ADC Lateshow, 11pm, Tues 13th March
Reviewing a Footlights Smoker feels a little intimidating. To the outside world, the Footlights are untouchable: an elite group of comedians and the training ground for the likes of Hugh Laurie, Sue Perkins and John Cleese. Sadly however, I found that I have been to far more enjoyable Smokers on the smaller, and supposedly more inferior, college circuits.
It started really strongly: a nod to the Parrot sketch, and an energetic routine by Ahir Shah got people laughing. But then they hit a flaw which was to crop up a few times throughout the evening: a sketch with real comic potential that just didn’t quite get the laughs. Take the Pokemon scene. There were clearly lots of people in the audience (myself included) who were nostalgic for those halcyon days of Bulbasaur and Pikachu, and the sketch was based on an original idea. But somehow, it didn’t quite fall right. It needed to be punchier, and the writing honed more. There was a lot of confused laughter coming from the seats near me.
Strangely for a Smoker, and somewhat sadly, there was not very much stand-up. As a rule, I tend to think that stand-up has the potential to be far funnier than a sketch, because it is far riskier. And when this show got it right, it got it really right. Lowell Belfield was fantastic – at no point did he fail to get a laugh, and he sustained the audience’s attention with superb comic timing. Equally, the comic who regaled the audience with his love woes was also excellent. And I wanted to see more stand-up of this quality. It is these charged, fast-paced routines that really get the audience sitting on the edge of their seats.
Don’t get me wrong, the sketches were among the funniest moments of the evening, with notable hilarious performances from George Potts and Pierre Novellie. The ‘embarrassing Dad’ skit probably got the biggest laugh of the night. I just wanted to see more of a balance in the way this show was put together.
All in all, there were some wonderfully clever and truly funny moments in the Footlights Smoker. It just needed more time, attention and variety to make it of the consistently high calibre that we have come to expect from the name.