On a Tuesday night during a heatwave (have you heard? It’s very hot) no one is in the mood for anything too mentally challenging. It is therefore a welcome relief to be able to sit back and listen to Erich McElroy and Steve Allen put the world to rights. Comics Solving Problems is the duo’s way to try and maintain a bit of normalcy by continuing to write, perform and make people laugh as they do best. Although it’s certainly a different atmosphere compared to what they’re used to, you can’t exactly read the room when it’s a silent computer screen.
McElroy and Allen both seem to have adapted to the challenge of going online very well. It’s not their first digital show but I’m sure the concept is still relatively new to them, compared with their decades of IRL experience or the “old-fashioned way” as it will soon be known. They seem very comfortable (other than the fact they’re in SUITS in the HEATWAVE) and clearly have good chemistry with one another.
They begin by finding humour in our ‘new normal.’ I know what you’re thinking “I’ve seen it all, there are no more jokes about Coronavirus that I haven’t already heard” but somehow they manage to find new ways to make me laugh. The beauty of the current times is that everything that is going on is so relatable. McElroy and Allen admit that they got the wording wrong when they named their first show ‘Comics Solving Problems in Quarantine.’ It was the early days when no one knew the difference between ‘quarantine’ and ‘lockdown’ or ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ for that matter; let alone what ‘PPE’ stood for or how to spot a ‘super spreader.’ The manic and relatable confusion they capture really does make me chuckle.
The format of the show works well, reminiscent of Have I Got News For You – with less potentially controversial jokes. The two have some headlines prepared to discuss, such as the nation’s favourite headline of this year: a nude German man chasing a laptop-thieving boar, you can only imagine the CHEEKY jokes McElroy and Allen create from that. Allen adds a couple of pre-recorded clips to further some jokes, a one man sketch show if you will, very TikTok. I like this as a way to add a new level of excitement to the show and I would have liked to see more of it.
Towards the end I feel the energy drops somewhat, probably a combination of the heat and the lack of tangible audience vibes. Perhaps the show would’ve been better off slightly shorter, the obesity sketch definitely went on a bit too long, they could have left us with the clever line about gluttony being patriotic now, under the 50% off discounts; starter main and dessert (or two) here I come!
McElroy and Allen mix comedy with an occasional edge of sincerity, a nod to the fact that times are hard at the moment, for a lot of people. At the end of the day you have to commend artists who are managing to be creative during these times, it’s not easy. If by any chance you’re feeling a bit bummed out by everything in the news at the moment and need a cheering up, these guys are definitely worth a watch.
Comics Solving Problems is part of The Online Free Fringe Fest and new episodes will be released on Youtube until the 27th August. For more information and tickets click here.