The Cambridge Footlights REfreshers' Smoker

On Tuesday night, the Footlights presented a live-streamed version of the famous Freshers’ Smokers. A chance for every wannabe Cleese, Chapman or Coleman to perform on the same stage as many of Britain’s greats. Well, they usually would anyway. This time, the Refresher was broken down into ‘Acts’, with each subsection a pre-recorded performance from the comfort of someone’s bedroom in their parents’ house. Although the show was billed at an hour, the final live stream came to less than 15 minutes, making it probably more accessible and comfortable to watch. Whilst the Footlights gave the audience a disclaimer that this would be a ‘poor attempt’ at comedy, I wouldn’t quite go that far – still, since they kept it brief, I will too.

Under normal circumstances, the Freshers’ Smokers benefit from being a late-night show attended by a very inebriated audience. The last Smoker I went to, sadly well over a year ago now, I was sure that I was, regrettably, the only somewhat sober viewer in the audience. Whether the jokes were funny or not, the routines were greeted with rowdy cheers and applause that relaxed and invigorated the previously-quaking freshers. Since this round of comedians didn’t have the same warmed-up audience, I commend them on their efforts. Comedic timing is difficult to deliver to a blank wall.

“The Re-fresher was an enjoyable break from the monotony of daily lockdown life, if a little cringy at times.”

Thankfully, the six acts were mostly pandemic-themed humour free. Only Jack Ward’s opening stand-up (bedroom?) routine began with a few COVID-related jokes. However, he quickly transitioned into a routine of college complaints. Since the acts were all filmed in the comedians’ respective bedrooms, they lack the regular Smoker’s audience interaction. Whilst this sometimes resulted in awkward delivery, the routines did feel quite personal. Ward managed to bring intense energy to his stand-up, which started off the set nicely.

Tabitha Reuben’s sketch was the stand-out routine of the night. Sorry, I should say Pom Pom the Party Fairy’s routine. Reuben presented an excellent case as to why a TV-show reboot of the Rainbow Fairy books is just what 2021 needs. To keep the stories’ relatability, the show would feature new additions to the extensive cast including ‘Hob Nob the Hangover Fairy’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle the Regret Fairy’. Reuben’s comedy was charming and surprisingly wholesome. Honestly, I’d absolutely fund the pilot.


Mountain View

[BLANK] is complex and expressive, but falls short in its experimentation

While the delivery was a little awkward, Henry Nolan’s routine was original but stylistically reminiscent of James Acaster. Instead of mimicking old Footlight stars like David Mitchell or Hugh Dennis, or even the previous generation’s Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, James Acaster’s style of straight-forward existentialist comedy delivered in his awkward fashion, seems to be a favourite amongst newer comedians. This is not the first time I’ve heard his style replicated on the Footlight’s stage. The last Smoker I saw similarly featured a few Acaster-style routines. I suppose, just like anything, comedic styles come in and out of fashion. Perhaps Cambridge’s new generation of Footlights finds Acaster’s comedy oddly relatable, manifesting in their routines.

Overall, the Re-fresher was an enjoyable break from the monotony of daily lockdown life, if a little cringy at times. However, the audience was given a pre-warning, so we cannot fault the Re-fresher too much, especially without the copious consumption of liquor that usually accompanies a Freshers’ Smoker.