Panel shows are a staple of the UK comedy scene and Board Game Smackdown is probably one of the more charming. It's the brainchild of James Cook, an award winning comedian and, unsurprisingly, a board game champion. It is easy to see why this panel show was a hit at Edinburgh Fringe. In every show, comedians play board games and card games in front of a live audience. This show is recorded and eventually put online. But have no fear, there were no Monopoly meltdowns here.
The audience were constantly engaged with the help of James Cook’s warm and endearing hosting.
Every show has a different group of comedians. This one had Stephen Grant, George Egg, Stephan Carlin and Sandi Smith. The audience were involved in some way in most of the games, whether they were judging or shouting out countries. This had the audience invested, even in the deader of the three games ‘Funemployed’.
The audience were constantly engaged with the help of James Cook’s warm and endearing hosting. Reasonably well curated, the games were never played too long, however, it was a bit of a slow start with ‘Funemployed’. However, the following game, ‘Destination X’, made up for it when Stephan Grant was able to exercise his geography skills. The final game ‘Mind’ was a suitably tense end to an enjoyable night.
Grant’s excitement and confidence was the reason why ‘Destination X’ was the more entertaining game to watch of the three. His energy helped the show as a whole pick up energy. There is a reason why panel shows often have one resident comedian on the panel, which this show lacked. Having a resident comedian helps combat the initial hesitancy and awkwardness that this show originally had, but did eventually overcome. It was not helped by the beginning game’s solitary nature and required contemplation. The best parts of the show were watching them work together and seeing their different energies play with one another.
All in all it was a very enjoyable night with an interesting lack of conflict assisted by the charm and amiability of James Cook. This show definitely works well live and in podcasts but the intimate nature of the space gave the live show a friendly and relaxed quality.