Footlights Smoker

MAX UPTON pays tribute to the Footlights graduands, standing up for the possibility of a 5-star smoker.

Abi Tedder Ben Kavanagh Footlights footlights smoker Max Upton nick ricketts Pierre Novellie Smoker

ADC Theatre, 14th June, 11pm, £6-7


First of all, I’d like to apologise if any comedian’s heart was set a-flutter last night by the line ‘another Smoker, another day. What more can ya say?’ on the Tab’s live review feed (EDITOR’S NOTE: my bad).  I feel there has been some kind of breakdown in communication here as last night’s Smoker was, without doubt, the best I have yet seen in Cambridge.

A pox on branding Smokers as ‘mixed bags’ – a pox on it, I say. Last night, we were handed a premium bag of shining, succulent and organic comedic fruits; juicy enough to tempt even the most frigid of Eves.

It’s always a good thing when the first person on stage is Mr Pierre Novellie, the grand-daddy of Smokers himself. Inexplicable scooter in hand, his turn as an ever-so polite serial killer on a shopping trip was brilliant.

The night proved to be a very good showcase for stand-up. It felt like a real treat to be present at Dannish Babar’s last ever Smoker routine – a tinny microphone in no way hampered his relentlessly inspired set.

From coining ‘twattitude’ to a spider-diagram joke so simple that it’s a wonder it’s never been done before, Mr Babar left the student comedy scene with a bang (despite his attempts at an anti-climactic ending). Phil Wang was also on form, his customarily effortless excellence allowing him to make a routine about not much in particular one of the evening’s many highlights.

Sketch comedy, too, proved to be in no short supply (there were around 20 different scenes) and the quality on display was of an extremely high standard.

Will Attenborough and Harry Michell delivered unto us two wonderful sketches, one of an over-keen hard-man (hearing as accomplished a thesp as Attenborough deliver the word ‘bum-bum’ was nothing short of heavenly) and the other of the chastising of a Shakespearian bully. Their sketch show Act Casual at the start of Michelmas 2011 is clearly going to be a hot ticket…

At this point, I want to emphasise just what a pleasure it is to see Jonny Lennard perform at Smokers. Why this guy’s ‘Children’s Author’ character is not on national television is anyone’s business. My spirits lift whenever I see him approach the stage and last night’s tale of a liberal family struggling to come to terms with their son’s new-found homophobia (shaking with ‘tolerant rage’, they were) was sublime.

It’s always nice to see a little hardcore nudity at student comedy events and I’m sure that there will be several girls (and boys) out there who will be aghast to know that they missed an opportunity to see Nick Ricketts in the nude.

However, what was great about the three sketches which featured naked Romeo (three, count ‘em!) was that they didn’t just rely on shock/schlong-factor alone – Abi Tedder was always there to deliver some brilliant punch-lines.

Hot from Pretty Little Panic, Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen were as on-form as ever. You know you’re doing something right if the audience is giggling before you’ve even said anything… These gifted performers are going to be sorely missed.

Of course, on closer inspection, this bag of treats is not short of a few bruised fruits. The trio of Matilda Wnek, Dominic Biddle and Tim Benger had some lovely ideas but were quite often simply too quiet for a lot of the jokes to be heard and would have benefited from tighter dialogue.

However, the shop assistant selling this bag would be completely justified in defending this particular fruit as being picked before it was ripe – last night was this group’s first ever Smoker and they’ll doubtlessly be a bunch to look out for next year.

The night ended on a real high with Joe Bannister and Ben Kavanagh (together again as ‘Anaphylactic Shock’) gloriously undermining their friendship by ousting a few skeletons from their respective closets through the medium of song.

Having the entire catalogue of performers gather onto the stage to join them in the final chorus was a genuinely sweet way to finish a night of comedic brilliance. There are some big shoes to fill.