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New Student Writing: Sketch Comedy

first_imgby Jack FarchyHumphrey’s Unpleasantness is a sketch show that, we’re told, “explores the line between comedy and tragedy.” Director Richard Jones claims to be “interested in what the audience is prepared to laugh at, and at what point they will stop laughing.” Sounds exciting. Are we going to be pushed to the edges of our comfort zone? Will our taboos be explored and probed? Will we find ourselves in hysterical laughter one moment, only to be shocked, moved and ashamed of our laughter the next?No, we won’t. Whatever it may say on the tin, this show isn’t doing anything experimental, quirky, or, frankly, interesting. The material is about as mainstream and unoriginal as you could hope for. Stereotypes abound: public school teachers are secretly gay, bankers are wankers, old people are deaf, etcetera, etcetera. Worse still, these stereotypes are not invoked in order to be later undermined, but just because, well, stereotypes are funny, aren’t they? Isn’t it a great laugh that old people are deaf?It’s a shame that their material is so bad, because everything else about this show is fine. The performances from Joe Markham, Joe Parham, and a cameo from Ross Young are confident and engaging. In particular, I was fascinated by Joe Markham’s range and quality of facial expressions. His tongue flits coyly around his lips as the randy, absentminded presenter of the TV programme, ‘Tiny Tales for Tiny Tots’; as a masturbating bank manager, his face undergoes all sorts of interesting contortions; and he neatly captures the chewing motion and slack mouth of an old lady wearing false teeth.In the end, though, there is little more to say about this than that it’s a comedy show that isn’t funny. It is playing in the late slot at the BT, so hopefully its audience will have had a few drinks by the time they arrive – if so, they might enjoy it more than I did. If, by some misfortune, you are coerced into going sober, just keep on focusing on the wonders of Joe Markham’s face.last_img

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