Review: Four Comedic Porpoises

Ted Loveday 21 May 2013

ADC Theatre, Wed 15th May, 11pm

It’s a shame that it was only a one-off show. There is a great deal of pressure on student comedians to be constantly coming up with new material on a regular basis but actually, all audiences really care about is whether they can have a good laugh at the end of a long day. Four Comedic Porpoises tried very hard to live up to both ideals. Since it was a one-off, I can’t recommend that you buy tickets. That would be silly. But I can say this: it saw a handful of very funny people taking their turns on the stage for half an hour at doing what they did best, and these people are all going to appear again on the stage in the future and hopefully do similar stuff.

When Charlie Palmer stepped out onto the stage to compere this strangely-titled stand-up show, the ADC audience gave him a warm reception. His broad grin, his cheeky face, his slightly hesitant manner of delivery—as if he’s just chatting to his mates, modestly sharing with them a few things he found quite funny—all make him a great act, endearing as well as funny. The porpoise routine was evidently invented for the occasion. As for the extended commentaries on Ray Mears’ survival skills, a story about Dick van Dyke’s bizarre dreams, an overly cheery attempt at audience participation—who cares whether they broke provocative new ground or not? They were cleverly thought through, and at any rate the crowd had a great night.

“My next point,” said Henry Anderson-Elliot, “is hair.” Then Facebook. Then ants, sheep, snakes. Then, I think, garden centres, and so on with a string of witty and self-deprecating observations about the world at large, often trailing off into the realm of fantasy. “Are you actually going to review this?” he bursts out. “Fucking shit.” Henry mocks his ‘generic other person voice’, but his talent for illustrating his anecdotes with a range of silly voices is what makes his style really engaging—a little reminiscent of Michael Macintyre, without, well, being unbearably tedious like Michael Macintyre.

I found Ryan Hocking the funniest act of the show, though most of the audience were generally a little more subdued. But in this case, judging him by the audience’s reaction doesn’t really do Ryan justice—his jokes were maybe a bit too intellectual and too English-studenty for an ADC lateshow. (No, I never thought that was possible either.) A genuinely hilarious conversation between flatmates in the manner of epic poetry—‘forsooth, who stole the milky-white rosy-fingered milk?’, that sort of thing—left most a little confused, especially as the sketch dragged on and on, but at any given point a handful of people were completely breathless with laughter, and that was enough to make the routine worth while. Ryan isn’t all about niche humour: he mocks Destiny’s Child, laughs about his imaginary girlfriend and banters with his mate in the front row. Still, there’s a very quirky mind behind this guy’s stand-up.

Tweed-clad Milo Edwards, on the other hand, managed to get the whole house laughing at some very obscure jokes indeed. It helped that he started off with a number of great visual gags, which I’d better not spoil in case he wishes to repeat them (and he should do!). Even so, not many people can end their set with an extended discussion of a classical Greek verb meaning ‘to thrust a radish up to fundament’—‘together with its Attic contraction’, as Milo hastened to add—whilst still keeping their humour accessible and completely gripping a tired lateshow audience’s attention. Both Milo and Charlie made mentions of Ray Mears; several of the acts had extended discussions of cetaceans. Maybe it was an accident that these four acts fitted neatly together. Then again, maybe they did it on porpoise.

Ted Loveday