The Cambridge Footlights (King Dome) have a lot going for them. Poise, brains, clean-cut looks, nice accents and privileged status at the Edinburgh Fringe as keepers of a sacred flame. But in reality these advantages count against them. Audiences know that comedy comes from a paranormal neverland, from damaged grotesques, from halting, slobbering outsiders. Comedy is unpleasant. And these boys are anything but. So it takes them a while to convince us that they’re the real deal and not some artful muck-about from the college quad.
Their comedic sources are obvious. Movie spoofs, workplace mix-ups. And much of their material defies current political orthodoxies. A joke about the Jamaicans not being able to muster an army feels distinctly weird. As does a sketch about a Swedish masseur who turns out to be a gay rapist (but the way he pronounces the initial ‘k’ in ‘knuckles’ is a delight.) There are, however, some great visual gags here and one or two brilliant sketches. A posh dad desperately ingratiating himself with his son’s teenage friend: ‘Do your parents let you freebase crystal meth at home, Josh?’ It sounds like a meagre haul, two or three winners from a 60-minute show, but it’s a pretty decent start. I expected very little from these boys. And I loved them.
Edinburgh speciality: off-beat titles to pull in the punters. I Fed My Best Friend Her Favourite Cow (Gilded Balloon) is James Sherwood’s bid for a mass audience. It attracted 27 paying customers at the show I witnessed. Not bad. Sherwood is a varsity wag who sits at a piano and analyses the lyrics of George Michael and Queen as if they were essays in moral philosophy. Erudite, cuddly and undemanding, Sherwood has developed an hour’s worth of beautifully phrased routines which are ideal for the high-brow English bourgeoisie.