MySpace Trident Comedy Award 2008

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s been some very strange thinking behind the MySpace Trident Comedy Awards, not least the very concept of a live final.

Most of the contest, reasonably enough, was based around making clips for the internet – but that isn’t at all the same skill as performing in front of an audience of hundreds, as some of the bedroom amateurs discovered.

Not that it mattered all that much how each finalist performed, whether they be first-timers such as sketch outfit We Are Ace or experienced gladhanders like Patrick Monahan. The audience was so partisan there could only ever be one winner in the room.

The crowd was dominated by the overexcited teenage supporters of schoolboy comedians Aston and George, making this a school trip like no other. They certainly brought an energy to the oddly-timed afternoon gig, but judging from their shrieks of delight at mere mention of their classmates’ names, the youthful duo could defecated on stage, and still been a shoo-in for the prize.

What they were so energised about is harder to say. Aston and George are certainly sweet and personable, with the bulletproof confidence of youth, but their low-fi videos seem to be just two kids mucking about, like kids do. George can pull a few funny faces, but their stupid jinx can too easily be seen as irritating.

As well as screening one of the web videos, the pair performed a MySpace versus Facebook sketch, personifying each rival site in the manner of the ‘I’m an Apple, and I’m a PC’ ads. There are scores of broadly similar skits on the internet already, and these youngsters didn’t nail and good gags on the topic.

But at more than two-and-a-half times their age, I’m not their target audience, which is probably the point. The feeling of being in on a joke that few others get is crucial to cult success, and perhaps that is what Ashton & George have. This victory will give them will certainly expose them to a wider audience and possibly win fans from outside their school gates. With some professional guidance about how to harness their teen appeal, maybe they can be the future of comedy. But at the moment, I just don’t get it.

Classy opening act Mould and Arrowsmith were a safer – and funnier – bet. One judge opined that this male-female double act had no unique selling point, which is a fair point, but what they do have is funny ideas, skillfully executed. Hopefully there’s still room in comedy for that. They had a fresh way of mocking Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and a couple of nicely understated superhero-themed sketches, artfully performed with a sly wit underpinning the writing.

We Are Ace opened with their internet spoof CSI: Wigan, a very obvious idea stretched paper-thin. And after the video of these two slobbish wazzocks in bad wigs and worse stick-on moustaches played out to near-silence, the group made their very first stage appearance – as those exact same characters the audience now hated. Even judge Brendon Burns, not always famed for his on-stage sensitivity, didn’t want to further dent their confidence by passing comment, and I’ll follow suit.

The dreadfully named Knock2Bag were next, a talented double act presumably linked to the West London club of the same name. They cleverly presented their internet clips as a spoof news report, and what imaginative, professionally produced sketches they were, too. The laughs come more from the direction and production of the clips, rather than in actual gags, which goes to show their expert understanding of the medium they’re working in. Expect to hear more from this duo – but ideally under a less irritating name.

After Ashton & Joe tore the Roof of the venue, Patrick Monahan had to follow – but thankfully crowd work is what he’s best at and he riffed entertainingly with the audience. But for all his warmth, energy and likeability, there was little substance in his set, with pedestrian observations about shopping at Lidl or the X-Factor. An odd nice joke and a neat closing video did provide chuckles, but his club-style set and slick showmanship felt out of place among the sketches.

Biggest kudos of the afternoon, however, goes not to the acts, but to compere Rhod Gilbert, brilliantly bringing good cheer and a sense of occasion to a strange gig, at a strange time, with a strange audience. He’s known for his stupidly passionate rants, but here he also demonstrated a lightning-quick wit and easy control of this ragtag audience of shrieking teenagers and cynical comedy industry types. He’s a rare talent, all right.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
London, November 28, 2008

Click here to watch the finalists' internet sketches, and here to watch the whole gig online.

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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