California Beach Bungalow is that age old recipe for laughs: an improvisational sketch show. These young men from California are funny. There’s the first barrier broken, but with the amount of comedy on the fringe, it’s so easy to come across a comedian or show that isn’t funny in the slightest. Walking into a comedy show here you have no idea what you’re going to find. The thing about this is the anticipation; it’s so easy to find yourself disappointed because we all love to laugh. And if these boys are on form every day, then you’ll definitely have a laugh at California Beach Bungalow.
Improvisation is hard to judge. It’s definitely a talent, and for doing it this group are being very brave. The audience say a couple of words and they’ll improvise around this. A couple of the guys will do a little solo stand up on the suggestion and from this a series of sketches will arise. The word ‘unicorn’ leads to some particularly funny scenes. The problem is, California Beach Bungalow stands in the shadow of shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? and this show lacks the variation these shows have. California Beach Bungalow is hardly new and innovative in form.
The other thing which they lack is consistency. Alone, the boys might tell a story which isn’t funny and that’s just plain awkward because there’s no one to fall back on. As it is, it feels awfully like half the time they happen upon funny scenes rather than create them with a sense of a strong idea. It’s as an ensemble that this group are strongest, working off each other, supporting each other. What’s lovely is they may find certain characters that they’ll return to later in response to a different suggestion, so there is a sense of order and an established scene.
Don’t get me wrong, quickly the individual personalities of this group shine through, but they lack a more definite character or branding. And I cannot advocate those Hawaiian shirts, yes they reflect that they’re from an American state with a lovely beach but they also scream bad taste. These boys are extremely likeable and watchable, and this is a great way to start the day; but as a comedy troupe they still have some way to go. They just need to find that something a little bit different about them. Maybe get a unicorn.
*** – 3 Stars
California Beach Bungalow is playing at C Aquila until 27 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.