Mastering the Universe must have looked very funny on paper. When I look back at the lines I noted while listening, they're really quite ticklish. Dawn French playing Professor Joy Klamp, reader in Passive Aggression at Sussex University, describes "sorry", when delivered grudgingly, as "the most exciting, mysterious, liberating, non-apologetic word in the dictionary". She then extols "the fulfilling empowerment of sulking, and mooching, and staring into the middle distance and making little ticklish noises when anyone says something funny".
But it didn't make me laugh. Dawn French did the same act as ever, and in a restless, unsatisfying performance made it clear how much her comedy relies on facial expressions. The script was also overwritten and featured too many lame sketches. It's a pity because the concept behind the show is indeed funny, yet listening was a reminder that unsuccessful comedy is one of the grimmest things. Even the majestic Brian Perkins, delivering the opening and closing lines, couldn't make this the stuff of chuckles.Elisabeth Mahoney, The Guardian, 3rd November 2005
This is funny. Sadly, its star Dawn French is the worst thing about it. While everyone else is letting their acting play second fiddle to the words - by Nick Newman, of Private Eye, and the great Christopher Douglas, who gave the world the failed cricketer Dave Podmore, and the even better Ed Reardon's Week, the failed writer - French presents her character as though she were Dawn French without the large bosom jokes. As that character shows promise - her job is teaching people how to be miserable - it is to be hoped that French gets the hang of this radio comedy lark soon.Chris Campling, The Times, 2nd November 2005
Joy Klamp is a writer, broadcaster and prominent academic. Her latest venture was born at an unsuccessful dinner party. "I was clattering some pans in the kitchen," she recalls, "when someone said to me, 'You know, Joy, you've really got this passive aggression thing down to a fine art. You ought to share your knowledge with the world.' I didn't say anything because I'd been moodily silent all evening. But it did set me thinking that everyone deserves to experience the fulfilling empowerment of sulking and mooching and staring into the middle distance. Spoiling someone else's fun can be the most satisfying of all the controlling arts."
The result is Mastering the Universe, a six-part course in advanced "nonjoyment techniques".Phil Daoust, The Guardian, 2nd November 2005