We have fought them on the pitches, we have fought them on the river and we have fought them in the league tables, but this time it was serious. On Monday night Cambridge Footlights met their counterparts, the Oxford Revue in the august setting of the Cambridge Union. The audience enjoyed two hours of verbal sparring, food fights and crude innuendoes as the comedians contemplated science, socialism and cold soup in a bid to decide that eternal question: which is better, food or sex?
The arguments presented by both proposition (Cambridge) and opposition (Oxford) were almost invariably tangential and spurious, which was exactly what the topic demanded. Sam Sword pointed out that food never complained if you weren’t hungry whilst Pete Riley remarked wisely that to give a man a fish is to feed him for a day, but to give a man sex is simply to create more problems. Matt Lacey ruminated on his own experiences of combining food (specifically yoghurt) with sex; “It was bloody good, sir!”
It was obvious and indeed admitted by Oxford that Cambridge were the side better prepared for the fray and yet the funniest comedy often derived from impromptu one-liners, such as Sam Sword’s undeniably accurate observation that Newton did not discover gravity because someone had sex on his head and Matt Lacey’s rebuttal of a comparison of sex with toad-in-the-hole (“You’re not supposed to leave it in there!”). The visual antics of the debaters also proved effective. Thus Oxford’s food baby, towards whose production most of their energies in preparation for the debate seem to have been exerted, was favourably received until its dismemberment by Tom Evans, who proceeded to go about preparing it for supper.
As Oxford feelingly noted, it was a home crowd. The final result (522 to 14 in Cambridge’s favour) does not reflect Oxford’s performance in the Chamber, which was energetic and frequently inspired, if somewhat ad-hoc – although even our friends on the Isis could boast meticulous planning compared to the unfortunate Cantabrigian who in the preceding emergency debate spoke out confidently to a bemused house upon the wrong motion. Perhaps if more time had been devoted to their jokes and less to their gastronomic child, Oxford would have enjoyed more laughs – Kieran Hodgson’s ramblings about his uncle and the Arctic were hardly overwhelming – but Cambridge too had their weaknesses.
The niche humour of Tom Evans met with a rather muted reception and Pete Riley would have done better to avoid his personal and irrelevant criticisms of his opponents.
In the end, however, perhaps the most salient point to be garnered from what was essentially an extremely impressive and enjoyable comedy debate can be found in the actions of one audience member, who, when confronted by the Oxford Revue with a choice of free condoms or cold, congealed soup, took the soup. Never mind Oxford – what does that say about us?