By Catherine Kirkham-Sandy
Last Wednesday, ComedySoc provided an evening of true variety with their Week Six Stand-Up Comedy Night. High energy, low energy, old hands, debuts, gallows humour, vulgarity, existential humour, anecdotes, audience participation, voice impressions, physical comedy, all was provided at this comedic buffet. Even a pun. One lonely pun, at a table of its own.
Compere Caitlin Powell set a welcoming tone for the evening by opening with relatable jokes about student life mid-term. (“First years: ‘ARGH!’ Third years: ‘ARGH!’ Second years: ‘Oh wait, this counts?’”) Powell had so much energy that she seemed to be talking on fast-forward which woke up any sleepy members of the audience and secured their full attention ready for the first act, or ‘set’.
The originality of material throughout the evening made attending well worth the time and entry fee as well as the varieties of style. I was over the moon to hear not a single joke about ducks, geese, or any kind of waterfowl at all. Such jokes have been done to death, then resurrected, then done to death all over again.
Qumarth Jash began the first set unusually, with an orchestral warm-up of his voice, segueing into high energy and engaging delivery. His naming a New York smoothie bar “Harlem Shake” was a highlight of his set, as was a running gag that was all the funnier for being completely out of the blue. His succession of “so white” jokes was improved by its delivery. The jokes were fine and by no means fell flat, receiving a hearty reception, but they stuck out as safe and formulaic in an evening that showcased originality and in a set that was clever and subversive.
Hannah Radley followed, with a candid and confessional style. The structure of her set was more scattergun, inviting audience members to pick out and read aloud quotes by her grandmother from a jar. While the one-liners had a frisson of risqué humour and were rich in comic misunderstanding, this commendable experiment in audience participation detracted from the set as it took time and focus away from Radley and interrupted the flow of her set. This was a shame as she has mastered the art of self-deprecating humour and ably pulls off jokes on sensitive subjects such as body positivity and heritage.
Next, Rosalie Counelis debuted with a highly original structure to her set: creating dramatic irony by claiming that the audience did not exist and that she was sure this was just another public-speaking nightmare in preparation for the actual stand-up comedy night. This was ingenious because it provided an explanation for her candid and confessional humour: she can say anything she wants, because the audience don’t exist. It was all very meta. The running gag was excellent: “Then I got heckled. By my own mum” as was its final iteration, which subverted the punchline.
The back to back debuts of Matthew Chesters and Arabella Kofi were excellent. The two had very different styles but both oozed confidence and charisma. Chesters had the relaxed air of a dinner-party host, amusing his guests with a comic travelogue of when he went to Montenegro (twice). His physical comedy was crisp, his accent impressions impeccable. His set also had the best structure, with a well-paced sequence of punchlines that earned him a steady stream of laughs. Kofi made effective use of the stage and used pitch and tone to full comic potential. Her use of physicality and vocals in the creation of comic characters bolstered the comedy of her anecdotes and her personification of a passive-aggressive washing machine was every bit as awesome as it sounds.
George Sherlaw-Johnson opened his set with Brexit and my heart sank into my shoes, fearing a rehash of overdone jokes. Fool, I should have had more faith. His set instead revolved around his own experiences of school politics and the farcical student council election. The punchline that he won promising nothing and yet achieved most of what the student body wanted, almost had a touch of the fable to it. Any connection to Brexit was subtextual; and to him belonged that one lonely pun. In case you were wondering, it was a nazi/not-see pun.