comedy

The Inter-vue

The Inter-vue

The Revue’s Audreys are back this term. The comedy nights run by the Oxford Revue are going to take place on Tuesday of 1st, 4th and 8th week at the Old Fire Station. Barney Fishwick (one of the presidents) and Dan, the producer of the Audreys, tell us the committee are looking for people to take part in each of them.

From chatting to the committee members, the mysteriously named ‘Audrey’ comedy nights (no-one seems to know why they’re called that) sound incredibly diverse. The nights encompass stand up, sketch shows and anything inbetween. Pieces range from 4 to 10 minutes long and can be on anything you like; “we just look for something that makes people laugh,” says Barney. As the Revue scouts out some of their members from the Audreys, this could be your perfect way into the Oxford comedy scene.

The committee are holding auditions before each of the nights so keep an eye on their facebook page for details if you’re interested. Many members of the revue came through the Audreys and the two comedians advise those considering auditioning to “just set yourself a deadline and write some material to perform.”

Another tip is to go along and get inspiration from the other performers and comedians which might help you write your own piece and reflect on what works well in comedy. At the Audreys themselves you can always chat to people afterwards and ask them about their experience to see if it would be something for you to try yourself.

Having been through the audition process the current president talks about his first Audrey. He says he stood in the background playing the maracas whilst his friend played the guitar adding that it “felt like I was in some weird brothel” so it sounds like you really can start with anything that takes your fancy material-wise. You certainly shouldn’t be afraid to put something a bit more unusual out there.

This term the Audreys have a new venue in the Old Fire station on George Street which Dan says will be less daunting for first-timers. “There will be a run-through beforehand and the process will be much more collaborative and supportive.” As the new venue has a proper small theatre the whole thing seems like a step up from those open mic nights in college bars to something a little bit more professional.

Having said that, they say very few people have any experience before their first Audrey so it’s a good way to try out your skills as a comedian and see if you might like to take it a little more seriously. They emphasize the fact that you shouldn’t get disheartened and should keep auditioning for the Audreys and trying out new things if it’s something you want to get into.

The shows are a way to gain experience doing comedy and in their own words the Revue aren’t “setting the bar too high and are aiming to encourage people to perform.”

For information on events, shows, auditions and comedy in Oxford, sign up for the Oxford Revue mailing list by emailing oxrevue@gmail.com.

IMAGE/Jack Chisnall

Mark Watson brings his ‘Flaws’ to Oxford

Mark Watson brings his ‘Flaws’ to Oxford

Marking his tenth year of making us all laugh, Mark Watson, bristolian comedian and writer, is coming to Oxford with his most recent show, ‘Flaws’. Having premiered the show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2014, he is now travelling across the country, with 65 tour dates. Oxford has “tended to be a happy venue for me”, and one that he is looking forward to returning to, he tells me.

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The Interview has been released – but now what?

The Interview has been released – but now what?

When the first trailer for The Interview was rolled out, promising the usual Rogen and Franco tropes in a vaguely new context, no one could have predicted the events that followed. True, at the film’s first unveiling, North Korea did not hesitate in condemning it but that was swept under the carpet and forgotten with a passing smirk. The only real winners were the filmmakers – any extra headlines of this type would only amount to extra publicity and there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Fast forward to present day. We’ve had the Sony scandals, the financial damage caused by the leaks has been revealed, and the names of the various producers badmouthing Hollywood stars have already been forgotten. Perhaps best of all, we discovered Channing Tatum’s hilarious reaction to the success of 22 Jump Street. (http://defamer.gawker.com/channing-tatum-writes-emails-exactly-like-you-think-he-1670777558 )

For a while, the hacks were the best publicity stunt Sony never asked for. The Interview became the centre of a media storm and cinemagoers were likely to waltz into screenings on Christmas Day and leave indifferent, vaguely amused, or appalled at the racial stereotyping and oversimplification of the suffering of millions of people under the North Korean regime (which seems to be the consensus of critics and audiences alike). However, the Guardians of Peace’s threats to invoke 9/11 style hacks on moviegoers meant that with just one email the tone of the hacks went from vaguely disconcerting to something more serious. American news channels blazed out ‘National Terror Threat’ warnings at every opportunity and what had started as an attack on a film company soon became an attack on a nation.

The Interview was temporarily pulled, the financial implications of which are likely to be costly (even with the partial repeal) and the film went from a flippant comedy to a symbol of national defiance and freedom of speech. To see the film was to fight the anonymous and unseen malign hacking forces that threated to fill the world with fear (http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/dec/16/employees-sue-failure-guard-personal-data-leaked-hackers).

In short, with one email Sony got their second publicity stunt. The Interview was no longer a flippant, intrinsically racist comedy; it was now a flippant, intrinsically racist symbol. There was a vague cult; blogs and website would tell you the ‘best place to watch The Interview’, you could sneak into your independent cinema, or download it illegally. Either way, your actions were for the sake of peace and tranquillity, fighting against shady terrorists and their 10 Tb of Sony’s data. Considering the film was very close to being pulled, this public reaction was the best-case scenario for the Japanese media company.

But what now? The Interview has taken roughly $15 million at the online box office, and may eventually crawl back up to making back its $44 million budget. The case seems to have closed – the hackers threatened world peace, both the US and North Korea made antagonistic comments and a brief global crisis flared up, but little more seems to have come of it. There will be no cult status afforded to the comedy: The Interview is no Great Dictator; we won’t be watching it in 70 years’ time to see James Franco react to Eminem ‘coming out’ on-air or shooting hoops with Kim Jong Un before making the North Korean cry with Katy Perry lyrics. Considering the trials and tribulations surrounding its release, for the film itself to be so devoid of any lasting impact seems utterly anti-climactic. The Interview didn’t teach us anything about North Korea or our perception of it – it relied on existing prejudices in an attempt to forge an extra bit of comedy. By doing so it has resigned itself to being just another vaguely comedic Rogen farce to sit alongside the rest.

Review: Wingman

Review: Wingman

✮✮✮

Fresh from the Fringe, Wingman calls itself a ‘new father-son comedy’. It’s a moving piece detailing complicated family dynamics and the potential for forgiveness: the awkward son (Richard Marsh) finds that his mother has passed away, only to be left with his estranged father (Jerome Wright) who hopes to use the funeral and general aftermath to reconcile their friendship. His advances are unsubtle and initially unwanted but when unexpected fatherhood presents itself their relationship takes some unexpected turns.

The narrative is in spoken word, a form of delivery that adapts to the change in plot in a way that is moving; clearly the writers are in command of their material. It adds a satisfying rhythm to the story that is recounted and renders the show more original. A smart use of props combined with flawless acting ensures that the execution of the script is slick.

This piece is enjoyable but it came up against the difficulty of basing comedy on a more sober subject matter: the people around me did chuckle but left looking a little misty eyed too. Whilst I like that comedy can have some more serious weight to it, this piece blurs genres in a way that isn’t necessarily satisfying. Is it comedy if I left feeling sad?

Nevertheless this is a wittily written piece even if some of the jokes hit a little too close to home. The characters find themselves in numerous laughable situations and use comedy to hide greater feelings with a touching effect. As a comedy the show misses the mark but as a short drama it is an uplifting and thought-provoking piece.

Wingman is touring until the 20th October   http://richmarsh.wordpress.com/gigs-list/

PHOTO/Richard Marsh

Big Brass, big laughs

Big Brass, big laughs

✮✮✮✮

The cast of Big Brass initially makes a big joke about being amateur. The set of their Pilch studio show vaguely resembles a collection of washing lines; their entrance is a farce based around technical incompetence; a couple of sketches become parodies of their own form. Clearly the trio (clad in mismatched stripy t-shirts) were more than prepared to make fun of themselves. Luckily, with a wealth of experience between them, it’s pretty clear that we were in competent hands. The show is fast paced, unconventional, cutting and very funny.

At the heart of this is the quality of the writing. The sketches are varied, encompassing slapstick, spoof, dark humour and cringe-worthy sequences that had members of the audience hiding behind their hands. The show is also well arranged, getting the most out of the time spent on stage. The shorter scenarios at the start evolve effortlessly into longer sketches and as a result the show never felt repetitive; I was constantly wondering what the next scene would involve.

This unpredictability is one of the troupe’s key strengths, and they are at their best when it is found within individual sketches. Barney Iley, Nick Davies and David Meredith delight in undermining your expectations. Just when you think you know where it’s all heading, there will be a twist; the punch line won’t be what you expected. The most original sketches verged on genius, making it impossible to look away. It’s inevitably a problem with a sketch show, but a couple of the cruder sketches felt a little unexciting by comparison, perhaps even slightly lazy.

However, there’s enough material that makes the most of the performers’ talents. Iley and Davies worked well, especially when performing within a group, but of the three, Meredith stood out, adapting himself well to the wide range of situations encountered in the show. Showing off his combined comic and musical talents, there were times when he didn’t even need to speak to have the audience in fits of laughter: his facial expression and timing were more than enough.

So, overall it was entertaining, and at best hilarious. The talented performers of Big Brass are certainly worth a look. The type of humour may not be to everybody’s taste, but at the least it will make you smile and, if the reaction of the audience was anything to go by, might have you guffawing by the end.

PHOTO/ Will Truefitt

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