Here at Cherwell we tend to prefer hochkultur – transcendent themes, the dramatic that reaches for the divine – the sort of art that transports you from a grotty rehearsal room towards heavenly truth. Thus, It was with a degree of trepidation that I opened my email to find an invitation to a preview of the Oxford Revue’s new sketch comedy show. The world of student comedy doesn’t tend to reach those hallowed themes which are constantly on the minds of the Cherwell stage team, but my co-editor is too lazy to check our the shared email account with any frequency, so I pinched my nose, and took the plunge into sketch comedy.
Heavy Petting is a four-man sketch show coming to the BT in third week – it’s the revue’s flagship this term, so I was a little surprised when I arrived at the preview to find only Jack Chisnall (Revue president), Chesca Forristal, and Dom O’Keefe present. It quickly transpired that their fourth man, Alexander Fox, had abandoned his artistic scruples before the show even started, and was currently pursuing a lucrative internship at an advertising agency. The loss of Mr Fox, did, unfortunately, somewhat narrow the repertoire of what the principled remaining trio were able to perform with me – he’s very central to a lot of the sketches, they said with no small degree of hand wringing.
Regardless, I was treated to a sample of very inventive, and occasionally bizarre sketch comedy – presuming they can maintain the agility, the wit and the joyful passion for the full 60 minutes of Heavy Petting, you’re in for a particularly funny evening from a very strong Revue line up (presuming that Fox isn’t very much the weak link in the chain – hidden from my sight on the pretence of a phony internship, to improve the chances of a positive preview).
Once the comedy was finished, we sat down to talk about the drive for this sketch show, their inspiration and their influences. The consensus amongst the comedians was that the star of sketch comedy has very much been on the wane in the last few years. An overreliance on hackneyed themes, and the overuse of choppy blackouts – in part to desperately engender applause from the audience, and in part the progeny of television sketch shows, has forced the form to concede to the jagged self awareness of student stand up, or lean on gimmicks to prop itself up. This trend in sketch comedy has built up a barrier between the comedians and the audience, which the Revue intend to smash down with a flowing, organic and engaging show – drawing you into the often ridiculous world of these sketches with a very earnest smile on its face. If you want a laugh next week, then you will be guaranteed one by heading down to the BT to be Heavily Petted.