The most common mistake of a university comedy troupe, I have found, is the attempt to be too clever. The Exeter Revue describe themselves as ‘modest geniuses’. After
Sketchy at Best is a show which doesn’t follow up on the silliness of its punning title.
At first, the comedy seems like a slow burn: jokes take a while to warm up, punchlines aren’t immediately apparent. Gradually, however, it becomes clear that we are in the midst of a punchline drought. The six performers, none of whom can be faulted for charisma or energy, are instead lacking in comic acerbity, their jokes landing with a dull thud. To make matters worse, the ensemble fall back on some lazy material about domestic violence and the disabled; stuff it’s always a bit painful to hear people laugh at.
Elsewhere, the meta-narrative is recycled: you’d think that, after a sketch about a sketch, a play within a play within a play within a play (you heard right) would seem excessive. The Exeter Revue seem to have espoused a form whose ability to enervate an audience knows no bounds. That this too-clever-for-its-own-good brand of comedy bored the audience was implicit in the lukewarmth of their laughter. It became woefully explicit, however, as people started to leave, and what had been a full house was left half empty.
Sketchy at Best is a show which doesn’t follow up on the silliness of its punning title. Instead, we are treated to sketches that chase esotericism at the expense of humour. The performers’ potential, of which there is a great deal in evidence, is wasted on a show that is the comedic equivalent of onanism: it doesn’t give the audience what it wants. Counterintuitively, the Exeter Revue would have achieved greater things had they set the intellectual bar lower.