A reliable vein of new talent since its inception in 1988, the So You Think You’re Funny? comedy awards have provided a steady stream of ingenious new acts. This year marks the inaugural awards strictly for sketch from SYTYF and the final of the tournament was a goldmine for fans of the genre. Despite fierce competition for the title, winning troupe Staple/face took home a deserved trophy that should prove a welcome boost for their publicity and popularity. As well as the kudos of winning an increasingly prestigious award, Staple/face also won a three-week spot on next year’s Gilded Balloon bill.
The other sketch acts competing for the prize included Mixed Doubles, the Real MacGuffins, Ladies Live Longer and Gerardine Coyne. Compere Mark Dolan did a good job of geeing up the audience, especially since the sketch troupes had so little time – two five-minute slots – to impress the judges and the crowd. Despite not being a natural host – Dolan seemed to struggle to shoehorn his scripted material into the show – he held up admirably when waiting for the judges to return from an indefinitely long deliberation period.
Of the evening, it was Ladies Live Longer and Mixed Doubles who proved to be the closest rivals to the eventual winners’ performances. Mixed Doubles opened with a very strong series of short sketches, with quick humour coming from their surrealist blend of popular culture references and physical gags. Ladies Live Longer played around with longer sketches, which suited their more character-based comedy.
Still, both those acts rarely strayed out of what might be termed ‘traditional’ sketch writing, and it was only Staple/face who managed to produce true belly-laughter from the audience. Their sketches – involving the Apollo 11 team getting lost on the way to the first moon landing and a highly surreal, Tarantino-esque reading of Oliver Postgate’s children’s stories – were excellently surreal and brilliantly pitched. They managed to produce very funny sketches whilst also remaining largely minimalistic in form and were certainly the deserved winners of the evening.
Despite missing out on the top prize, the other acts were each funny in their own way, and fans of sketch comedy should keep their eyes on these five extremely talented acts. All are sure to carve out their own impressive trajectories in coming years.