Sunday, 27 January 2013

FESTIVAL PREVIEW #2: Character and Sketch Comedy

Howdy folks, it's time for my second preview post for Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival - hooray!
Today I'm looking at some of the finest character comics and sketch groups performing over the 17-day laughathon.

Every stand-up has an onstage persona, that is to say even if they perform as themselves, it's usually an exaggerated or more entertaining version of themselves. But creating a whole new character and completely becoming that character onstage, allows a performer the freedom to say and do things they wouldn't dare to under their own name. A well-realised character can get away with the most horrendously inappropriate things, safe in the knowledge that people will never hold them responsible, only the character.

A great example is George Ryegold, the twisted winner of 2010's Best Show award at the festival. A blacklisted surgeon, unburdened by such modern concepts as 'ethics' or 'standards', his show contains some of the most delightfully eloquent yet hilariously distasteful lines I've ever heard. He combines some abhorrent views on the world with some horrifically graphic yet wonderfully creative descriptions of surgical procedures, inflamed body parts etc, all delivered with the booming-voiced confidence that only a top surgeon can manage.

Elsewhere, Lee&Herring and Alan Partridge collaborator Tom Binns showcases two very successful characters - the first is inappropriate hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury, who presents his 'Disease Hour' show live on stage, during which he plays dedications to a myriad of patients with terrible ailments, each song carefully selected to add insult to injury. The other is perma-tanned Sunderland psychic Ian D Montfort, who perfectly lampoons just about every cliché relating to the modern spirit medium, whilst also amazing the audience with his apparent gift for cold-reading.

One of the best character acts I saw last year was Ian Crawford of the Steel & Cutlery Manufacturers Association, whose set not only contains vital safety information when it comes to the use of knives, forks and spoons, but also some very smart gags, silly rhymes to learn and smooth audience interaction.

A satisfying diet of surgery, disease, ghosts and cutlery then. If you can stomach any more character acts after checking out that lot, look out for 'king of the internet chavs' Devvo, the magical yet terrifying antics of Cock-kane the Clown, the music hall stylings and general oddness of Charlie Chuck and a parade of familiar faces gone wrong in What You Could Have Won.

Now onto sketch shows. I have to admit, sketch comedy is not one of my strong points. It's not that I don't like sketch groups, I just haven't seen many of them lately, so here are a few that have been recommended to me, which I suggest you check out yourself using the satanic voodoo magic that is the internet:

Late Night Gimp Fight - this is one I have seen, and very enjoyable it was too. The sketches are well-written, all feature a twist of wrongness and are performed with the sort of expert timing that Carl Douglas sung about in 'Kung Fu Fighting'.
Sheeps - Described by Broadway Baby as "One of the most original and refreshing sketch acts to emerge in years, Sheeps have helped to reinvent sketch comedy". Big words indeed. Their show combines silly and inventive sketches with an overarching narrative holding the show together.
The Mitford Sisters have just started a regular sketch night at the Crumblin' Cookie. They describe themselves as cheeky, daring and hilarious, and feature amongst their members Chris Stokes, winner of Best Show at last year's DLCF.
The Noise Next Door seem to be doing very well at the moment with their brand of improvised skits and songs, having appeared alongside Harry Hill, Ed Byrne, Rufus Hound, and Alistair McGowan.
UFI are another improv group, but they're our improv group - they're all Leicester-based and have been delighting audiences around the city in the last few months with Whose Line is is Anyway?-style improvisation games and songs on their 'World Tour of Leicester'.

There, that lot should keep you busy for a while - another festival preview post, exploring a different category of comedy, coming soon...

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