An essential thing for stand up to work is that the comedian establishes a rapport with the audience. Even a set with mediocre material can succeed with live audience involvement and infectious laughter. Some of that material does not, as last night’s Stand-Up Sketch Show proved, translate well to visual sketches. When a comedian relates a story we individually visualise the scene and characters in our heads. We become involved in the scenario. That is part of the fun, part of the enjoyment, part of what makes us laugh. By visualising that for us in the form of a sketch lessens the personal interpretation.
The Stand-Up Sketch Show falls between two stools. The viewer sees only a snippet from some excellent sets so has no time to establish a relationship to a new or, to them, unknown performer. In last night’s episode we saw one joke extracted from each comedian’s set and translated into a sketch with the on-stage performance as a voice over. Russell Kane and Sean Walsh are well known to national TV audiences, therefore a ‘relationship’ exists and the viewer knows what to expect. With the other less widely known comedians (Kojo Anim, Elf Lyons, Luke Kempner, Josh Weller and Jayde Adams) , as good as they are, an established relationship doesn’t yet exist and so the performance/sketch lives or dies on the strength of the material. As part of a set the material works well but as a stand-alone comedy sketch some does not.
The show does however give much needed exposure to some new talent, highlighting both their excellent comedic and acting potential but they need more than a slither of a routine to do themselves full justice. The highlights of last night’s episode were Josh Weller, where the sketch worked and Jayde Adams who sang a more than passable rendition of Nessun Dorma even though the sketch itself added little to what, as part of a set, is even funnier..
Last year’s Stand-Up for Live Comedy series on BBC 3 worked well despite being performed to sparse, socially distanced audiences around the country. Each comedian performed a short set again with varying degrees of success.
Stand-up is stand-up. The sketches do not really improve the sets in fact they are a distraction. Having said that ITV2 is to be applauded for helping to develop and expose emerging stand-up talent.