Try it at least thrice and you’re bound to get a laugh: so goes the philosophy of sketch duo Toby – consisting of siblings Sarah and Lizzy Daykin – and Nathan Dean Williams.

These are skits that aren’t supposed to have punchlines. They are supposed to be irreverent looks at wacky characters. And boy, are they wacky – there’s a guy in a onesie (whoa!), a girl in a balaclava (teehee!), a guy in a Christmas jumper (at this time of the year?!) and a pair in rain jackets zipped up fully and with hoods up. There’s even (snigger) a guy in a wig! The attention to detail doesn’t stop there – they all have silly voices, too. How delightfully droll!

Because their skits unapologetically revolve around what is a non-joke, the trio adhere to the belief that the comedy will derive from its longevity, but in fact it feels as though most of the sketches don’t know where to end. The show is stuffed with filler – there are silly dances, audience high-fives and the reciting of lists – and the humour is at times profoundly lazy. A heterosexual man offering to have sex with a lesbian because he’s ‘quite blocked up’, you say? What a complex and witty invective of the traditionally misogynist perspective that pervades our society!

We can all put on a silly voice and imitate those we consider stupid, odd or butch, but there is a reason that we cannot all put on sketch comedy. These imitations cannot themselves be the joke. The characters must be used as thoroughfares for comedy, not as objects of it. Thrice seek comedy by mining the humanity out of their protagonists. After all, how can we laugh at oddballs if we recognise ourselves in them and hesitate at the prospect of assuming a kind of snide superiority? The joke is not in what they say: it is in who they are. We would not laugh at the things they say were they not such oddballs and therefore we are essentially being asked to laugh at a person who does not conform to the code by which we orientate our own lives. At its best, this comedy is low-brow. At its worst, it is mean-spirited.

By creating caricatures so far detached from the norm that they are themselves the joke, the spectator fills in the gaps themselves, laughing where no joke exists. To give them credit, I suppose there’s something quite insightful about this, though I think I’ve just intellectualised it for them.

The Daykin sisters, additionally, pull the piece from the frying pan of inadequacy to the fire of mediocrity. They are the foundation of the more entertaining skits, such as the post-one-night-stand and the Poundland hoo-haa. Sarah Daykin, particularly, demonstrates a comic timing that trumps that of her counterparts. It is a shame that they nonetheless concede to a two-dimensional characterisation with which, frankly, they could do so much more.

This is sketch comedy at its most tedious, treating its audience like idiots and garnering enough laughs to vindicate its right to do so.


The Blurb

Nathan Dean Williams is wrong. Sibling sketch duo Toby are worse. Together they are perfect. Witches, whingers, perverts, fantasists, simpletons, sadists, and silly billys. Inventive sketch comedy from the murky corners of an unwell mind. ***** (Fest) **** (Guardian)