Idiots of Ants absolutely hate the fourth wall. They smash through it with a regularity and enthusiasm rarely seen from other sketch groups. Right from the get go in this showcase of their best sketches from the last five years, Idiots of Ants set about deconstructing the sketch format with a sequence depicting hapless Nazis and British interrogators appalled to discover that they are in fact only actors performing in front of an audience in Edinburgh. Cue existential crisis: Idiots of Ants mock their crummy chairs, their misty stage in what looks like a converted gym, and even their name in a self-effacing opener that sets the tone for things to come.
That self-effacing tone doesn't quite ring true though. Idiots of Ants may like to pretend that their show is thrown together cheaply and quickly to enhance their relatable, cheeky chappy vibe, but pay attention for even a moment and any notion of slapdash preparation quickly falls apart. Flashing stage lights, elaborate props, a huge projector screen providing backdrops for their sketches: in the grand scheme of sketch comedy at the Fringe this is about as Hollywood as it gets. Even the very concept of this show, essentially a greatest hits collection, screams of a degree of professional success that most sketch groups at the Fringe can only dream of.
There's a reason Idiots of Ants are so successful though, and it's precisely because they can pull off this sort of stunt. They have the strength and depth of sketches required to justify a retrospective. In fact they have more sketches than they need; this show runs considerably over its billed length of an hour. Despite that, none of the sketches feel superfluous, besides one bitterly disappointing sex change bit that at first promises an inventive twist on the shrill, overdone, Terry Jones inspired man-playing-woman sketch, only to degrade into a host of lazy gender gags that had the audience voicing their displeasure. Still, one bad single can't spoil a greatest hits album and one dud sketch doesn't bring down ANThology, a hilarious look back on the comedy career of four men who are a bigger deal than they like to admit.