June 16, 2019

Skitsophrenia – Character and Sketch Comedy Night

Writing about comedy is similar to talking about sex. It might reveal one or two interesting facts or misconceptions – but other than that you rather enjoy watching it or doing it.

As anyone with an opinion can tell you, in this day and age you’re more or less flooded with comedy. Everybody does it everywhere, regardless whether it is appropriate or not. Financial news, airplane disasters, the War on Terror – everything is presented in a supposedly entertaining way even by the most strictly professional newsreaders. What was reserved only for charity events or New Year’s Eve parties, is now a part of our everyday life – perhaps that could be the reason for the apparent decline of public interest in Comic Relief. Everybody is funny, everything is a stand-up routine.

Let me clarify something: I do not wish to sound like one of those ghastly hipsters who are against everything that even remotely looks mainstream. I like Dara Ó’Briain’s stand ups. I watch Have I Got News For You. I don’t enjoy watching an obscure Tajik contemporary dance quartet in a skip on the shore of Regent’s Canal in the middle of January with ten or so teenage entities – I’m writing entities, because I honestly can’t tell which one of them is a girl or a boy – who took their grandfathers spectacles to achieve the look of a failed middle-aged Cardiff sculptor. Events like these are not even on the same page with ‘fun’ in my vocabulary. It’s possible that I’m stepping on fragile soil when I say they might be rubbish and not artistic in any way, shape or form. Even though I’ve nothing against Tajiks. Or dance quartets.

Fortunately enough when I was invited to The Comedy Pub in Central London the other night I haven’t seen anyone in Ray Ban glasses or ridiculously tight trousers: the audience looked like audience, and I’m happy to report that the performers looked like performers and not wannabe artists.

The backbone of the event was the performance of The Real MacGuffins – Dan March, Jim Millard and Matt Sheahan respectively – whose performance was vigorous and energetic with a hint of outlandish campness, but all in good taste. The most innovative of them all was the so-called Charity Sketch for the Struggling Graphic Designers, where all the punchlines were names of fonts – very well written and performed bit, you have to see it.

Morris & Vyse – Anna Morris and Beth Vyse – were something different. I have to confess: that was the second time I watched the two of them performing, but it felt like listening to The Beatles in 1961 in a back room in Liverpool. Or watching Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders for the first time on stage. It may sound outrageous – and I don’t ever make predictions about anything – but trust my worlds, they’ll soon to be launched into world fame and recognition. They deserve it.

Sadly the Christmas for Two – Amy Hoggart and Sarah Campbell – for some reason didn’t really work. Pity, because the pair of them are pretty good performers (I did some background check on them before I sat down to write this bit). I know I won’t be the most popular person in the room but I felt that the ‘shallow-working class-desperate-girls’ routine lost its freshness in the past couple of years.

Then came the Zeus’ Pamphlet and suddenly I felt mixed feelings. Unfortunately the sketches weren’t so brilliant – most of them were easy to figure out – but the performances, more particularly the physical comedy of Emma Rasmussen were brilliant. Not only her body, but her face had a life of her own which rescued many of the sketches from utter disaster.

The Beta Males’ performance – who all dressed tie and vest as they just graduated from waiter-school – could only be gently described by the words of the late Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood; undergraduate humor. There is nothing wrong with that, but frankly their sketches weren’t as inspired and inventive as the rest of the performers. In time they will get better, I’m absolutely sure about it and can’t wait to see where they will go.

Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon were last – after knocking a glass over a girl sitting in the first row – and they did a fantastic off-beat stint, even though it lacked the fluency that would have made their Fireman-sketch the best one of the night. At least from now we have a new catchphrase: ‘I’m water and/or foam man!’

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