The sketches excelled when they fully committed to original ideasPhoebe Pryce-Boutwood with permission for Varsity

One-night comedy shows always have a good vibe about them, with the cast and crew’s friends piling into the ADC for a drink, a catch up, and a laugh. It’s nice to see the auditorium more relaxed and the stakes lower after the more serious, big-budget productions earlier in the evening. The lights go down and a cheer of support goes up for the cast backstage. We’re all friends here, let’s be silly and have some fun. This is where student sketches thrive, and it was no different on Friday night at Cloud Eight and a Half.

“The lights go down and a cheer of support goes up for the cast backstage”

The sketches excelled when they fully committed to original ideas, and there were plenty. The parody of CBeebies’ Balamory in which the characters descend into drug-fueled crime was hilarious and brilliantly performed by Grace Wakeman and Cara Sullivan, even for someone like me who hadn’t grown up watching the show. The filmed recreation of the old digital crime advert morphing into a callback to an earlier sketch about Ed Gamble had everyone in stitches, and Jenny Jones on the floor re-absorbing the river she had just cried for an ex-girlfriend was a masterful display of comic timing and commitment. I wanted to see more of Jones – her sporadic appearances were all hits, from the river crying to a giggly royal commandeering train-station announcements and a perturbed doctor in a somewhat strange and confusing sketch about jellied eels.

Thomas Sweeney also provided reliable laughs from the start, injecting some much-needed energy into the opening sketch with a bit about an improv comic unable to hide the trauma of their parents’ divorce. His physicality was genuinely funny in sketches about a man getting strangely excited over a book describing the aforementioned Ed Gamble, and an exaggeratedly bashful boss apologising for reporting his employee to the government. This helped compensate for other physical comedy moments, which relied a bit more on ‘it’s funny because it’s bad’ style humour.

“The show kept a strong pace, never went too long without a laugh, and had some really hilarious jokes”

Now, it’s a golden rule in comedy that you start with your second biggest laugh and finish with your best. Sadly, neither end of Cloud Eight and a Half ranked close to the biggest laughs that night, meaning the show was framed by a stumbling opening and an abrupt end, doing a disservice to the hilarious material that came in-between. The opening gambit was a self-aware scene about the comics themselves discussing creating a sketch show for a dictatorial director, a bit I’ve seen before. Jokes about the deficiencies of sketch comedians were an easy laugh – low hanging fruit for an audience of friends making up a who’s who of Cambridge comedy. It also felt like an apology for the show before it had even started, rather than a confident opening statement to get your audiences thinking now this is going to be good.


Mountain View

‘If you like this comedy, rise cheerfully’: Epicœne at the ADC

Fast-forward to the final sketch: a song not centred around a joke or clever conceit, but the ‘funny cos random’ subject of John Major cleaning toilets in IKEA, which felt more like an in-joke between the raucous Footlights committee in the audience, the cast, and the crew (with four joke Camdram credits referencing Major), rather than actually funny material. Second time lucky, Declan Boyd got some half-hearted audience involvement in the song, and the brief appearance of the full cast to do 30 seconds of the can-can and some jazz hands signalled the end. At least it was supposed to, with Sweeney needing to show the audience that the curtain call was happening, and we should in fact be clapping. As a creative choice, it is perplexing not to call back the opening bit that director Helen Brookes had eloped and abandoned the cast, or at least end with a sketch that actually integrated the full cast, or was the culmination of something. There were a lot of options available that would have made more sense as a closing statement, though I’ll admit that structural cohesion is not exactly a central tenet of sketch comedy.

Unconvincing bookends aside, it was a good night: lots of laughs, familiar faces, and a really nice atmosphere. The show kept a strong pace, never went too long without a laugh, and had some really hilarious jokes. I can think of far worse ways to have spent my evening, and I thank everyone involved for bringing some joy and light-hearted fun to an Easter term hurtling towards exams.