Last Monday, as I descended the stairs to The Globe’s basement-cum-toilet-cum-function room, I was pleasantly surprised to find the place overflowing with rows of seated, standing and armchair perched punters. Compared with the usual eerie dive bar/urinal cake vibe, this was a promising start. A promising start much like that of the kids in question: those with the beards. In the last twelve months, the kids have risen like a phoenix with tiny wings from the ashes of the sketch comedy society at Sussex. And if you think that’s an insult to their talent, you’re wrong; a phoenix with proper wings would be too elegant to make the whole rebirthing metaphor amusing and undermine the troupe’s entire raison d’être. So, before I cue their Sims-esque inter-sketch intro music and actually talk about the show i’d like to make a quick disclaimer: only two of the seven kids have genuine facial hair (and that’s including Alex Nash, their principal writer). However, this follicular challenge was in effect the biggest disappointment of the night and didn’t discourage the hordes of onlookers, and nor should it you.
Opening the night with a sketch that tackled the unfairly under pronounced ‘to’ in the popular phrase, MILF, the Kids demonstrated a keen comic eye for popular culture and the odd taste in the mouth that is 21st century existence. Satirising our thrall to commodity capitalism through riffs on famous adoption websites of the dystopian future such as webuyanychild.com (enter your reg number now) and the meta-sketch ‘Actors Anonymous’ which, like an incredibly low-budget Synecdoche New York, helped demonstrate that we may be living in the end times of both art and humanity. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, it just means that they know you can’t just fart for laughs anymore.
The night was interspersed with fifteen minutes each from guest stand-ups David McIver, Sophie Henderson and Tom Wragg. While Henderson launched an ironic diatribe on the subject of first-world problems (being from Guildford), McIver dealt in self-deprecating dad jokes that straddled David Foster Wallace and the toilet—proof that you probably can fart for laughs as long as you do it subtly. However, it was the madcap, Beckettian, what-on-earth monger Wragg that stole the show: his absurd, surreal and often dadaesque performance was anchored in the comedian’s own diarrhetic nervous laughter and affected stage persona. A showcase in awkward audience participation, Wragg was the filthy jewel in the tarnished crown that was last Monday night: never before have I laughed quite so much at a comedian who by all rights did nothing funny. Like Wragg, Kids with Beards are often at their most amusing when they relate to each other with this sense of affect, or in particular with an affected affectlessness that makes us laugh on one level at silly voices, but on another with the recognition of the bizarre social conventions that rule us when we go to the opticians or ask a friend out to coffee.
I could go on, but with all the acts being work in progress for Edinburgh, I don’t want to steal the surprise. Let’s just say that with a little more graft before August everyone on the bill should have a successful fringe and turn the silences to titters, titters to chuckles and chuckles to belly laughs, or in Tom Wragg’s case, nervous ones.
Interested? Catch the whole bunch at The Joker of Penton Street, Angel (London) on Sat 25th July at 7.30pm, and look out for Kids with Beards at Just the Fancy at Edinburgh Fringe from August 17th.