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Happy Salad - The Footlights Spring Review

ADC Theatre, Cambridge, 10th March 2001

Gush, gush, gush. This is the first time I've seen the footlights in action, so maybe after a while I'll get used them. It's just so ballsy to decide you're going to put on a whole evening's worth of entertainment which consists entirely of sketches. Not a comic song, not a tired, catch-phrase-laden stocking filler (so beloved of the big TV sketch shows) in sight. Nothing but nearly two hours of sketches. And how cock-sure do you have to be to be certain that a good percentage of them are funny? Without even trying them out on an audience?Very cock-sure indeed.

Then again, when you're faced with the task of living up to the footlights terrible, indelible reputation for not being as good as it used to be, you probably have the choices of coming out all guns blazing or simply running away. Even if there was such a point in the dim and distant past where Emma Thompson shared the ADC stage with John Cleese, Peter Cook and Groucho Marx or whoever, (and, erm, there wasn't) the current wearers of this comic albatross have far from disgraced themselves. My only complaint is that, even after forking out an extra quid for the programme I have no way of matching the names to the faces that I want to praise. So I'll just have to talk about the sketches. The supermarket assassination sketch and the James Bond Feng Shui sketch were simply fantastic - I wanted to have written them. The sketches parodying American psychobabble, although perhaps more obvious were very well done (the idea of the word "cohesh" as a verb had me still cackling when everybody else was on to the next-but-one gag). And the slow-burn "Attack of the 200 ft Princess Margaret" was a simple idea beautifully executed. Finally - the only name in the programme which I could tie to a face, Tim Key, gave the most assured and staggeringly funny performance of all with his series of "Mike Blow" sketches. "Here is my comic universe" he seemed to be saying, "and I can unfold it at my own pace, without any worry about not going for the laughs straight away, 'cos when I want you to laugh, you'll wet yourselves. "

These two hours turned me from a sceptic of the "They can't be as funny as they used to be" school into a dedicated follower - I'll be seeing everything they do from now on.

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