Take four comics and ask them to perform their own stand up routines. Then, in the second half of the show, each comedian is given a partner and performs the other comic's routine.
The second half of the show is where Joke Thieves really comes into its own.
The first half of the show was fairly pedestrian, a selection of anecdotal, observational stand up from four different comics. Simon Feilder provided amusing tales of growing up in the suburbs; Tiffany Stevenson performed edgy and very funny jokes about the morning after pill; Jen Brister gave an incredibly familiar sounding routine about the casual racism of asking "where are you from?". Character comic Troy Hawke took to the stage as a pretentious actor, providing a commitment to the physicality of the role that gained big laughs early on in the show, but didn't quite deliver on the satire that his persona seemed to promise - instead visual jokes got easy laughs with very little actual material. Most of the laughs in the first half of the show were drawn from the thought that someone would have to mimic the material later in the show - the biggest reactions came from difficult to replicate accents or physical routines rendering the verbal content of each set a little redundant.
The second half of the show is where Joke Thieves really comes into its own. The performance was especially interesting for the fact that each comic took a very different approach to the challenge. Tiffany Stevenson proved that Joke Thieves is a show that often reviews itself - her rendition of Jen Brister's set included highlighting the more obviously comedy writing tricks that Brister had used, including a clumsy pull back and reveal that became somehow excusable under Stevenson's scrutiny. Simon Feilder took more of an aggressive approach, providing the best set of the show, ripping Troy Hawkes character comedy to pieces in a performance that brought down the house with a simplistic impression that was undeniably hilarious, although a little immature. This kind of childish name calling was actively encouraged by compere Will Mars, who brought the acts to the stage amid attempting to rile up the audience with an emphasis on the competitive element of the show. Jen Brister's performance of Tiffany Stevenson’s material proved that this competitive spirit isn't always present, as she attempted to performed the set almost word for word, taking the challenge to replicate a set very literally in a way that was critically interesting. Troy Hawke absorbed Simon Feilder's material into his own character, saying the jokes as he would in his own show, which proved entertaining.
The show provided an interesting insight into the differences between performance and written comedy, and the translation from one to the other. The idea is a strong one, providing plenty of laughs, and probably varies dramatically line up to line up, but you have to wonder if the novelty is stifling to any actual comedy skill.