Big Fat Sketch Night

Tue 15th November 2011

reviews

Angus Hawkins

at 15:52 on 20th Nov 2011

0agrees

2disagrees

It was with a certain sense of trepidation that I agreed to review a night of student sketch comedy; it rather felt like I was about to reach into a comedy lucky dip, and could pull out anything from the obscene to the cerebral. Fortunately, however, I got lucky. Of the three acts on show, the first two showcased some genuine comic gems with an exceptional degree of talent; they were however let down by the overly intellectual, mediocre comedy of ‘The Awkward Silence’.

The first act, ‘Dregs’ (Max Dickins & Mark Smith) have already performed at the Edinburgh Festival, and took the opportunity of the smaller audience to try out some new material. This did lead to some rather amusing moments of discussion between the comedians and the audience (such as asking immediately after a sketch “was it clear enough that was about incest?”), though the material new and old, was consistently funny, and in places hilarious. Dregs will certainly not be to everyone’s taste – they frequently get laughs by unexpected homoeroticism, and many of their sketches are simple absurdity. However, if they are your taste, these guys are good, and just dripping in talent.

The second act, ‘Rory and Tim’ (Rory O’Keefe, Tim Schneider & Iain Stewart), were a little more hit and miss (of which they’re well aware), although their hits landed right on the bullseye. Their set began with a round of lightning fast, funny, and most of all, very original, sketches. In a few cases a good idea (such as Sir Alan Sugar as an Oxford tutor) were stretched beyond being funny, and the back and forth between the three comedians could sometimes feel a little stilted. Their topics appeal well to a student crowd (nightclubbing and social smokers are amongst them) and are very cleverly approached. If I had to pick between the two, I’d say they just edge out Dregs; their comedy is more conventional, but in tone, content and execution, simply better. If you get the chance to see Rory and Tim, take it – they’re a five star act.

If the evening had of ended there, it would have been pretty much as good as sketch comedy can get. But notorious as this genre is for inconsistency, we needed something else to round out the evening. Enter ‘The Awkward Silence’ (Ralph Jones & Vyvyan Almond). There’s no denying it, these guys have got some talent – it just might not be in comedy. Every sketch was well acted, to the point of melodrama, with an impressive array of characters realised brilliantly. It was, however, in the array of characters that let them down. Far too many of their sketches were based on classic literature, the result being that the joke (such as the witches of Macbeth as typical elderly ladies, or poking holes in Wind in the Willows) was stretched to breaking point. The rest of their sketches relied on the rather facile comedy of characters not being able to understand each other, in a way that was enough to illicit a chuckle from the audience, but not the side splitting laughter of the previous acts. There were a handful of good jokes, but for the most part the attempts at witty references and wordplay simply fell flat.

Nevertheless, the evening was an enjoyable one – it certainly peaked in the middle, but would sketch comedy be without a few duds?

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Comments

Gaspode McWurter; 22nd Nov 2011; 13:11:30

I have to say that I disagree entirely with almost every single thing you have said. Having never seen any of the acts, I wasn't sure what to expect but was a little disappointed by both Dregs and Rory and Tim. Both acts had some funny moments but were certainly not "dripping in talent". My main criticism was the 'laddishness' of the acts - trying to be funny by pushing the boundaries of taste and decency. The language was poor and, at some points, was barely any more cerebral than nob jokes.

The Awkward Silence were (in the eyes of myself and everyone I attended with) by far the strongest act and were more consistently funny. There were a couple of literature references but that was it - I fail to see that as being "far too many".

Sketch comedy is always going to be hit-and-miss and if incest, simulated oral sex on a thumb, botched sex changes, etc. is what you genuinely find funny then I can see why you'd prefer the first couple of acts but, for many of us, Awkward Silence were the high point of the evening.

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