Horrigan & Howell: A Sketch Too Far at The Hope Theatre

Horrigan & Howell: A Sketch Too FarA sketch show which harkened back to the days of Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders and perhaps a little too much Fawlty Towers. What is missing from this show is the ingenuity and freshness that those brought and people like Aunty Donna to success. The writing itself was of good quality and was executed to a decent degree, but a lack of comedic nuance and intangible ‘je ne sais quoi’ left a lot to be desired.

I was greeted by a man strutting around in a trench coat who shouts ‘Heil Hitler’ at me along with a not quite Nazi salute which both affronted and insulted my Jewish routes. I am inevitably going to be told, ‘You can’t joke about anything anymore,’ and yes, you can, you can even joke about the Nazis if you are the right person to be doing it and are making the right jokes. However, I don’t have much time for the laziness for which bad Nazis jokes tend to be indicative of. Thankfully, this sketch is not returned to.

Most of the sketches have good comedic beats to them, they are set up well, and the payoff is well-timed. It does the classic sketch comedy thing of making the punchline extremely obvious and building to an eventual payoff. This does work to some effect in parts, but where execution is lacking, these jokes become forced and cagey.

The performers do have entertaining and believable chemistry and play off each other both physically and verbally well. The show is at its best when leaning into the more absurd. I think in times of the absurd, only the absurd will make us laugh, so sketches that revolved around culturally insensitively named beers failed to land, while a sketch consisting of a man attempting and failing to tell his son that Bob is, in fact, his uncle are great successes.

In spite of their palpable chemistry, a lack of comedic intuition means that the better jokes remain undeveloped in favour of repetitive humour. I love sketch comedy, but there is a reason Aunty Donna thrives, and we have moved past the conventions of Armstrong and Miller, for example. It is not new to say we live in absurd times, but in absurd times that which we know is too depressing to make comedy of, so the absurd offers us a delicious alternative.

2 gold stars

Review by Tom Carter

Horrigan & Howell: A Sketch Too Far is an eclectic mix of stupidity, absurdity, joy and death. There are sketches about farmers. There are sketches about Nazis. There are sketches about how the aristocracy make podcasts. But one way or another, all of these sketches are about the British psyche – from the ridiculous to the banal to the downright horrid. Written by Liam Horrigan and Matthew Howell, A Sketch Too Far brings together their combined comedic experience of over 15 years for the first time live on stage.

Horrigan & Howell: A Sketch Too Far will be on from the 2nd – 8th August at the Hope Theatre

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