ComedySoc’s first show of the year kicked off in hilarious style, with the freshers’ show Laugh, Cry, Drink, Repeat going down a storm. The society freshers, who wrote the majority of the sketches and made up most of the improv performers, proved themselves more than capable of devising a clever, original, and very funny show.
The sketches were varied and fresh, ranging from sharp political satire (Ed Maynard’s Tony Blair Cilit Bang saw the former Prime Minister sell his solution to the Middle East in the style of Barry Scott, while Aidan Pittman’s Intergalactic Satire Defence League had a young Jeremy Corbyn playing with farmyard toys named “Snowball” and “Napoleon”) to seriously dark humour (Ian Bessant proudly proclaimed how much he liked to “give chewing gum to homeless people, because it makes them feel hungrier” during Ciaran Madely’s wicked How Low Can You Go) thrown in amidst some pure silliness (ComedySoc veterans Aniruddh Ojha and Gracie Roach playing a sorrowful rendition of the Power Rangers song while Robbie Smith scooted around the stage in a skintight green morph suit throwing glitter), they even had their own take on what it was like being a fresher, with the truly hilarious final sketch Join Our Society.
It was easy to see the influence of classic British sketch shows on the writers – University Challenge, written by Ian Bessant, would not have looked out of place in an episode of Harry and Paul while the International Satire Defence League is something you might have seen if the writers of Spitting Image were to collaborate with Monty Python. What really set the show apart from more established comedy was the rawness of the (often challenging) humour. These freshers are the Cards Against Humanity generation and, uncut and uncensored, they pulled no punches on their punchlines – whether they were revealing Jeremy Corbyn to be Madeline McCann, or that a prisoner hadn’t realise making her mother drink milk would kill her “like it killed the baby”. The darker lines tended to be delivered with masterful deadpan or manic glee, depending on what the sketch called for at the time.
Indeed, the performers showed that as well as writing funny sketches, they were more than capable of performing them. The punchlines were almost always delivered brilliantly, performers were somehow able to stay deadpan through the most ridiculous and bizarre scenes, and when performers did occasionally corpse (notably during the Harry Potter and the Deathly Silence sketches) it did not take away from the joke, but added to it – comics sharing a joke with the audience in a highly interactive show.
The improv section relied on this heavy audience participation in the jokes, with improv presenter Gracie Roach having at one point to quiet the audience, with so many members shouting out suggestions for settings that nothing could be picked out from the roar. The performers fed off the energy, and those on stage and those watching them bounced off each other that at times it felt like we were performing as well. The improv was another chance for these freshers to show off their undeniable talents. In settings from Tom Riddle’s grave in Somalia to the shop floor of Hamleys toy store, the performers consistently came up with impressively funny reactions to all manners of bizzare contexts, whether that required them to murder babies for children’s TV or explain how their sex life compared to a microwave.
The show was not without some flaws, a few sketches had very funny premises, but needed a slight polish in the execution. Rosemary’s Baby Teen Years and Dave (amongst others) made you laugh, but you came away feeling that they didn’t quite live up to the potential of the idea. In the second improv segment, the three freshers present seemed at first scared to take the stage, leaving more experienced ComedySoc members Aidan Pittman and Aniruddh Ojha to take every prompt in the “sex with me” segment, although once they found their confidence they proved hilarious.
None of these issues, however, took anything away from what was a truly accomplished and impressive show, with many remarking it as one of the society’s best. Indeed, if they can hold on to these freshers for the next few years, the future of comedy at the University looks incredibly bright.