Joshua Rotchelle reviews The Exeter Revue’s ‘On The Spot’ Improv. Comedy Night.
It was with some trepidation that I headed down to the M&D room to check out On the Spot last week: comedy off of the professional circuit can be a very mixed bag, and I was frankly terrified at the prospect of spending an evening listening to cringe-worthy one-liners. Thankfully, I was wonderfully surprised by what was on offer. The hour-long show consisted of seven student comedians, plus a frankly brilliant presenter, all of whom were on top form for the duration of the show.
As suggested by the name, the entirety of the show’s comedy was improvised, with no previous preparation – a tricky task at the best of times, never mind the challenge of being genuinely funny – and this improvisational skill shined at the beginning of the show, where a variety of skits were performed, with different sets of rules, such as “genre chosen by the audience” (and yes, someone did shout “PORN!”)
These mini-plays covered a wide and hilarious range, but there was one unifying theme: almost all of them provided at least one piece of comedic brilliance, swerving terrifying close to giving me a stitch. Granted, there were jokes that fell a little flat, but never flat-as-a-pancake, and there was always a redeeming gag just around the corner.
Unfortunately, after the first 20-30 minutes, things began to go downhill. A mock-the-week style round where the comedians came up with one-liners on a theme, such as “quotes from the world’s worst newscaster” was introduced, but here the improv muscles didn’t flex quite so well, and the best it got out of me was a quiet chuckle. The skit format was far better suited to improvisation.
This was followed by a series of improvised songs, as the presenter of the show played guitar while comedians sang jokes in lyric form. This was the low point of the show: during all of the songs, not one of the comedian’s efforts even caused a sharp exhalation from my nostrils. Frankly, if I’d wanted improv sing-song, I’d have gone to the Open Mic night at the Ram. The skit model briefly returned, but the calibre never quite reached the heights of the beginning of the show. A real shame.
Still, the overall question remains: was it fun? The answer is yes. Definitely a source of guaranteed laughs, if only the structure were tightened up a little bit; some things just weren’t working.
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