Cunk On.... Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan). Copyright: House Of Tomorrow
Cunk On...

Cunk On...

  • TV comedy
  • BBC Two
  • 2016 - 2019
  • 13 episodes (1 series)

Spin-off from Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe featuring Diane Morgan as Philomena Cunk.

  • Due to return for Cunk On Earth

Episode menu

2016 Specials - Cunk On Shakespeare

Cunk On.... Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan)
Philomena knows absolutely nothing about Shakespeare, but that won't stop her attempting to present a ground-breaking documentary about him.

Preview clips

Further details

Unrivalled wordsmith. Unequalled genius. Scholar of the Human Condition. Philomena Cunk is the ideal candidate to give the BBC Two audience her own unique take on a comprehensive guide to the life and works of William Shakespeare.

A regular contributor to Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe, Philomena has proven herself a shrewd interviewer, an insightful critic, and a voice of wisdom for our troubled times. She'll bring all of these considerable talents to bear as she authors a documentary about the Bard, across thirty factually accurate minutes.

Philomena says: "A bit like the tooth fairy, nobody's actually seen Shakespeare, and nobody knows if he's real or just made up for kids. So I'll be talking to some expert people to try and find out more about him and his films."

With the help academics, actors, linguists and historians, Cunk will tell the life story of Shakespeare. She'll explore some of the works that have made him the greatest playwright the world has ever known, very much the Michael Bay of Elizabethan England.

Cunk will leave no stone unturned as she gets to the bottom of the Bard: visiting his birthplace, exploring The Globe, studying priceless artefacts, and interviewing "literally six different experts", including renowned actor Simon Russell Beale, Educating Yorkshire teacher Matthew Burton, and top Shakespearean scholar Professor Stanley Wells.

Shorter than Hamlet, funnier than King Lear, and easier to spell than Cymbeline, Cunk On Shakespeare is absolutely the last word in Shakespeare documentaries. Cunk says: "No doubt wherever he is, Shakespeare can't wait to watch it."

Broadcast details

Wednesday 11th May 2016
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Monday 20th June 2016 10:00pm BBC2

Cast & crew

Diane Morgan Philomena Cunk
Guest cast
Paul Taylor Self
Simon Russell Beale (as Simon Russell Beale CBE) Self
Iqbal Khan Self
Stanley Wells (as Professor Stanley Wells CBE) Self
Matthew Burton Self
Bren Crystal Self
Clara Sheppard Self
Christopher Young Self
Writing team
Charlie Brooker Writer
Jason Hazeley Writer
Joel Morris Writer
Matt Hulme Writer (Additional Material)
Production team
Lorry Powles Director
Annabel Jones Executive Producer
Sam Ward Producer
Damon Tai Editor


Theatre director interview

Philomena Cunk talks to director Iqbal Khan to find out more about what theatre audiences were like in Shakespearean times.

Featuring: Diane Morgan (Philomena Cunk) & Iqbal Khan.

Mr Burton interview

Philomena interviews Educating Yorkshire teacher Mr Burton to find out what iambic pentameter is.

Featuring: Diane Morgan (Philomena Cunk) & Matthew Burton.


Cunk on Shakespeare saw the curious alter ego of comedienne Diane Morgan attempt to discover exactly why The Bard's plays are as well-loved as they are. As a character Cunk is a brilliant creation; a presenter who has no actual idea about the subject she's covering but one who won't let this fact stop her at all. As is the way with all these faux-documentaries the most interesting parts are the ones in which the character interviews real experts in the topic. It's always great to try and work out whether or not the experts were taken in by Cunk or not and for the most part I feel they were. I felt that poor Simon Russell Beale probably had the worst of it as he had to complete the famous soliloquy from Hamlet which Cunk described as 'a speech about bees'. Meanwhile Educating Yorkshire's Mr Burton were as a little bemused by the presenter's pronunciation of iambic pentameter and theatre director Iqbal Khan who attempted to explain what the audiences were like in Shakespeare's day. The structure of the show was also expertly laid out with Cunk's idiocy being perfect exploited through several clever segments where she discussed Shakespeare's most famous works. I personally enjoyed the way in which Cunk drew comparisons between Shakespeare's work and the plot of the film Taken with the presenter taking the view that the latter was a more entertaining experience. However the most hilarious moments came at the programme's end when Cunk almost made us believe that Shakespeare's final work was Game of Thrones. Diane Morgan must be given credit for creating a believable character whose presenting style and way with words makes her utterly convincing as a ditzy documentarian. If Cunk on Shakespeare is a sort of pilot to see if a series of shows featuring Philomena would work then I would say it was a success. As long as the scripts are as sharp as they were here, I think a full Philomena Cunk series would be a welcome return to the sort of shows that Sacha Baron Cohen used to make when he was funny. Overall I found Cunk on Shakespeare to be the better of the two comic looks at The Bard's work in comparison to Upstart Crow and it's a shame that it's only a one-off. But that being said I think if the show had been over thirty minutes it may have worn out its welcome rather than being the sharp, witty mockumentary that it ultimately turned out to be.

Matt, The Custard TV, 15th May 2016

Cunk on Shakespeare was gloriously funny

It takes intelligence to act this stupid. The script was stuffed with malapropisms and witty wordplay. Cunk's implacable idiocy was thrillingly iconoclastic. Mainly, though, it was very silly and gloriously funny.

Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 12th May 2016

"Four hundred years ago this year the world-famous playwrighter William Shakespeare stopped happening ..." The Great Philomena (comedian Diane Morgan) brings all her wisdom and sensitivity to bear in her sublime exploration of the "King of the Bards", observing that Titus Andronicus is "a posh Friday The 13th"; pondering what Hamlet is all about ("about four hours long"); and noting that Shakespeare had an easy time at school "as he didn't have to study Shakespeare"

Ali Catterall, The Guardian, 11th May 2016

Cunk On Shakespeare preview

This may be the first full-length outing for Cunk, but it surely won't be the last.

Steve Bennett, Chortle, 11th May 2016

Cunk on Shakespeare, BBC Two, review

Diane Morgan offers a more complete performance than Sacha Baron Cohen. Ali G's interview sketches were often smash n' grab comedy, but with Cunk we get a satirical dissection of the whole genre. At their best, her jokes unfurled with mille-feuille Alice-In-Wonderland absurdity, the writing, direction and acting lining up perfectly together.

Matthew Wright, The Arts Desk, 11th May 2016

Diane Morgan: meet the performer behind Philomena Cunk

Acclaimed actress and character-comedian Diane Morgan is back with a Philomena Cunk special this week, as well as starring in two high-profile new sitcoms, and the David Brent movie. She spoke to Jay Richardson about her increasingly in-demand career.

Jay Richardson, WOW247, 10th May 2016

Philomena Cunk: Shakespeare has more Henrys than Hoover

On Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, who better to cut the bard's best-known works down to size than Weekly Wipe's noted cultural commentator?

Philomena Cunk, The Guardian, 6th May 2016

Preview, Cunk On Shakespeare, BBC2

The technique of interviewing experts while knowing less than nothing about the subject is hardly new - Ali G does casts a shadow over her straight-faced encounters - but Cunk (alias comedian Diane Morgan) is so committed to her character it is impossible not to laugh at her antics. In one memorable scene she starts playing with a banana while Simon Russell Beale delivers Hamlet's To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy a few inches away.

Bruce Dessau, Beyond The Joke, 5th May 2016

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