The Rise of Character Comedy
Kate Moxon talks the rise of character comedy...
Throughout the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond, character comedy has thrived however, throughout the 2010s there seemed to be a decline in representation in popular culture. With SNL viewing figures drastically decreasing and almost no sketch representation on TV, it feels necessary to highlight the outstanding character comedians currently touring in the UK. Most networks have made a step in the right direction for example, BBC Three commission two sketch programmes last year (‘Lazy Susan’ and ‘Ellie and Natasia’) as well as Channel 4’s ‘Stath Lets Flats’ which acts as a masterclass for anyone considering character comedy.
I was lucky enough to be able to see The Delightful Sausage and Colin Hoult’s shows, both of which were nominated for the main prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Both shows were outstanding and made me (as well as the whole audience) see just how wonderful character comedy can be.
Delightful Sausage’s ‘Nowt But Sea’ Review
The Delightful Sausage – Yorkshire’s finest meat-themed Double Act – consist of Hull-born Amy Gledhill and Bradford’s very own, Chris Cantrill. The pair began performing together in Manchester and their Northern eclecticism shone in their Edinburgh Award nominated show ‘Nowt but Sea’, which I was lucky enough to see.
The show took place in Leeds venue ‘The Wardrobe’, which aided in the immersive aspect by having low ceilings and an intimate feel. When catching up with Chris and Amy afterwards, we spoke about their writing process for the show, comedic inspirations and somehow the musical artist Scatman John.
The duo set their show on an isolated island in the middle of the ocean. This setting provoked emotions not too dissimilar to those during the various lockdowns. During Covid, Chris and Amy moved to opposite sides of the country meaning that Zoom was the ‘third person in the double act’. They were able to convert any frustrations from this process into themes of the show. The island acts as an extended metaphor for the familiar loneliness of Covid as well as the home of a fictional agent that lures in vulnerable clients. Main themes of the show included OnlyFans, a reggae side project and BBC Two’s ‘Only Connect’ (specifically a revered Victoria Coren Mitchell). The show felt like a lovechild of lockdown culture and Chris and Amy’s eccentric collective comedic voice.
Their style of comedy is rooted in the everyday with many surrealist twists and turns. As Amy said ‘it’s just Agatha Christie with lots of dick jokes.’ The familiar plotline of agent-lures-client was very much rooted in the many news stories over the decades, without poking fun at any of the victims. The Me Too esque nature felt familiar to many but the duo were able to twist the story to be funny (as well as provide an excuse for Chris to cover himself in lube).
Many comparisons came to mind as I was watching the show including ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and Vic and Bob, who both Chris and Amy confirmed are frequently noticed by many. Their eclectic and idiosyncratic jokes and comments were well-loved by the whole crowd and caused the duo to have a ‘cult’ like following in their place of origin: Manchester. Chris described their crowd as ‘hard earned and appreciated’.
After a month of performing the show nearly everyday during the Edinburgh Fringe, it felt polished but also very loose. When speaking to the pair, they said that they hadn’t performed the show in a while however it was clear that their aim was never to be perfect but to make the audience laugh. Mistakes happened but their recoveries were funnier. The adlibs make the audience feel special, like they’re a part of something that is unique to them. As the pair said, the show is ‘mucky, mysterious and lubey’.
Silly and witty (and lovely), The Delightful Sausage are not to be missed!
You can catch them on The Mash Report as well as the socials
Twitter- @MmmSausage (@CallMeCantrill, @ThatGledhill)
Instagram- @thedelightfulsausage (@chris_cantrill, thatamygledhill)
Colin Hoult’s ‘The Death of Anna Mann’ Review
Who is Anna Mann? This is the question Hoult seeks to answer during his hour-long Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated show. Anna Mann is many things; an actor, a singer, a welder, a Deliveroo driver, so woke she can barely sleep etc etc. As well as an accomplished actress (her most notable piece being the cult classic ‘Cannibal Bag Pipers’), Anna Mann has a story to tell. During his theatrical comedy piece Hoult makes you laugh and cry along with his multi-dimensional character Anna. We travelled back to the start of her theatre career (her true love) and met her former husbands, including, but not limited to John Smells, Harold Bag and of course Denny Martini.
Hoult had the whole packed out basement in his hands as he guided everyone through the life and death of Anna Mann. Throughout the show Anna tells the audience about her inevitable death and cause of. The doctor told her that her heat was too full. A cruel diagnosis and an even crueller way to go. As the show is called ‘The Death of Anna Mann’ the presumption was that Anna would die a horrible and dramatic death on stage however Hoult was able to weave an interconnected story of Mann’s life in which any questions raised were answered and nothing was truly as it seemed. What seemed like a fun, absurdist comedy show ended with an earnest truth from the man behind Anna Mann where there truly wasn’t a dry eye. The man behind Mann is a ‘lost soul who couldn’t communicate with the world’ and donned the wig, headband, dress, cheap makeup as a way to translate his thoughts into humour. Going into this show knowing nothing other than that it was sold out, I came out with a deep understanding of Colin’s view of the world and felt able to relate to the man behind Mann.
Anna Mann is a force of nature, a ‘visceral, brave and not real’ woman. After a career spanning an unknown number of years including work on Holby City as a resident corpse, Mann retired live on stage and kindly gifted the limelight to Hoult. The only way I can describe it is passing the baton from Hoult’s creative mind to Hoult’s physical self. Vulnerable yet optimistic, Colin perfectly set the tone for his future solo work without the disguise of a transcendent fake woman. I’m incredibly excited to see Colin as Colin but will miss the craziness of Anna Mann. His incredible success as Anna Mann speaks for itself however the time felt right to step down from the role. Who knows maybe Mann will reprise her role in Predator the musical but for now, a farewell seemed right.
Words: Kate Moxon
Image credit: The Delightful Sausage & Berk's Nest