ADC Smoker

27 November 2008

Smoker sketches can usually be divided into three separate categories.

One is ‘bobbins’, which is a polite northern way of saying ‘shit’, another is ‘clever’, and the third is ‘funny’. ‘Bobbins’ is pretty easy to define. These are the sketches that only get a murmur from the audience, the ones only the Abercrombie-clad drunkards neigh at, their diaphragms spasming from the sheer hilarity of being here, I mean, actually here, in the ADC, watching the Footlights! ‘Clever’ sketches can make you laugh, and the Footlights often do. Yet there is a certain sneering to them, tinged with arrogance: ‘I made this intelligent connection and you couldn’t possibly have made it,’ something we Cambridge students sometimes suffer from. And ‘funny’? Well, they’re the ones that make you laugh when you can’t work out why. The ones where you replay the lines over and over again to your mates with ever-decreasing laughter, because you’re nothing compared to them. Nothing.

This smoker was high in quality and we can skirt over the (very few) sketches that were ‘bobbins’ – there was an ill-conceived sketch about a Cockney coming back from university, full of over-long sentences, badly chosen stereotypes, performed mainly with backs to the audience. This was quickly forgotten thanks to the myriad of enjoyment on offer, ranging from the deceptively simple – Tom Evans as a commuter, asking his fellow passenger for directions on the Tube and being presented with a pair of boxers on which he proceeded to trace his journey – to the delightfully complex monologue by Daran Johnson, whose text sped along with irreverent, surreal and unexpected rolls into the fantastic.

There were a few ‘clever’ sketches which might’ve strayed into ‘too clever’. Lucy Evans and Marieke Audsley were charming as two chavs speaking like rahs, but the writing and concept smacked a little of trying too hard to turn stereotypes on their heads. There was a nice sending up of Stalinist Russia and censored stand-up, again from Tom Evans, but you wonder whether jokes like ‘Knock knock. Who’s there? Trotsky. Trotsky who? Exactly.’

would send a room into (justified) hysterics anywhere other than that other place. A sketch involving women waiting for a gynaecologist had a lot of potentially funny fanny jokes, but fell apart in its execution, saved only by the excellent Lucy Mark’s oblivious lady who not only hears voices “down there,” but insists “they can hear you too”.

That is not to detract from some true moments of genius which can lollop happily into the ‘funny’ camp. Daran Johnson’s debate-panel show without a debate and the sole stand-up’s “I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but…” became an excellent motif to romp through bald men, painting-licking and, of course, shaving dogs and putting them into military costume. Special mention goes to the irreverent talking head sketch which perfectly captured inane celebrity chatter with “He was the drummer’s drummer. Because of his drumming.”

Nevertheless, in the end, what does it matter? I laughed. I didn’t laugh until wee came out, but that’s because I’m not incontinent. The footlights are there to make us laugh. They did. Well done them.