Tall, dark, handsome (according to Ricky Gervais), and rip-roaringly funny; how else can one describe FootDarks, the triple threat of Cambridge stand-ups Hasan Al-Habib, Patrick Sylla, and Danny Baalbaki?
There’s been an uptick in what one might call “racial humour” in recent years, where comedians will exploit their ethnicity to score a couple of cheap laughs, and it’s rarely, if ever, good. FootDarks advertised itself as “three of the Cambridge Footlights’ finest standups and they’re all BME (although [they] prefer the term alt-white).” It would be all too easy for them to fall into this trap, but the trio is a masterclass in how racial humour ought to be done; their ethnicity is not the butt of the joke, but rather supports and builds up the joke and helps form incredibly cohesive sets.
Each member’s set is creative, refreshing, and distinct from the rest. Al-Habib’s dry, sarcastic humour is unassuming to start with, but it quickly spirals out of control as he delves further into his extraordinarily cleverly written set that wastes no second of time and delivers every punchline perfectly. Sylla follows that up with a relaxed fifteen minutes of jokes exploring his identity and stereotypes. He riffs off of audience participation, and makes a very drunk heckler a significant part of the show; he seems to thrive off the audience’s energy. Baalbaki finishes the night on a strong note, with a well-written set that he occasionally sets aside to just have fun with the audience. He also delivers some of the more risque content of the show, but does so in a way that felt classy and uncontrived.
The group must absolutely get credit for trying out new material frequently throughout their run, but one or two jokes don’t quite get the laughs they expect. Similarly, their opening sketch is too scripted and gives the show an unfortunately awkward start. That seems to be their biggest weakness: FootDarks is so much better when they go off script and fully engage with the audience. Their comedic timing and writing is fantastic, but it’s clear that they’re at their best when they’re just having fun.
It’s unfortunate the show is only an hour-long; the trio warmed up considerably as the night wears on, and the audience leave in fits of laughter. FootDarks is an amazing night of stand-up comedy that reaches new territories never before jested about, but more importantly, it does so in a tasteful, clever, and mind-blowingly hilarious way. Al-Habib, Sylla, and Baalbaki have shown themselves rising talents who are clever, bombastic, and whose names you should probably learn to pronounce when you recommend their show to your friends.
FootDarks is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot – Sportsmans
At 23:45 until 18th August
Buy tickets here.
Image: Eggbox Comedy