The Defiant Thomas Brothers
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Winner Best Sketch Group 2005 Aspen Comedy Festival. Meet energetic African-American Seth Thomas and laidback white guy Paul Thomas. Find out if a black guy can cut a white guy's hair. Cousins? Maybe. Brothers? No. Funny? Definitely.
One member of this comedy double act is black, the other white. Imagine, two people of different colours being friends. Wow!
It certainly looks like they are going to overplay this angle. We come in to the strains of ‘the page is white, the ink is black…’ the first sketch is about the word ‘nigger’ and even the clothes they wear on stage mix black and white. And look at the publicity photo above.
Thankfully they don’t push through with this theme any further. But they don’t push through with much that’s funny, either.
They are, clearly, very good performers able to produce a wide range of rounded character sketches, subtle in the way they speak and act, and sharply observed so they become vividly real.
But the fact that few sketches use their acting skills to find laughs makes the whole endeavour seem more like an audition piece than a complete show in its own right. They’re just showing casting agents what they can do – the Saturday Night Live writers’ room can always make them funny later.
Certainly this show impressed the great and the good of America’s TV industry at the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival this year, where they were named best sketch group. Perhaps their upbeat song ‘We don’t sing about Jews’ swung it for them. But they didn’t impress their sparse Edinburgh audience quite so much, judging by the number of folded arms.
Two sketches do stand out, however. In the first, a dad dispenses sage fatherly advice entirely in bizarre similies – ‘marriage , son, is like a urine sample’ – while a second is an take on the old ‘Who’s on first base’ routine, updated to revolve around drug dealers and their street names.
These are both brilliant, but mostly the pieces are overlong and under-amusing. Having established their characters so effectively, the duo just leave them there time and time again for us to admire, rather than have something funny happen to them.
It’s hard to see what exactly these Thomas Brothers are defying, other than the rule that says you need laughs in comedy.