Upstart Crow: star-studded, silly Shakespeare

Some of our best and most damaging insults come from Shakespeare.

“Thou art like a toad; ugly and venomous.”

“There’s no more faith in thee than a stewed prune.”

“Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.”


It’s been hinted that Ben Elton’s new show about the Bard, Upstart Crow, makes an appropriate dig at Ricky Gervais. And not just an aside to the audience, but an entire character.

The name ‘Upstart Crow’ itself is said to come from a character assassination of Shakespeare done by fellow playwright Robert Greene. In a pamphlet, no less. Insults have much greater impact when they’re printed. Sadly, that little urban legend might not be true. Which would make Ben Elton look a tad misinformed…

The initial cast list looks scarily impressive. David Mitchell as Shakespeare? Harry Enfield? Mark Heap? Liza Tarbuck is Anne Hathaway?! Pass the popcorn.

We’re looking forward to seeing several Funny Women alumni tread the boards in the series. Helen Monks is in it – surely you remember her from the 2015 Awards final? Or from Raised By Wolves. And while many people are familiar with Gemma Whelan from Game of Thrones, do remember she was our first ever Variety Award Winner. Yes, folks, Funny Women spots talent remarkably early.

As you’d expect from anything by Ben Elton, Upstart Crow has been compared to Blackadder before it even airs. That’s what you get when you put your main character in an oversized ruff.

Upstart Crow will run on Monday 9th May on BBC Two, as part of celebrations to mark 400 years since Shakespeare died. Important note: we’re not celebrating the fact that he’s dead.