Michael and Roper: Three's a Crowd, Four's an Audience

What are a couple of self-deprecating, twenty-something stand-up comediennes to do at the Fringe, if not perform a stand-up act in two halves, in a rather shockingly intimate karaoke booth? That’s precisely what Charlotte Michael and Lucy Roper deliver in this just-shy-of-an-hour set, unequally divided between the two flatmates and colleagues, in Three’s a Crowd, Four’s an Audience.

A self-deprecating strand of pessimistic humour weaves a common theme through both ladies’ entirely separate and distinct sets

The title is fitting, too: whether they were able to foresee it or not, these two comics share a platform (literally) in one of the Three Sisters’ more cosy, limiting venues. And yet, lurking under the surface of that title is a self-deprecating strand of pessimistic humour that weaves a common theme through both ladies’ entirely separate and distinct sets, with both declaiming on their dating misadventures (some successful, others abysmal), home towns, class anxiety and northern roots.

Kicking off the double-set, Charlotte Michael, of Wakefield’s traditional pharmacist clan, regales the audience with a series of personal tragedies and, as she points out, ‘sad stories’ about herself, with just the one joke. Which, of course, is totally fine: self-referential abuse and scorn for structured jokes are a modern comedian’s mainstay, and Michael’s pessimistic reciting elicited plenty a giggle. Where the act did fall down, however, was in the telling: somewhat shapeless and lacking bite, Michael’s delivery was personable and bright, but failed to make best use of her material, and relied heavily on mock-pessimism.

Then, a heavily telegraphed tonal ‘gear shift’ later, as she puts it, Lucy Roper from the Peak district gets off to a calculatedly low-key start, with similarly self-deprecating jokes, but delivered in a thoroughly different manner. Quietly surreal tangents and naff puns pepper her set, interspersed with character-centric and ironically awful poetry, lending greater conceptual charm and variety to the routine. Sitting somewhere between Milton Jones’ abstract tidbits and Noel Fielding’s quiet oddness, though never with such intensity, Roper’s longer routine stands on its own - though it shares themes, and, indeed, detractors, with Michael’s, particularly a want of energetic flair.

In truth, Michael felt like a warm up act to Roper, both in terms of the length of each respective set, and in terms of tone and content. Moving jarringly from one act to the next, totally distinct and unconnected, it’s clear these two have jointly decided to take a stab at Edinburgh, rather than building a single concept requiring one another's skills and comedic expertise. It would be interesting to see both stretch their wings solo, as both have talents, but brought little to one another’s performances. They are, however, funny ladies of wit and charm. Even if they don’t think so. 

Reviews by Josh Adcock

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Michael and Roper: Three's a Crowd, Four's an Audience

★★★

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Performances

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The Blurb

Charlotte Michael (co-writer of BBC Radio 4 sitcom Expenses Only) and Lucy Roper (Laughing Horse New Act of the Year Finalist 2015). Flatmates, work colleagues and both performers on the comedy circuit. What could possibly go wrong?! Come and find out.

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