Hidden away in Cowley’s Pegasus Theatre, five comedians entered into a comedy battle. In spite of their best intentions, It’s a Knockout Comedy Improv Show was more school drama lesson than hilarious comedy show. The problems started early on when Kevin Tomlinson declared to his fellow actors “I don’t want anything too wacky or interesting,” a real issue when your medium requires absurdity to amuse. This was, however, surpassed by his later assertion that he was “not trying to be funny.”
Despite the occasional worrying signs, such as the moment when Tomlinson asked an audience member about her parents’ divorce, there were some genuinely funny moments. A sketch that involved reading out song lyrics was reminiscent of hilarious games of consequences played on school trips. Perhaps the funniest moment was when an audience member, who volunteered to participate in a flirting scene, was told to “F*** off” by Tomlinson. Rather remorsefully, Tomlinson, who was playing a frumpy female, then suggested they should not “end it like this”, to which the audience member replied “lots of people have.”
Overall, the show lacked the spontaneity and free movement necessary for successful comedy improvisation. Unaided by Tomlinson, who redirected the other cast members whenever a sketch started to go down a route which he did not approve, the actors failed to produce many laughs in the first half. The interference from Tomlinson and his compulsion to alert the audience to the meaning of technical theatrical terms made the show look unifinished and gave the slightly uncomfortable feeling of butting in on a rehearsal. The show did improve in the second half, but the ending felt bizarre and distinctly unamusing. Dressed up as his grandfather, complete with wig and mask, Tomlinson recapped the sketches that had come before. This final sketch was overly long and slightly irritating to an audience who had already witnessed all these humorous snippets within the past hour.
All in all, It’s a Knockout Comedy Improv Show was clunky and slow. Not a bad way to spend eight pounds if you want to learn about the theory behind comedy improvisation, but an evening down the bar would probably be far funnier. That said, many audience members seemed to enjoy the warm atmosphere and occasional laughs. The show is performed once a month, so perhaps with another four weeks to prepare there could be some marked improvement.