Originally published on A Younger Theatre
Awarded 3 stars
Comedians often work for months and months on their stand-up sets. They hone each joke, test out all sorts of material and make sure that they are as funny as they can be before hitting the comedy circuit. Joke Thieves introduces four stand-up comedians, all with different styles. They each perform a five minute set before they are told that they now have to perform again, only this time they will steal the material of one of their fellow comedians. It’s a bit of a double edged sword really – if you can take the set of another comedian and make the audience laugh more when you deliver it, you look like a comedy genius. But if the other comedian does that to you, then you just feel as though all the hard work has literally been for nothing.
Tonight’s set features James Dowdeswell, a geeky sort of guy who does not know how to fix a computer but can throw down some “pretty sick” Eminem style beats; Kevin Dewsbury, who likes to mimic other peoples’ accents but who naturally sounds a bit too much like Jimmy Saville; Pun-Man, the current UK Pun Champion with improvised one-liners made out of topics the audience throws at him; Danny Ward, who does not like staying in Travelodges and has a bad back, which is only exacerbated when he’s standing in a queue for a Toby’s Carvery.
Round one: the stand-ups perform their own material. Kevin and Pun-Man are the stars here. Pun-Man comes out in a super hero costume and has very good timing, not to mention some flair at putting down hecklers. Kevin has a natural charm and his set flows easily from laugh to laugh.
Then the swap happens – a member of the audience has the genius idea of pairing Pun-Man with James Dowdeswell, which works wonders when James wanders out in a red leotard.
Round two: James is the clear favourite here. The other comedians try to modify each other’s sets but eventually just end up insulting one another. Danny decides that Kevin’s stories are disjointed and the Jimmy Saville reference is too creepy; Pun-Man can’t do rap so just insults James as a geeky middle class Englishman; Kevin puts on a southern accent and makes fun of Danny’s bad back. But James goes full on Pun-Man and does a pretty good job at improvised puns, to the delight of the audience. Either that or the costume, who knows which gets more laughs.
The format is a bit different to typical stand-up and the comedians seem fine with all the roasting going on. The audience like it – partly because there is some good comedy in here, partly because they’re fuelled by beer.
Joke Thieves plays at Laughing Horse at The Counting House (venue 170) until August 30 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Fringe website.