Six months ago I didn’t know who Elf Lyons was but after a very funny appearance as part of Werewolf: Live and a recent performance at the new material gig Bullpen Comedy I now count myself as an enormous fan of hers. Fellow site writer Tim Harding’s also clearly a big fan too as he’s recently written praise filled reviews of Lyons’ Gorgon and her collaboration with Helen Duff, Unlikely Darlings, which made me wish I’d seen both in full, and so when I heard her she was part of this week’s The Stand Up Sketch Show it instantly became essential viewing.
That’s something it certainly hadn’t been before, which was a surprise as the concept’s a potentially decent one as various comedians allow their stand up to be transformed in to a sketch. Unfortunately it’s proven to be fairly shaky, and most of the sketches haven’t worked in this new format, there have been exceptions but overall it’s been much weaker than you might have imagined as while the stand up tells the story we get to see them visualised – but if the stand up in question is average it certainly hasn’t made it any funnier.
Another problem is that the show is overstuffed with comedians, in this episode ten different acts gave us a brief snippet of their material and most of the time it’s far too short to get a real flavour of their comedy, and for their take on life to be developed in any interesting ways. There are times when this isn’t the case, which I’ll get to in a bit, but way too often we get about a minute and a half of the act rushing through a story which goes from A to B without any surprising deviations.
When you mix the above to a sometimes poor choice of comedians you get a show that’s really in trouble. Take Stephen Bailey for instance, who has a bland routine about going to the gym with an elderly friend, it’s a potentially intriguing set up and contains a couple of decent lines but it’s over before you know it, and seeing it acted out doesn’t make it any funnier at all. The same applies with Tom Lucy rambling away about being too camp to be in the RAF, Aaron Simmonds talking about how people treat him as if he has learning difficulties just because he’s in a wheelchair, and Helen Bauer’s tale of working in a cheese shop.
I’ve seen the latter performed in full and it’s great stuff, Bauer develops the anecdote carefully and it becomes increasingly funnier as it goes on, but cut down to 90 seconds and there’s just not enough time to make it that amusing. The same pretty much applies to Lily Phillips, whose story about getting a puppy with cystitis is a pretty funny one, and which contains a rare visually funny moment as the dog’s pubic area is shaven, but it only led me to wishing that I could hear more from Philips and not have to witness any more from the weaker comics.
At least Elf Lyons gets a decent(ish) chunk of time, with her segment lasting three and a half minutes though it’s still too short for a comedian of Lyons’ ability and I’d have happily watched her perform for the entire twenty two minutes. She makes fantastic use of the time given at least, telling a story about her brother’s 18th birthday party and the two women who threw themselves at his terrified self, it’s packed full of silly voices and hilarious commentary and is a superb increasingly frenzied slice of storytelling that makes the episode worth watching alone, and for once the visuals work well with what we’re hearing, even if that means we don’t get to see just how great a performer Lyons is for most of it.
Also strong is a routine from Dane Baptiste where he talks about how his family would react if he was James Bond, with another strong sight gag as he returns home at Christmas time to visit them, and Glenn Moore has a mostly decent routine about a woman he dated and how on the third date he hoped to go home with her, only for it to not end in the way he’d imagined, though once more acting it out doesn’t make it funnier at all. The same applies with Michael Odewale’s material, which is funny for sure but only due to his telling of the tale.
If they cut down the show to four comedians, giving them five or six minutes each, and made sure that the routines they wished to perform actually benefited from being acted out then this could be a great show. But as it is, it just doesn’t work three quarters of the time, the visual element all too often adds absolutely nothing to the material, and the choice of comedian really needs to be improved upon if it’s to be a show worthy of anyone’s time.