Tough Crowd

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This sketch show does little to appease its namesake, writes ALISHAH SHARIFF.

Pembroke New Cellars, 9.30pm, Tue 5th – Sat 9th March, £5

by Milo Edwards, Marc Shalet, Thomas Fraser and Ryan Hocking

directed by Ivan Gostev


Pembroke’s New Cellars smell remarkably like your typical, sweaty secondary school sports hall. Somewhere you probably witnessed more humour than I did during last night’s show.

It started off well enough; I found myself laughing early on at a sketch which involved a class of poetry students being shot down by their self-assured teacher (Ryan Hocking). He had so little time for other people’s work that, at one point, he quite literally decided to eat it. Thea Hawlin aptly represented the posh, conceited and superficial English student trying to be “deep” through her trails of alliterated academic gobbledegook, and Dan Eastment’s one-liner “I’m so Meta Even This Acronym” was simple and effective. Another great sketch saw Hawlin put a great spin on the typical coffee-date scenario, where she goes on a date with someone she has met online. The mystery man turns out to be a dark, rich, exotic… coffee, but hey, at least he always comes in a small cup. This was definitely one of the funnier punch lines of the show. The majority of the sketches, however, failed to deliver a punch line at all.

Some sketches that were vaguely funny relied on scenarios that are overused in the world of comedy; other sketches that started off funny soon became less so, usually because they were too long, typified by Hocking’s wonderful depiction of excessively camp auctioneer lancing a few too many unoriginal insults at his bidders. Some sketches, which banalised issues such as incest and adultery, had the potential to be funny but usually fell flat.

Despite the general inability of last night’s show to inspire laughter in me, I must say that the actors themselves engaged well with one another and managed to adapt to their changing characters well. What’s more, at no point did they laugh at their own jokes, as is so often the case with amateur comics Hocking in particular stood out, demonstrating a great diversity in the roles he played and played well, especially in his portrayal of a gloomy and dawdling vegetarian at a meat-only restaurant. Milo Edwards seemed to be more comfortable when doing his own sketches, and was often funnier going solo than he was in a group, though he excelled in his role as the boss of a porn company trying to think outside the sleazy box, delivering his lines well, his hand never very far away from his crotch. Hawlin put in a solid performance throughout, however she seemed to be mostly limited to the role of a posh, unsatisfied woman; it would have been good to see a bit more variety in the characters she portrayed.

All in all, I would say that whilst the cast tried to poke fun at typical day-to-day situations, more often than not they refused to turn parody into genuine comedy. That said, I did get a few good laughs out of the performance, and for that I thank the cast – perhaps I was too tough a member of this tough crowd.

  • But

    how has every reviewer missed out the amazing song??

    • Amazing?


  • Observer

    It should be noted that, with c.12 people in a room with capacity for 70, the atmosphere wasn’t the most conducive to laughter.

  • Marc Shalet

    How do I even fail to get a mention in my own show??

    • Brilliant


    • Audience member

      Well I think you made a great interviewer

      • Though

        the Crunch Nut scene was a let down

  • JP
    • Was

      Dan Eastman expecting that nobody in the entirety of Cambridge to have heard of xkcd?

      • Dan EASTMENT

        1) My name is in the original article, your ability to still spell it incorrectly is quite incredible.
        2) If you actually did any research whatsoever you’d see that I did not write the show, I was just an extra in a sketch. I, like 99% of the planet’s population, was entirely oblivious to the existence of ‘xkcd’.
        3) If you actually came to the show you’d be aware that the comedy was not derived from the line itself (or at least was not intended to be) but instead the reaction to it. The fact that the author of the review has decided to quote it directly, is in my opinion, surprising.

  • wotwotitsourpresident


  • Bham Anti-Pigeoner

    would love to go on a session with these nuttas

  • a

    I bet the person that made the book likes Game of Thrones

  • Sad Grad

    ooooh! The Cadbury “Joy” promotion! – you can still claim if you are a winner!

  • James

    This is ridiculous. Clearly the point being made by academics is that having feelings towards children is perfectly natural, but there is no suggestion that anyone should act on them because of the potentially detrimental impact on the child. To suggest that this is ‘Pro-paedophile’, i.e. advocating the activity, and that it could create a tolerant environment leaving us susceptible to another Jimmy Saville, is simply a knee-jerk reaction by a politician looking to score points with the public

    • John

      Maybe some of these academics withdrew comments or were only providing academic conclusions but Plummer’s statement that “Paedophiles are told they are the seducers and rapists of children; they know their experiences are often loving and tender ones. They are told that children are pure and innocent, devoid of sexuality; they know both from their own experiences of childhood and from the children they meet that this is not the case” is a pretty messed up and clearly wildly inaccurate view to hold. If it’s not “pro” then its at least trying to give them an excuse and that’s unforgivable. Academic investigation is one thing but when he’s spouting stuff which could potentially legitimize the act to a potential offender like that then yes, he is creating an environment which could breed more Saville-esque individuals.

      • James

        I understand your point. However, your comment that what he is ‘spouting’ could ‘potentially legitimize the act’ is mistaken. It does indeed legitimize the feeling, but there is a great gulf between the feeling and the act i.e. acting on that feeling.

    • Mort93

      So true.

  • Bradley Williamson

    Universities are a place for discussion and progression of society. No topic should be section off, regardless of how obscene it appears to an individual.

  • Pingback: google()

  • Member of selection panel

    Start of next week. Still time to enter for all hopeful contestants, but the competition is very tough.

  • Marx (1939) – Grundrisse

    Themes of pedophilia is prominent through Marxist writings.
    “Pedos aren’t that bad. Capitalist exploitation is bad” (34).

  • L

    Spot on. A paedophile is not necessarily a bad person. You can think of it as a sickness, and focus on protecting children rather than demonising those who are unlucky enough to be struggling to do the same – from themselves. This article reeks of moral outrage, and we should be incredibly concerned whenever academics’ right to freely pursue an intellectual line of thought is challenged. Academics should be answerable to other academics, let the best argument win. Indignant Daily Mail readers shouldn’t have a say in the matter.

  • Devil’s advocate

    Are children always incapable of giving informed consent? In medicine, under 16s can consent to medical treatment (e.g. contraception) if they understand it adequately (Gillick’s competence)

  • R

    This American Life did a great story on this:

    (act 2)

  • K

    there are doubtless also people above 16 who are unable to give informed consent. You have to draw a clear line somewhere though, deciding on the basis of individual cases wouldn’t be practical. Agree completely with J, surely we shouldn’t be marginalising people for their beliefs?

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