Review: Chuckle Busters presents Tony Law

Calum Stewart barely glanced at the audience at all during his set supporting Tony Law, hiding behind his fringe and alternating between looking down at the floor or down at his notes scrawled on his hand. Normally, this lack of eye contact would mean a lack of connection with the audience, but here it only played up his persona as painfully shy and the laughs came as thick and fast as the clever one-liners.

Next up was Riordan DJ. It’s very clear to see why he won the Chortle Student Comedy Award. His set was cleverly worded and expertly crafted, constantly making in-jokes with the audience to call back. What was particularly impressive about DJ was his ability to stretch and build on jokes, taking an already funny joke and making it hilarious. He noted he looked like Harry Potter, but that that helped him get birds, mostly owls, but he’s still a head turner. With his timing and eye for wordplay, there’s no way Riordan DJ isn’t going to be a huge name in comedy.

Then came the main event, Mr Tony Law. Tony Law is difficult to describe. He doesn’t really do jokes – watching him perform is a bit like watching a very, very loosely structured schizophrenic episode – and he has an army of loyal followers who keep coming back for more. 

The Wardrobe Theatre was packed out with those loyal Tonians on Tuesday, as was clear by the warmth and immediacy of the laughter as soon as he stepped on stage with his enormous beard and wild eyes, in what might have been a sailor costume. His material is quite amazingly silly, featuring anecdotes about his life as a time traveller (where he invented convoys and bantered with Genghis Khan), volunteering with bonobo monkeys (where he became their leader because he was the tallest) and of course discussing his career as a 1970s trampolinist.

Just in case that wasn’t absurd enough, Law also threw in a few aeroplane impressions, shouting “You need a reason to put airplane sounds in your show, Tone”, and early in the set removed his trousers to reveal a pair of extremely tight, extremely short, white, tasseled shorts, which he performed the rest of the show in. Why? Who knows? I doubt he even does, but it was hilarious, and that pretty much sums up the madness that is Tony Law.

 

Hannah McLeod

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Review: Glassnut: Edinburgh Show Highlights

*****

The Bristol Revunions have taken their two Edinburgh sketch comedy shows, Glass and Walnut, and blended them to form Glassnut: Edinburgh Show Highlights in the SU’s Winston Theatre. 

No automatic alt text available.Right from the opening dance number so punchy that one of the performers literally punched another in the face and knocked him out, it was clear that these four performers (Jack Butler, Eleanor Harris, Ted Milligan and James Trickey) were bursting with energy. None more so than Butler, who bounced around the stage as if he were sponsored by Red Bull. His physical comedy was genuinely impressive and often scene-stealing, especially as the slithering, rubber-legged creature (could be a dinosaur? gremlin? some sort of space lizard?) which passes Prince Charming’s glass slipper test, and the close-up magician who can make not only a sponge ball disappear but also your father and your identity.

Trickey was outstanding as a Dyson hand drier in perhaps one of the best sketches of the night, whilst Milligan’s Gareth Gates impression was so wrong it was right. Harris’ masterfully deadpan expressions made her occasional slight corpse or fumble over words really funny and endearing, perhaps especially in the Revunions’ home turf in the Bristol SU building.

Glassnut shows that the Bristol Revunions are capable of producing cleverly crafted longer sketches, as well as some truly brilliant quickies that cut straight to the punchline on topics such as going on a bear hunt, spilling your grandfather’s ashes and camp fires. The Revs are a comedy force to be reckoned with.

 

Hannah McLeod

Preview: Bristol Comedy Garden 2017

From the 14th – 18th June, Bristol’s Queens Square will become a hub of comedy action for Bristol Comedy Garden 2017. It’s back, and this year it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

The line-up is ridiculously good, featuring the likes of Greg Davies, Joe Lycett, Sara Pascoe, Nina Conti, Aisling Bea and many, many more.

If comedy isn’t your thing, the square will also be crammed full of cider, craft beers and cocktails, as well as local street food with something for everyone whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan.

Some shows are already sold out, but to grab your tickets go to the Bristol Comedy Garden website.

Review: Alan

****

 

“Coming of age isn’t much fun…” but watching the hilariously obdurate Alan struggle to make it to the next stage in life certainly is. Bristol student Sam Toller’s trifecta directing, writing and starring has resulted in Alan, an independent film that nostalgically celebrates the quirks of adolescence without patronising the naivety of youth.

Alan (Sam Toller) is stuck at crossroads: the pressure is on to make a choice between universities, he’s facing the prospect of a long distance relationship with a girlfriend who seems to hate him, and, on top of that, his hopes of being a writer are delayed by the fact that he, well, can’t seem to write. Alan feels like he’s peaked and is on a downhill rollercoaster. How can the prospect of moving away be a good thing when it means the inevitable end of so much?

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Filmed over the last year in both London and Bristol, Sam Toller’s passion project is finally being unveiled on May 2 at a premiere in the Winston Theatre, Bristol SU.

This isn’t your average coming-of-age comedy. Filled with wry humour and intensely honest self-deprecating wit, Alan is a mix of philosophical broodings and youthful hilarity that points out the all too familiar anxiety of making life decisions when your life has barely been lived. “I am worthless”, Alan tells himself when things start going wrong. “…or, I’m just punishing myself?”

Toller’s script, for all its self-doubt, still manages to celebrate the power of good friends. Layla Madanat gives standout heart and punch to the fearless Chrissie, who is basically the best friend we all wish we were lucky enough to be blessed with at seventeen. Arthur Godden’s portrayal of James, Alan’s other best friend, is also praiseworthy: James is bold but sweet. Toller describes the writing process as “very observational”, and this translates into a realistic and extremely lovable cast of characters all itching to take the next step in life.

The story is enhanced by the freedom of an independent project, and you can feel that is has been shaped by one vision that has gradually developed into something profound and funny. Shot on a Sony FS100 with a small three-man crew, the scenes are often long and representative of the repetitiveness of real-life conversation. And there is a lot of repetition, all in the name of Alan’s self-discovery. While, as a viewer, the longer, more static scenes can be a little draining, Toller described this as the sort of vibe he wanted.

“I wanted to let the actors act and make the most of the script,” he commented. “We’d do a few takes from one angle, usually getting the whole scene in one take, then move on to another.”

It is refreshing to allow a scene to flourish in its own time – something the cut-and-move-on vibe of a Hollywood blockbuster often smothers. Settle in for the long haul, and embrace it.

The long scenes also serve to enhance the punchiness of the shorter, more comedic ones. Without giving too much away, expect a car crash, the awkwardness of attempting to buy alcohol when underage, and one very lucky coke bottle…

Many of the viewers watching Alan’s premiere will be approaching the end of their degrees, and will feel a very personal nostalgia about the last time they were coming to the end of an era. This reviewer certainly was. However, take heart, Alan’s overriding message is one of hope. No matter how unclear the future looks right now, Alan will remind you that our paths all take their own routes shaped by endless scope of opportunity out there.

 

Jessica Cripps

Review: Dinner Time

****

‘Dinner Time’ was Bristol Improv’s most recent offering; a longform piece set at a dinner party, in celebration of [INSERT AUDIENCE’S ABSURD SUGGESTION]. Unfortunately, my offering of ‘getting Tango’d’ wasn’t chosen from the chalice, (probably for the best) but ‘Roger discovering life on the moon’ worked out a treat for both audiences and performers.

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It was refreshing to see a cast of colour and diversity on stage, among a university and an industry that, as we’ve seen over the past few months, still has lots of work to do in that respect. The cast and their directors, Pravanya Pillay and Patrick Levermore, were brilliant and didn’t rely on observational, race-related humour – and why should they?

Personally, I’m skeptical about improv. Like organized religion, I get why people like it but I tend to stay away. But longform can offer a unique comedic playground, with a barebones structure that keeps the comedy moving, whilst still allowing enough absurdity for laughs, and many opportunities for the cast’s personal wit to shine through.

Philippe Bosher was a stand out of the show. The combination of full bodied characterization and comedic sharpness is a rare one, and combined with some brilliant facial expressions it lent Bosher a wonderful Rowan-Atkinson-ness. Wonderful to watch.

Sarah Alli, the straight man (/woman) to Bosher’s fool, did a brilliant job of catalyzing the comedy and keeping the narrative to avoid the staleness that can sometimes linger in Improv.

James Trickey and Flora Donald were wonderfully awkward as the man that found life on the moon and the best friend who was looking a little closer to home. I.e. SHE FANCIED THE PANTS OFF HIM. Not literally. It wasn’t that improvisational. But these two have been around the comedic block a bit, and it shows; their chemistry was perfect and by the end of the show the audience were screaming for them to kiss. We were sorely disappointed.

As was Philippe Bosher’s Alan, who commented on the build up in character – very meta. This was one of the most enjoyable elements of the show; the knowingness of the group, playing with the form of improv itself and pointing out the absurdity. Kudos to the directors for ensuring that the actors constantly mimed the world they were in, discovering difficulties with doors that don’t exist and non-existent beans burning in the microwave. It’s this kind of attention to detail that offers up a range of comedic possibilities, which ‘Dinner Time’ took full advantage of.

 

Sam Toller 

Review: Revunions and Friends

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Within the highly charged and multifarious pool of drama societies within Bristol University, the Revunions are a relatively small fish in a rather large pond. Where some of the bigger organisations are the headline stealers, Revs often take a quieter spot delivering their unique brand of sketch comedy; and one might have thought that this would put them at a disadvantage when facing the relative giants of the Cambridge Footlights and Leeds Tealights, two sketch groups with a history of lighting up the Edinburgh Fringe year on year. But for ‘Revunions And Friends’, the show shared between these three, Revs put on their party hats to speed ahead.

It’s been a tradition in recent years for sketch societies from different universities to visit one another and share a platform, and the success of the past few seasons was again echoed in this show. The Leeds Tealights were the first to take the stage and impress the loyal Bristolian crowd. Their reputation for fast-paced and often physical comedy was not lost on the latest generation of Tealighters as they turned reality upside down. Firstly they introduced us to an overzealous safety officer delivering a health and safety assessment to First World War soldiers about to go over the top, then led us into a bitching match between supermarket adverts and showed us what an Uber-style spaceship might be like.

There were some eye-catching individual performances, but their best moments came when they worked as a group: for instance, recreating a ‘you wouldn’t steal’ advert for ‘THE LOCAL LIBRARY!’. Their final sketch was a hysterical performance of a school drama devised assessment about the evils of the internet, and was an excellent reminder of the way this increasingly notorious sketch group can make an audience clutch their sides with laughter. It must be said, however, that this came at the price of a few undercooked sketches, such as the ‘sex addicts anonymous’ sketch in which the punchline of a lost group leader fell flat.

What was strange about the night was that the most famous sketch troupe of them all, the Footlights, were the weakest of the bunch. The three actors sent down from East Anglia delivered an ever-so-slightly drab set in which the audience’s laughter never really managed to take off. One sketch, for instance, featured John Malkovich complaining to a casting panel that he hadn’t been cast in ‘Being John Malkovich’ – a fine premise – but the jokes never moved far beyond listing other actors who could play the part. Another featured a political debate between someone who wants to make the children of Britain healthy and someone who merely contradicted him, without the further absurdist twist that a sketch like that begs for. There were, as ever, some good ideas to display, but the actors failed to fill the space with their presence and left the energy lacking, and, together with some discordant punchlines, the Footlights were a shadow of their own name.

But then came the Bristol Revunions. In the past the Revs have often played second, third or thirteenth fiddle to the likes of these two, but this performance put them firmly in first place. They surged onto the stage like a hurricane, each performer bringing a sparkling energy that immediately picked the laugh rate up off the floor. From finding the city of Bruges lodged up a man’s rectum to two hand dryers being trumped by a Dyson, Revs scored a whole bucket of brownie points with the crowd with their absurdity, their confidence and the precision of their timing. Even the more basic ideas – such as literally putting money on a horse and not understanding how to make money from it – were carried off with aplomb, and not the smallest of jokes was lost on the crowd. Home advantage clearly paid off for them as they turned an occasionally uncertain night of comedy into a hailstorm of laughter.

This was a very enjoyable night of sketch comedy that marched through slow patches to find its way to the mighty Revs, who, while on home turf, ought to celebrate their time in the sun.

 

Benjie Beer

3 Shows You NEED to Catch Up On

First of all, a quick disclaimer. I LOVE all of these shows, so be prepared for a very gushing and hyperbolic post to follow. But I love them all because they’re brilliant. Really brilliant, and well worth catching up on (luckily they’re all available on iPlayer and 4OD.) If you need a dissertation break, or you just need cheering up, try watching one – or all – of these.

This Country, on BBC Three, has become one of my all time favourite comedies. The premise doesn’t sound like much: it’s a mockumentary following the lives of two teenagers, Kerry and Kurtan, in their small rural village. Admittedly, not an awful lot happens (aside from scarecrow festivals, ‘plumming’ attacks, and failed attempts at romance.) However, part of what makes This Country so damn effective is its simplicity. Real-life sibling duo Daisy May and Charlie Cooper give unnervingly convincing, hilarious, and at times touching performances, with an on-screen chemistry that makes for seriously entertaining viewing. The recurring characters, too, such as the vicar and local boy ‘Slugs,’ could have come straight from any village in Britain. This Country has made me genuinely laugh out loud in every episode thanks to the cast’s nuanced performances and the fantastic attention to detail. I cannot recommend it highly enough – especially if, like me, you are well acquainted with the trials and tribulations (and sheer boringness) of growing up in a village.

Watch if you enjoy: The Office, Parks & Rec, Summer Heights High
Summed up in two words: Hilarious, accurate

Now in its third series, Catastrophe is as good as ever. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney are forces to be reckoned with, having written and starred in one of the best comedies of recent years. Catastrophe is an antidote to sitcoms like My Family, in that its characters are likeable, funny, and relatable. We now find Rob and Sharon with a toddler, a young baby, and a marriage hanging by the threads (after Sharon may or may not have slept with a young guy from an indie band.) Perhaps not aimed at a university age group (who are probably not familiar with marriage or kids,) Catastrophe is nonetheless a must-see, and has set the sights exceedingly high for any future British sitcoms. Horgan and Delaney have a sizzling, sexy chemistry and the late Carrie Fisher’s cameos as Rob’s mum are a delight. I implore you to watch the previous series on 4OD – you won’t regret doing so.

Watch if you enjoy: I’m struggling to compare Catastrophe with anything else, because it’s just so much better than any other sitcoms out there. So watch if you enjoy laughing.
Summed up in two words: Relatable, naughty

Finally, Inside No. 9 is an absolute treat. The show is very dark, whilst also being very funny and very clever. Its writers and stars, Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton, have created a truly unique style of comedy: it makes you feel uneasy, confused, claustrophobic, but all the time leaves you wanting more. I can highly recommend watching Episode 3 of the current (third) series on iPlayer. It has so many twists and turns throughout the episode, but has an ending that still manages to be truly shocking. This episode encapsulates the tone of Inside No. 9 perfectly: dark, uncomfortable, clever and unlike anything else on TV at the moment. I realise this ‘review’ has turned into a list of adjectives, but it’s hard to describe a show that has such a paradoxical and thought-provoking style of comedy. Just watch Episode 3: if you enjoy this one, you’ll love the others.

Watch if you enjoy: Brass Eye, Getting On, Sherlock (it’s got a similar dark/clever/funny tone)
Summed up in two words: Weird, wonderful

Emily Snow
Deputy Editor