Live Review: Sketch Off! Final 2017, Leicester Square Theatre: Page 2 of 2

If there is one bit of advice I can offer to anyone entering comedy competitions, it is by hook or by crook (or by bribing the producer) get yourself into the second half. I don’t know why but the standard always seems to go up a notch after the interval. Maybe the audience is more warmed up and lively and this helps to give the acts more momentum, but while the first half was good the second half noticeably upped the ante.

Giants did not seem particularly promising - they resemble another off-the-peg male duo – but their opening song, supposedly a Eurovision entry they have written for Norway, immediately had the whole room laughing (it was sometimes the case with other finalists that only bits of the room were laughing extremely loudly – presumably chums of the acts onstage). The lyrics twisted and turned, sending up Europop cliches and cramming in plenty of wordplay-based gags too. They were, however, their own tough act to follow and their subsequent non-musical sketch was not quite as good - although they did show their performance skills by neatly closing down a fan in the front who was too noisy. If their whole ten minutes had been as good as their song they might have won, instead they came second.

Tothill & Wakefield continued the male double act theme, with a mystery spoof that was a bit Sherlock, a bit Agatha Christie and a bit noirish. It was quickfire and sharp in places and, like Love Hard, had more than an echo of Pajama Men about it. But I guess if you are a double act doing a narrative and playing all the characters that’s something you have to live with or overcome by being better than Pajama Men. Tothill & Wakefield were good but not good enough to get a placing.

Muriel (pictured), on the other hand, felt like winners from the moment they strutted onstage in matching green tracksuit tops. The female trio just seemed to have that spark and charisma - they looked less like a sketch group and more like a post-feminist girl band with attitude, or part of the cast of Fleabag. They just had that special something and their main sketch in which they pretended to be an improv group and parodied various impro tropes lived up to expectations. They were also one of the few acts to acknowledge current affairs, imagining a NASA job interview sketch in the post-Trump world. It was no surprise that they won. What was more surprising was that afterwards I found out that this was only their sixth gig. 

After Muriel’s knockout turn the final act, duo Hurt and Anderson, was also pretty good and covered similar topical ground. They had some effective gags about millennials and their conversation between Facebook and Twitter was certainly a stand-out moment. On another night they might have notched up a placing.

This was certainly a strong final with no duff acts. And well done to Lenny Beige for keeping the energy levels up and pointing out that shows with an “Off” in the title tend to be good. Now that the BBC has lost The Great British Bake Off maybe they should replace it with The Great British Sketch Off.  

 

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