking it in the face.

And maybe that is effectively what O'Sullivan has been doing all of his life. And here he takes his love of comedy to the logical conclusion. In the documentary as well as talking movingly about his experience we also see him creating a broad domestic sitcom about the abuse, which is also available to watch on the C4 website.

The sitcom is intentionally very much in the mainstream Mrs Brown's Boys style, with canned laughter and corny dad humour peppering the script. O'Sullivan plays himself as a 12-year-old (though they could've also used Adam Hills as O'Sullivan is a dead ringer for the Aussie comic), Rufus Jones and Ellie Taylor play his parents, Cariad plays the girlfriend of Steve and also the prosecution in the brief court scenes.

And Steve, played by Sam Underwood, is portrayed as a giant teddy bear, who gets under the duvet cover with O'Sullivan during an overnight stay and "diddles" him. The moment when the abuse happens - though not shown explicitly – is chilling, the gear change breathtaking. Even though you don't see anything specific you still flinch and want to turn away from the screen.

O'Sullivan has done womething really memorable here, breaking down a taboo using humour. At the time and for many years after the experience he didn't speak about it (and when he did some didn't believe him), but he became quiet and withdrawn, and not because he was a sulky teenager. The abuse cast a shadow over his entire life. Perhaps he wanted to make himself laugh to stop himself from crying.

Watch My Sexual Abuse: The Sitcom and the actual sitcom on C4 catch up.

Pictured: Mark O'Sullivan and Cariad Lloyd

Picture: Channel 4/Jack Barnes


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