Review – Comic Sans: Return of the Serif
A laugh-out-loud hilarious improv show you wouldn’t want to miss in week 8
This is the fourth instalment of Comic Sans, an improv comedy show featuring female and non-binary cast members only (with the exception of wonderful pianist Lawrence Schofield). Promising to be a safe space for people of underrepresented genders to perform unscripted sketches in a supportive environment, it has been running every year since 2018, initially under the (frankly genius) title of “Comic Sans Men”, and it’s proven hugely popular ever since. And so the Serif has returned again in 2021 – with a bang.
As you might expect, the show opened with many of the predictable digs at “straight white men”, and while the audience lapped it up with delight, the topics moved on quickly, and the cast took on all kinds of subject matter with confidence and humour, from the downright silly to the more thoughtful and witty. But their lack of clear focus on one single topic and their ability to bounce off every idea – no matter how bizarre – to produce something laugh-out-loud funny is what gives this show its brilliance.
The monologuist – who opens the shows and gives several short improvised stand-up sets throughout – changes every night, but Sophie Stemmons’ performance on the opening night was fantastic. She is amazingly charismatic and enthusiastic, and did a wonderful job of opening the show to whoops and laughs galore, and responding to the audience’s prompts to produce some lively stories for the rest of the cast to work off.
The cast of improvisors also shifts slightly every night, but on the first night they were nothing short of wonderful. Every member of the cast threw themselves into it with an infectious energy, and there were simply too many great moments to name them all. Ella Scott, Naima Clarvis, and Tavy Oursin were particularly impressive throughout this first performance, but everybody involved had standout moments to be proud of.
Crucially, these performers know their audience inside out and made use of it at all times: call the audience’s sense of humour predictable all you want, but monologuist Sophie Stemmons had them in the palm of her hand, hyping them up at the beginning and giving knowing looks and pauses after her very best jokes. And it worked: I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic, engaged or hyped-up audience at any kind of theatrical performance, not even at a professional comedy show – and the ADC was packed out. With a different audience, this show would probably not work this well. But that’s good advertising: people knew exactly what they were coming for, and they got it in spades.
Improv theatre is by nature unwieldy – there is so much capacity for something to go wrong, and even at the best non-improvised sketch shows there are often awkward moments, or jokes that just don’t work for everyone. The fact that there were almost no uncomfortable hesitations and definitely no awkward silences at this hour-long, entirely improvised show is nothing short of incredibly impressive.
I can’t promise that this will be the case every night, and nor would it be remotely fair to expect such perfection at all times, but I’m sure that every night’s cast will be equally talented and equally well-versed, and this show isn’t worth missing for anything. I have a feeling that many members of the audience will be back every night for more, so grab your tickets now and join them.
Comic Sans: Return of the Serif runs from Thursday 25th November until Sunday 28th November at 9.30pm at the ADC Theatre. Tickets are available here.
Feature Image Credits: Comic Sans Production Team.