Democracy: A Sketch Show

Ciaran Chillingworth 17 January 2015

I find myself prejudiced against ‘political’ sketch shows. Perhaps more than against political standup, although I don’t know why: maybe ‘political’ solo comedians are still common enough not to feel as jarring and pretentious. Political sketches, of course, are still a staple, and can be very funny, but there is something presumptuous about a group of students attempting to act out funny situations derived exclusively from political themes. It can feel like they think they know more than the ‘typical’ audience (they usually don’t), or are being more ambitious than other comedians, or, worst of all, like they believe comedy — their comedy — might actually change things. That said, I am always happy to be proved wrong, so Democracy’s failure to make me laugh is all the more disappointing.  

The show commits a number of other offences, the most egregious of which is a long and tediously ‘random’ sketch about a kangaroo smuggler that ends with a ‘we don’t know how to end this sketch!’ punchline. This is, to me, unforgivable, since in student comedy especially, ‘meta’ gags have become an easy get out for people who can’t write sketches. Democracy, however, goes one step further, and has a call back to this very same punchline, as if the audience needs to be reminded.

The call backs and recurring sketches in general are among the weakest moments. Something’s given students the impression that, unless, like on television, they shoehorn in some running jokes, their sketches can’t qualify as comedy. This isn't reprehensible in itself, but, for some reason, it’s almost always the more flaccid jokes, the jokes that do not need, and cannot stand, development, that make the cut. Democracy’s recurring sketches, for instance, a ‘the first rule of thesaurus club sketch’, which commits the triple foul of taking a reference that’s been done to death, giving it an unoriginal, mindless twist, and, worst of all, delivering it as if the actors are being oh-so-clever — clever people always have big vocabularies, don’t they? — all fail to generate laughs, their repetition simply compounding their ‘kooky’ sterility.

It is surprising that the two moments which spring to mind first are relatively a-political, but this is in some ways more annoying, since, if one presumes to write political comedy, one should deliver it. Perhaps if the sketches in general were better, generic divergence would be forgivable, but, as it is, the instances given above typify the laziness and lack of originality that pervade Democracy.

It is, in short, the kind of show which anyone would write, given the brief of ‘political comedy’, the jokes and situations the first, half-baked thoughts of generally unperceptive minds. The actors are not the worst I’ve ever seen and clearly enjoy being on stage, but this is about the only good thing to be said for the show as a whole. All in all, Democracy is just a particularly irritating drop in the sea of student comedy. 



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Democracy: A Sketch Show is on at the ADC, 11pm until Saturday 17th. Get your tickets online at