Channel Hopping

Mon 8th – Mon 29th August 2011


Edie Livesey

at 18:08 on 11th Aug 2011



Bristol Improv’s sketches would benefit from stronger structuring and characterization. The problem with asking the audience to provide inspiration for every aspect of the sketches (characters, plot, objectives) is that the show ends up with a random feel that doesn’t always work. The humour is Goon Show-esque, but the lack of any scripting meant that the shifts from one lexical set to another, the twists in plot, the changes in genre, the willful misunderstandings, the anachronisms and the open embrace of the surreal weren’t fast enough and didn’t come to any kind of climactic conclusion. Sometimes the comics just seemed lost for words. In essence, the show would have been improved had lack of preparation been an illusion rather than an actuality.

That is not to say that the group lacks talent, or that nothing they said or did moved me, and the rest of the audience, to laughter. The comics are, after all, only students, and are not without potential. I think the group needs to keep a log of jokes that work and then try weaving them back into future sketches. There’s no reason not to ask the audience for input – on the contrary it was this aspect of the show that kept the audience genuinely engaged – but I think the show would be funnier if the comics had some pre-conceived ideas and characters and some well thought-through sketch structures to fall back on. As it was, it was sometimes very evident that the comics were making it up as they went along, and that they weren’t always at their most inspired. Nonetheless, some of the things they said were really very good: the creation of a ‘miscellaneous’ section on a restaurant menu; the exchange ‘Why can’t you see me? – I’m blind!’; the sketch on the empty gin bottles, with its quick shifts from train to airport security, to satisfaction, to worse drunken consequence of satisfaction; the bad puns on ‘hobbit’ and ‘take off’; some topical allusions; and the character of the gangster God made the show worthwhile for any admirer of Spike Milligan. The group also had a very fair shot at the kind of parlour games featured on Radio 4 comedy show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

At least a third of the audience really enjoyed the show. I overheard positive whispers from two separate people sitting near me (‘That was really good!’ and ‘That was genuinely funny!’) as well as a fair number of laughs. Overall, it was a courageous attempt at a difficult genre.


Bethany Knibb

at 22:26 on 11th Aug 2011



Bristol Improv Soc presents “Channel Hopping”. This is a concept based on allowing the audience to flick between ‘channels’ and choose what they watch. It’s clever.

In fact, improvised comedy is clever, and requires a huge amount of gumption before every performance – it’s not about reciting rehearsed lines, having time to prepare gags and develop onstage chemistry, it’s about how quickly you can think on your feet. Or, rather, this is the position Bristol Improv Soc put themselves in - perhaps they think preparation is cheating? In my view, a little more direction could do this show a world of good, as the cast clearly have the elemental properties for putting together a great show every single day.

"Channel Hopping" began with a warm up that may have been better done off-stage. The “should’a said” game involved two of the players stumbling through a scene staged in a butcher’s shop (audience’s choice), until someone from the audience shouts out at random “should’a said!” and the actor with the last line has to alter it so that, ideally, the scene continues but in a completely different direction. My “should’a said” apparently fell on deaf ears, as the granny character changed “I’m... 90 years old” to “I’m... 102 years old”. Not the most compelling beginning to the show, but it did warm up and there were even a couple of moments of sizzle. Also I should mention that, while the humour wasn't always to my personal taste, the American couple sitting next to me were chuckling away during quite a number of the scenes. Possibly one for the American improvisation fan-base to check out?

The MC (Max) held everything together very well, introducing each television-related scene with confidence and balance. It did seem that the show was aimed more towards challenging the cast to their very improvising limits, rather than producing the best comedy show for the audience. However, the informality of the show and intimate venue made me feel like it might almost be acceptable for me to join in, which is definitely a good thing for a show that relies on audience participation.

A good effort, “Channel Hopping” is not quite laugh-a-minute, but an enjoyable way to spend an hour. For what else is on offer in the Fringe, I think “improvisational superpowers” (from their blurb) is a bit of an overstatement, but give them another year or so of practice and they should definitely have a show to look out for.


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