I was quite surprised to attend the Comedy Showcase and find not only that a fairly large section of the audience were of school age, but also that rather a lot of them knew one another. It turned out that I just hadn’t done my homework as the first act on the bill ‘School of Comedy’ were in fact just that (and it’s a programme on E4). However, regardless of their age, the routines were hilariously funny, relevant, well observed and timely. The School of Comedy was a mixed bag of solo acts, stand up and sketch pieces, with some stand-out moments – such as a news panel featuring David Cameron getting in touch with his feminine side by getting a boob job, and TV spoof ‘The Only Way is Gloucestershire’. The performers impressed me with their camaraderie with the audience (hardly any signs of nerves) and their sharp take on current affairs. Certainly ones to watch.
The School of Comedy was good enough to merit its own slot and in fact probably should have had it, as half the audience left when they’d finished up, having been warned by the excellent but saucy compere Monkey Poet that upcoming acts might have material in which ‘fisting’ would not have anything to do with playground fights – and so family audiences might be advised to make a swift exit. In fact there weren’t too many bawdy gags except those made by Monkey Poet himself.
Next on the bill was Battleacts, an improvised comedy troupe which comprised a compere who lorded it over two teams with the help of suggestions from the audience. We were treated to some fast-paced, witty and very imaginative comedy, enhanced by the excitable energy of the team members and their masochistic willingness to be physically tortured and contorted (at one point mousetraps appeared). While amusing, Battleacts was at times quite uncomfortable viewing (should I really be laughing at somebody who may be about to lose their toes?). However as their tagline is ‘comedy just got nasty’ they certainly lived up to it. I have a lot of respect for the performers and brave audience members who dared to get involved in a couple of the sketches. I believe everybody left with all body parts intact.
The final act, So On and So Forth, was sadly not as well received as it deserved. By this point in the evening only about a third of the original audience remained (perhaps they were emotionally drained after the terror of Battleacts), and as chemistry with the audience forms such an important factor in a good comedy gig I feel that So on and So Forth were left with rather a lean lot! In some ways it would have been brilliant if the School of Comedy troupe and their fans could have stayed as there were some remarkable parallels between their sketches and those of So On and So Forth, including a gag about scriptwriters pitching films that were world renowned blockbusters and a charity appeal sketch. So On and So Forth’s sketches were witty observations of popular culture reset in bizarre and wonderful contexts, creating a wonderfully familiar setting for the audience before pulling the rug out from under their feet. Although most of their material was more tongue-in-cheek than laugh-out-loud funny they were slick performers that held the audience’s attention.
The Comedy Showcase was a great introduction to some very varied acts, from surprisingly sharp material from the School of Comedy to lewd and punchy poetry from the Monkey Poet, sadomasochistic squeals from Battleacts and knowing chortles at So On and So Forth. Personal favourite? The Monkey Poet. Although only compering for brief interludes he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand (…and roaring out “fucking wankers!” at the top of their lungs) and managed the daunting task of warming up the ever-dwindling audience admirably.