Footlights Smoker

KIERAN CORCORAN doesn’t say ‘mixed bag’, because that’s not really what it was.

act casual ADC theatre Ahir Shah Ali Lewis Comedy Footlights footlights smoker jason forbes matilda wnek Phil Wang pierre novillie Smoker

ADC Theatre, 11th October, 11pm, £6-7

[rating: 2/5]

I remember my first. Oh how I laughed. For lots of audience, this was their first, and who can begrudge them their Pavlovian diaphragmatic contractions during before and after every twitch of the Footlights’ light feet?

Now, there’s no smoke(r) without fire, and this too had its flames and flickers. But, bluntly speaking, most weren’t blazing very brightly last night as laziness, wasted potential and a paucity of punchlines dampened proceedings.

The main problem was that a whole slew of sketches (maybe half) just didn’t have many funny bits very often. This isn’t especially interesting to anatomise, but I’ll have a go:

Elaborate sketches, such as those hinging on lengthy Harry Potter parody, or a ‘talking’ doll that someone presumably found backstage yesterday, required an investment from the audience which just wasn’t justified by the outcome.

At the other end of the spectrum, doing ridiculous things for the sake of it (Jason Forbes’ bird-man and everyone in the S&M monk scene at the end) was only ever good for the cheapest and shallowest of laughs, which a discerning audience really ought to be above.

A stand-up set from Pierre Novellie won some points from the sheer engaging quality of his anecdotal style, but deconstructing things that dickheads say in McDonalds at 3am is surprisingly unfulfilling from a comic perspective. A subsequent comic poem lacked the sharpness of construction to warrant our indulgence and played out mostly as loose observation. The man’s probably my favourite Cambridge stand-up, but last night wasn’t his night.

Scraps of Act Casual didn’t make me regret skipping on the Corpus lateshow, though they did somewhat worthy service in providing the only speaking female parts of the night (Cambridge comedy, I’ve told you once already to up your game on that front).

Some stood out – of course. Ahir Shah was probably the most consistent funnyman out last night – his foray into the underdeveloped world of Hinduism humour was excellently pitched to a room of 200 people who can just about remember RS lessons at school.

Later material on being a MASSIVE LAD started well, but saying “lads!” swiftly and often is only funny to a point, and the conceit was spun out into two routines with an identical arc and tone. Inevitably, the second felt repetitive and tired.

Ali Lewis, by Jove, actually had the audacity to come out by himself and just do a lot of jokes in a row. They didn’t require contrived set-ups, props or ‘wacky’ gestures/expressions. It was great – funnier faster than anything else in the show, but by no means the norm.

There have been and will be better smokers than this, although they are likely to feature substantially the same people. Heck, I’m still rusty all over after the summer, so why shouldn’t these guys be too?

But the fact remains that a lot is expected of the Footlights, even in the ‘experimental’ smoker setting, and they still have a way to go before justifying the mostly-deserved esteem in which they are held.