I am a ridiculously nervous audience member. Pavarotti could walk on stage before me and I’d be waiting for him to miss a note, and John Cleese could whip out his parrot and I’d be praying people laughed. So, sat in the front row for The Awkward Silence’s latest Laughter Track evening, the irony of the comedy duo’s name was certainly not lost on me.
However, as soon as the hosts/comperes/all around funnymen Ralph Jones and Vyvyan Almond took to the stage, their assured performance, comedic chemistry and variety of style let the audience know we were in for some fun. Which is what you want at a comedy night, really. Laughter Track, a regular event at the Port Mahon, takes the form of a comedy showcase featuring stand up and sketch, interspersed with material from the hosts. The format is a solid one, throwing in slapstick, wordplay, and that opiate of the masses, observation, to keep the crowd engaged and willing to respond to the performer in front of them.
Despite my passive aggressive reference to observational comedy, the first two performers won their fair share of laughs, albeit the polite, scattered kind. Jack Barry is an endearing chap whose self deprecating, self-referential style was entertaining if well worn. Indeed he was so observational that one of his jokes had been made in the bar ten minutes earlier. I laughed at the coincidence more than the comedy. Following him was Matt Hobs, a comedian with glimpses of the surreal which were sadly negated by everything else he did on stage. But alas, we were gifted a post-interval Paul Fung, a Laughter Track regular. Confident and cool, he’s the type of comic you want to befriend, whilst simultaneously making you hate yourself for fitting the character in a joke he just made. See his material on students and their misuse of irony…
However, it was the art of sketch which won the crowd in the end. (Hurrah!) The sometimes tricky form was realised brilliantly by a brief stint from The Oxford Revue, and by the hosts themselves. The Revue were both witty and silly, but above all, polished. Good jokes, good timing, and very fresh. It was clear however that ‘The Awkward Silence’ are a comedic cut above. Written by Jones and performed by both he and Almond, every sketch was a hit, the audience breathing a sigh of relief whenever they came back on stage. From a scene with a wonderfully macabre door to door hummus salesman, to a tonally terrific conversation between Bob Dylan and his father, the sketches are innovative and quite simply, very, very funny.
‘The Awkward Silence’ are a pair to keep an eye on, bringing together a myriad of influences and their comedic peers to present us with an evening and a fiver extremely well spent. Now be sure to get yourselves down to their next shindig.