Far slicker than the first Corpus smoker of the year had any right to be, the Playroom held host to another promising display of Cambridge comedy talent on Monday night. Confident and easy performances all round in a friendlier and more intimate atmosphere than its big brother at the ADC, the Corpus Smoker is now a fixture in my diary. I’m going next time, and you should too.
The night kicked off with the excellent Ali Lewis, who presided over the show and doled out the now traditional audience prizes – including a pot noodle, some humous and a novelty ice tray (“cold but transient whimsy”). Outshining at times the acts he introduced, a better compere would be hard to find in Cambridge.
As with any smoker, it had its weak points. There was filler, and there were a very few routines that overstayed their welcome a little. I found myself waiting for the sketch section to end, and the acts flirted with almost every comedy cliche out there – but it’s a mark of the quality of the night that the occasional dead jokes and overworked conceits were quickly drowned out with good material.
Highlights have to include Jamie Mathieson, who somehow managed to get away with a set that included flicking from jokes about Power Rangers to reading out a fairly large chunk of the diary of Samuel Pepys. Angus Morrison and Zoe Tomalin were both refreshing and sharp, but the peak of the evening had to be John Bailey. In a set that started out looking dangerously like that old smoker favourite – “My hometown is different to Cambridge in several ways, some of which are funny” – Bailey delivered a brilliant routine about being raised by wolves, managing along the way to slip in one of the only genuinely funny prop gags I’ve ever seen.
The things that made the night worth four stars instead of five are, I’m sure, able to be ironed out over the next few performances. Sketches needed trimming down and sharpening up, and some lazy jokes needed weeding out. But overall, an excellent first performance of the term for the Corpus Smoker. Keep an eye out for the next one.