Return Of The Serif Production Team

“Can women really be funny?” It sounds like the motion at an ill thought out Cambridge Union debate, but anyone else lucky enough to have watched Comic Sans Men (CSM) with me on Friday night will have left certain of the answer.

CSM is a show responsible for introducing some of Cambridge’s finest comedy talent to the stage. I should know, I’ve been lucky enough to see the last two years’ incarnations. On my way to the ADC, I wondered if this crop could reach the standards of those that came before them. I left it knowing not to doubt them again.

Comic Sans Men: Return of the Serif, to give its full name, has a simple structure: the night’s stand up host performs an intro (Friday’s was Maria Telnikoff), then does some improv based on prompts from the audience. It’s then up to the all-female and non-binary cast to devise sketches based on what they’ve just heard the host perform, and away we go.

I imagine it’s tempting for the host to segue from an audience prompt to a pre prepared routine, something Telnikoff clearly had no problem resisting. She commits fully to the prompt of “churches” from one audience member, resulting in a superbly delivered bit that clearly inspires a few of the resulting sketches. It would have been good to see her perform for longer, not just because it went so well, but also to give the cast a bit more to work with (could that explain some of the slightly longer pauses before certain sketches began?). Nevertheless, Telnikoff’s sharp delivery and composed aura on stage ensure the night gets off to a solid start.

“I’d lost count of the number of killer punchlines Phoebe Deller had delivered by the end of the night”

And the improvisers themselves? Something that’s quickly noticeable is that there’s a real balance to the cast. Some are loud, some more understated, and some even quiet (possibly too quiet). Some use an extra second or two to go on stage with a plan, like when Vidya Divakaran proclaims she’s on a mountain top, looking for love. Others run on and simply “vibe”, relaxed enough on stage to allow more of the sketch to form in real time around them. They work well together as a team, likely thanks to some expert direction, which helps to keep the sketches fresh and varied. This format also allowing a star player to come to the forefront; I’d lost count of the number of killer punchlines Phoebe Deller had delivered by the end of the night.


Mountain View

Denis and Katya: Inescapably compelling and harrowing

As mentioned earlier, one of the best things about CSM is how it brings new people into Cambridge comedy. Sometimes this inexperience manifests in performers becoming victims of their own success; too many times would someone deliver a great punchline, only for the sketch’s dialogue to continue over the sound of laughter, leaving the audience struggling to follow what happens next. Perhaps a sign of nerves, I’m sure it will be ironed out before the final performance.

And you really should go to see the final performance on Saturday night. This is a show that always delivers what it promises: laughs galore. Don’t let Comic Sans Men be Comic Sans You.