Hilary Chan reviews the stand up comedians performing as part of the On the Rocks festival
Stand-up is a nerve-wrecking business: one stands stranded under the spotlight attempting the most controversial deed—being funny. For On The Rocks festival, Comedy Society put on its most experienced comedians to humour the audience. It is not a ticklish audience, (because this does still take place in St Andrews), references to popular culture and jokes bordering on the crude often go unnoticed (because audience demography), audience response did not evident the strongest rapport. Christoph, Aoife, Tom, Mark, Bobby and Gabriel deserve an ovation for at least their courage and effort put behind their performances.
But the audience problem is one that every budding comedian must face; it takes a Ricky Gervais or Stephen Colbert for the self-motivated type of listener. So it became slightly repetitive when the comedians referred to this difficulty one after another, either as a preamble or the joke itself. Repetition between the gigs was in fact one of the biggest flaws. Because they were indeed the most experienced of the comedians, topics revolved career prospects (meek), being old, graduation, depression, depression, depression.
They are no doubt on the right track; comedy, for both comedian and audience, should be a form of therapy. At the most advanced circles of professional comedians, the fact that depression and deprivation is what unites these laughter-making humans is still an active joke. Perhaps depression is even at the very heart of comedy. But if this is the case, then it is ever more so important for comedians to develop nuanced ways to hammer at this emotional nucleus. All art attacks what is inhumane. Comedy is a form of art, laughter is its weapon towards this goal, and the instability of happiness and unhappiness is its special privilege (among other art forms). Our comedians, though only part-time, should look deeper and take their fun more academically.
All the comedians came across with some distinct persona. Christoph is an integration of his design and his performance. Aoife is a composed senior who knows herself and deadpan about it. Tom is a problematic child turned skilful comedian. Bobby is a birdwatcher with half of social life confessing his obsessions as a birdwatcher. There's something wrong with Mark and he's brilliant about it (he knows what that something is, but he'll never tell you, so you're always a little afraid of him, but can't help laughing at his jokes. He was my favourite). Gabriel is a teenager bursting with commentary. These characterisations are exaggerated and based only on tonight's show; the comedians should know themselves better and show it. Our comedians are natural and as students, relate to their audience in a special way; but comedy needs to be more than just a pep-talk, it is a performance.