Chimprovisations!

Thu 4th – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Rhiannon Kelly

at 10:44 on 14th Aug 2011

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Firstly, lets get things straight. No monkey puns featured it this act. At all. I must admit, I was looking forward to some primate-based punnery, but the lack of this was probably for the best. Instead, ‘Monkeys with Puns’ presented an entertaining evening with a variety of comic acts including sketches, stand-up and improvisation.

Self-described as a “violently varied and hilarious cocktail”, ‘Chimprovisations!’ did feel like a drink that has been overpowered by too many ingredients. The intentions of the troupe were well meaning, and everyone did have a good time, but the act as a whole lacked structure and unity.

It took a while for the young group to warm up, and once we got over some initial awkwardness and a few minutes of slightly cringey sex-based comedy, they started to show their real comic potential. A middle-class rap battle between two gentlemen in a pub was cleverly written and well executed. Sharanya Radhakrishnan really came into her own as an Indian wife playing scrabble, and the sketch produced hoots of laughter from the receptive, albeit slightly inebriated audience. The comedy was bizarre, yet the troupe have a likeable energy that made me want to see more. As with many sketches, the endings were all a little anti-climactic, and as a whole, they never climaxed enough to be truly gratifying. Characters were well thought of, but I feel that the individual performers could really ‘go there’ and exaggerate them even more to get the most laughs out of the comical scenarios they created.

Guest appearance by stand-up comedian, Scott Merrington, was well received but felt a little flat. His dry humour was funny, but his lulling tone and monotonous delivery (whilst effective for some comedians) just made me want to go to sleep.

Though enjoyable, some of the improvised games started to drag, and while the performers were comical, their wit was not as sharp as it needs to be for good quality improvisation. Apart from when one member had to yell “please say freeze!” there were no truly awkward moments, however, and any stumbles were covered well by other members of the group.

‘Monkeys with Puns’ are an endearing group of performers with a refreshingly honest and unpretentious energy. I ask them not be put off by the star rating, as they clearly have potential, but need to pull everything together in order to create a more cohesive performance.

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Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 12:34 on 14th Aug 2011

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 I was not expecting much from "Chimprovisations", particularly after noticing that the group describes itself as "monkeys with puns", but I was pleasantly surprised. The evening consisted of a diverse series of sketches, a stand-up performance by the superbly dry comedian Scott Merrington, and finally improvisations largely based on audience input. Not a monkey pun in sight, thank goodness (the comics themselves roll their eyes at the group name, which is a relief). The group instantly creates an easy rapport with the audience, and encourages audience members to chat to people they don't know. The man next to me laughs so obnoxiously throughout that I kind of want to be his friend. The group's sketches oscillate from those which were hilarious, intelligent and quick to those which painfully squeezed a reluctant chuckle from the audience - if there was a comedy barometer for this evening, it would probably break from the sheer effort of recording such a range of material. A sketch about a homely Indian couple discussing female masturbation was fantastic, particularly as the pair's accents were spot on, and a sketch about a theatre performance (complete with ridiculously inflated bowing and clapping) was another favourite.

 

Unfortunately, a number of the sketches tend towards the crudities of thinly-veiled misogyny prevalent in male-dominated comedy. Of course, this was frequently very funny (an ode to beer and male aggression in "Stella", sung to the tune of Rihanna's "Umbrella", had the entire room clapping along), but eventually started to seem a little overdone, particularly as this group is evidently capable of less clichéd, more unusual material. Additionally, a number of sketches started well and ended on a disastrously flat note.

 

The group possess the energy and flexibility native to any improv company, practically jousting for control of the mic as each comic lunged forward to make his/her idea known. The improvised section included sketches set in an interview, a party, and "things you wouldn't say outside a nursery". The group work excellently together, genuinely laughing at each other's jokes and unhesitantly going along with each other's ideas during improvised sections. They clearly possess great potential and should not be easily dismissed, though they could do with toning down on the genital humour. They are an endearing group and certainly do not fail to amuse!

 

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Comments

Robin Zaagman; 14th Aug 2011; 14:12:59

(this comment is for both reviews)

I attended the show the same night and although I respect your opinions, the overall reaction from the audience (including myself) suggests much more than a 2-star review.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of sketches, improvisation, and stand-up, as well as the diversity of topics you could expect at a late-night comedy show (i.e., crude humour). The sketches were full of hilarious twists and surprises, and the actors were energetic throughout each piece. There may not be 'structure and unity,' but you need to remember that they are separate sketches and improv games, not a 3-act comedy play with a flowing story line. Moreover, if the audience is laughing as regularly and genuinely as they were, is structure really an issue is a show intended to provoke one thing: laughter?

I believe you are contradicting yourself slightly by first saying the "sketch about a homely Indian couple discussing female masturbation was fantastic" and later on stating that "they could do with toning down on the genital humour" - as far as I remember this particular sketch was the only one focusing on genitalia of any kind?

Your reviews are well-written, but I think they are overly subjective and hardly taking the audience's reaction into account, thus it not being a fair rating. Personally, I give it 4 stars - I recommend everyone who is a fan of late-night comedy to go and see their show!

Rhiannon Kelly; 14th Aug 2011; 14:48:28

Dear Robin,

I'm sorry that you feel that the reviews are unfair, but as mentioned at the end of my review, I do believe in the group's potential, but their standard of comedy was just not high enough to provoke a better rating.

2 stars doesn't sound like a lot, but star ratings are different for different publications, and for us, 2 stars means 'average' - which is what 'Monkeys with Puns' are. We enjoyed it, the audience enjoyed it, but there was nothing exceptionally original that make them stand out.

I had a smile on my face the whole time, but only a few jokes and sketches provoked actual laugh-out-loud responses, and we must remember that a lot of people in the audience had had a few drinks, at which point anything is hilarious. By structure, I didn't mean that it needed a narrative, but that the entire evening wasn't as smooth as some other comedic acts (one of the performers forgetting to introduce a game properly, for example). It is these little touches of unprofessionalism, that despite making the company raw and likeable, prevented that extra star.

The nature of reviewing means that it is always going to be subjective, especially with comedy. I made the audience reaction clear in the body of my review, but at the end of the day, the star rating has to be personal, and for me, the evening was alright. It was fun, but I wouldn't go and pay to see them again.

Katherine Brooks; 14th Aug 2011; 15:19:03

I was apparently at the same show last night - although it seems we were watching different shows. You say that "only a few jokes and sketches provoked actual laugh-out-loud responses" - not only did I enjoy the full show thoroughly, but most people around me seemed to be enjoying it too. Sometimes its worth remembering that not everyone has the same standard response to shows; not everyone is a loud laugher, some people just sit and enjoy the show. I was sat next to a man who I thought did not enjoy the show, but at the end spoke to the cast and congratulated them.

On the reverse side, it is a comedy show and so how can you criticise a member of the audience who "laughs so obnoxiously throughout that I kind of want to be his friend." ?

As to saying that most of the audience was drunk - I just want to point out that there is no bar in this venue, so I was wondering how you could tell the audience had been drinking, and for whom "anything is hilarious"?

I had another look at the flyer and the group does not 'describe itself as "monkeys with puns",' that is their company name. Its clearly written on the flyer.

Of course reviews are going to be subjective on some level, but that is not their aim. It is to give potential audience members a glimpse of the show from an outside point of view from the company. If you want to write a more subject reaction, write a blog. I really don't feel that your star rating equates to the level of this performance, which I personally enjoyed heartily, and thought was far, far above "average".

I would advise anyone in Edinburgh to come and see this show - it seems the other 26 people in the audience enjoyed as much as I did - and you get a variety of comic entertainment from a refreshingly energetic and slick comedy group. I would give this show 4 stars.

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