Review: The 23 Hour Sketch Show

Rustan Smith 29 January 2020

The 23hr Sketch Show is exactly what it sounds like. Groups of comedic performers are notified at midnight of a theme and certain parameters within which to write 12 minutes of sketches, and the next night at 11 PM they are performing them on stage at the ADC.

There’s a bit of a difficulty in reviewing such a show, as a lot of the fun lies in being there with the performers while they struggle to remember lines, scuff up transitions, and have a great time doing it. If one goes to the 23hr Sketch Show expecting perfectly crafted, multi-layered, exceptionally performed sketch comedy, they are likely to be disappointed.

If, however, one goes to the 23hr Sketch Show expecting to have fun with the rest of the audience, and the performers themselves, wondering and never knowing which joke, mistake, or audio error is going to bring the big laughs, then they’re going to have a great time.

Image credit: Alex Watson

It is the nature of such a show that it can get derailed fast. If timings aren’t kept, and if cues aren’t met, there is a real chance of chaos. The lack of preparation time affects these sorts of things greatly; and without a good, consistent host that can pump up the crowd while keeping some order to the whole affair, such chaos certainly would ensue.

Luckily for us, the host, Rory Russell, did not disappoint, combining good humour and self-awareness, as well as a respectable drive to keep things in order. As for the sketches, there was little to separate the five teams in terms of comedic quality; everyone had some hits and some misses.

Image credit: Luc Radelet

The most well-received sketches were those that were simple and easy to follow. While the artistic ambition of some sketches was certainly laudable, too many moving parts often made for confusion. And as to be expected from a show of this sort, there were many fantastic premises that failed to deliver with a punchline.

But this is an unfair criticism really, as the entire premise of the show is for performers to come together, work under pressure, and then hopefully develop more together later. And I really hope that these teams do work together again the future, as there was a lot of potential in each one of them, and it’d be great to see them again.

3.5 stars