Venue: The Counting House
What happens when you make a comedian tell someone else’s jokes? And what if they’d only learned this new routine five-minutes before having to perform it? While the premise of Joke Thieves sounds like it could end up with crickets chirping and a lone, awkward cough as the response to the evening’s entertainment, the format works wonderfully, with plenty of intentional and unintentional laughs to be had.
Will Mars is an energetic and quick-witted host, and his confidence puts the audience at ease. He explains how the evening’s proceedings will work: four comics in two pairs (prior to the opening sets, Mars has an audience member pair up the comics to make sure we all know this is proper improvisation), doing eight separate routines; first their own, and then the routine of their partner. While the acts obviously want to put their best foot forward, they also know who’ll be repeating their routine, and sometimes tailor the jokes to be as awkward as possible for the other comedian to tell.
The line up for this night is Darius Davies, Kathryn Henson, Tom Little, and Kevin Dewsbury. Davies is his usual bombastic self, delivering his jokes with incision alongside a bit of meta-humour, ideal for a night like this. He does a great job of pushing the audience from merry to raucous. Henson is up next and, unusually for comedy (and, depressingly, society in general), the only female comedian has a slight advantage, knowing it will be a man parroting her act. She delivers with a laugh-out-loud routine about yeast infections that has the audience screeching, both at the act and in anticipation of Little having to repeat it.
Henson is followed by Little, whose awkward energy brings a tinge of concern to the audience, especially as the two comedians he follows both have confident stage personas. However, within seconds any worry is dispelled as Little deftly plays with our assumptions about him and delivers a quirky routine that fills the room with belly-laughs. Dewsbury is last up and he veers energetically between topics in the shortened set but manages to get a fair few zingers in too.
Then the real reason we’re all here begins. First up is Little, who brings the house down with his terrible New York accent (Henson is from the States), playing into the awkwardness of talking about ‘his’ vagina. Davies follows with a biting re-rendition of Dewsbury’s set, complete with a professional critique that has us all giggling.
Henson comes on and slays for the second time, getting to the heart of Little’s on-stage persona in a way that’s both charming yet snarky (an accomplishment in itself). We finish with Dewsbury again, who gets his own back on Davies with some sarcastic ripostes and well-aimed criticism. All in all, a unique night that should be on everybody’s Fringe watch list.
Dates: Daily at 21.00 until the 29th of August.
Image: Gabriel Michael