Footlights Smoker

BASIL FRANCIS finds both disappointment and delight at this fortnight’s smoker.

ADC basil francis Comedy Footlights harry michell Mick Campbell Phil Wang Pierre Novellie Smoker Theatre

ADC Theatre, Tuesday 28th February, 11pm, £6-7

[rating: 3/5]

It may be that I’ve seen some incredibly funny shows in Cambridge, or that humour is – in its very nature – a subjective mistress, but I wasn’t all that impressed with last night’s edition of the biweekly affair that is the Footlights Smoker. However that’s not to say it didn’t make me laugh.

There were a wide variety of sketches, the worst unfunny and contrived and the best exemplifying some very clever comedy. Familiar faces such as Pierre Novellie and Phil Wang frequently appeared, although – to my surprise – they didn’t create the biggest laughs of the night.

In fact (and I thought I’d never say this) there was a sketch in which I didn’t find Novellie funny at all, telling largely predictable jokes in a parody of the Salem witch hunt.

The show took a while to get off its feet, beginning rather awkwardly with an experimental piece where one person had to spin the wheel of a bicycle to make another man give an unrealistic speech about nuclear warfare.

The audience seemed slightly bewildered, but tittered all the same. However, Wang immediately came to the rescue to deliver yet another inspired stand-up routine. From then on, it was a comedy roller-coaster with more than a few ups and downs.

The best sketches of the show were the most creative and thoughtful. My favourite sketch involved two men trapped in a malfunctioning lift together. One takes out his phone to call his wife, while the other (having apparently mugged this same woman) answers the call to imitate her. What appeared to be quite a predictable sketch at first actually displayed some rather clever twists and ideas, becoming more funny and memorable as it did so.

Other highlights included Wang conversing with a farcical cockney detective, some extremely nerdy stand-up scientifically analysing virgins, a man being told how to pose to take a photo, a parody of Willy Wonka with chocolate substituted for meat, a hilarious misunderstanding in a confessional and an alarmingly emphatic song about the trials and tribulations of wanking from Mick Campbell.

It wasn’t a bad Smoker, but there was a definite lack of extremely good material, with the majority of the sketches being funny, but only moderately so. Then there were some bits that simply weren’t funny at all. Nevertheless, with more sweet than sour, this collection of comedic vignettes was still worth the time and money of anyone who went to see them last night.