Watching Americans do sketch comedy can be painful for the British. It’s our discipline - stop touching it with your unironic hands. Yet it has been done well: Dave Chappelle is a master, and Saturday Night Live is one of its greatest ever exponents. In Comedy, Evolved, Darwin’s Waiting Room have some good ideas, but they all belong to a fairly innocent American style of humour that fails to animate a sketch in the ways achieved by Monty Python or Mitchell and Webb. There’s no real darkness here, no real irony, which means that none of these ideas take root and become truly memorable.
However, it does seem that this is a group of performers rather than writers. There isn’t a weak link in this selection; with each member successfully embodying various kinds of American comic characters it is clear that Darwin’s Waiting Room is a collective containing some seriously talented comic actors. Several tropes are explored: the geek, the stud, the wallflower. Yet it feels like this kind of talent could be better used in another format: a sitcom, a comic play. Sketches rarely rely solely on performances; they rely on ideas. What this group needs is a structure strong enough to reveal and sustain their performing talents. Unfortunately, their sketches don’t quite cut it.
Perhaps it is the length: for a sketch to be over ten minutes long there has to be something really good sustaining its development. The opening piece, in which a girl is literally reeling in guys from the sea of dating, starts out well but quickly becomes a simple reiteration of ‘isn’t dating hard! Isn’t dating funny!’ For a cynical Anglo-Saxon this kind of humour feeds rather than assuages a tendency toward misanthropy. Comedy, Evolve’s title is misleading; there isn’t any innovation here. However, these performers are very charming, and this does atone for some of the shortcomings of the material.