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Footlights Showcase Review

As student comedy goes, the bar has been set pretty high

Having never been to a Footlights gig before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Whilst it is an ‘amateur’ endeavour, over the decades it has given rise to many of my comedy heroes. At any rate, I was looking forward to seeing seven people get up on stage with a view to tickling my funny bone – a brave and commendable act.

It’s quite difficult to come up with a universally applicable set of standards with which to gauge the quality of comedy but in my experience, the two questions to be answered are: firstly, did you laugh and, secondly, did you laugh enough to make the price of the ticket worth it. Every other detail is subordinate.

It’s always possible to criticise shows but its not always possible to enjoy them. I’ve not been to a single comedy event that hasn’t received some form of criticism.

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Photo: Patrick Sylla

Bearing all of that in mind, I am so happy to say that I loved this gig!

Between the two MCs and the five acts, the quality – whilst variable – was high. Variable quality in comedy isn’t a bad thing, especially when the baseline level is high, which it certainly was. Comedy should be inclusive and a resource such as the ADC is a great place for new acts to cut their teeth as well as for old hands to do what they do best.

With student comedy, it’s good to sometimes sacrifice quality in favour of nurturing new acts because it can take a long time to 'get funny'. It’s still a difficult balance to strike because you don’t want the bill to be so weak that the audience never returns, but they got the balance absolutely right.

If that is the nature of the show being run (and by that I mean one where the acts are of varying standards) then the MC has to make a very concerted effort to keep the crowd warm, especially if someone has just had a bad run. At points I did feel as though the audience still felt bemused from the previous act as the next one was coming on. More than anything it's unfair on the next act to whom the task of getting the crowd back onside now falls – this should always be the job of the MC. It would have been nice to see more of them between acts, not least because they were brilliantly funny in their own right. I always want to laugh so I never feel as though I need someone to 'keep me warm', but the rest of audience seemed to dig their heels in when it came to producing much actual laughter.

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Photo: Patrick Sylla

As an audience member at a gig like this you have to go in actually wanting to laugh even when it gets a bit unorthodox which it certainly did. There is no point going to see the Footlights if all you want is bread-and-butter-family-friendly Michael McIntyre because it won’t happen. I think on this occasion the audience wasn’t that up for it, which was sad. The comedians were definitely deserving of a better reaction than they got from the audience but that is a risk that you take when you put on something more 'niche'.

I laughed pretty much all the way through and would have easily paid 25% more for my ticket. It was a real treat of a night and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be going to see them again.