Brighton Fringe 2011
Edinburgh 2010 comedy award nominees return to the Fringe with a brand new show of fast paced, slick and defiantly puerile sketch comedy.
This is a difficult review to write. All five members of Late Night Gimp Fight are clearly friendly, warm, immensely likeable people. Each of them has a delightful presence on stage, and each of them are uniquely talented comic performers. Their new show – much like their last one – is supremely slick, incredibly well choreographed and extremely fast-paced.
Ultimately, however, their sketch material was disappointing, and for the most part, remarkably unfunny. I feel guilty almost for saying it, let alone committing it to print (well, interweb print), because in many ways, the group – and its individual members – all deserve to be successful. But I can’t recommend them here beyond a three-star rating, and this is entirely down to the quality of their written material.
Late Night Gimp Fight have come under fire in the past for being too offensive and too crude. This, in and of itself, is not the problem with their material. There’s plenty of room in comedy for puerility and crudity, and as the self-proclaimed purveyors of "comedy that will leave you feeling violated – in a good way", you wouldn’t expect less from them. My problem with LNGF‘s material comes from the almost inherent unoriginality that frequently comes with this territory.
Many of the jokes – abortion jokes where the punchline is a coat-hanger, for example – have been made before dozens of times to the point where the punchline was entirely predictable – and not in an enjoyable way. It’s not quite as bad as thinking up a better punchline mid-sketch to the one eventually used (this didn’t happen), but it’s not far up the list. This meant a sketch show filled with brand new material frequently felt tired, done-before and predictable. If you haven’t seen these jokes made in a sketch show, you’ll definitely have heard them down the pub with your mates (unless, of course, you have stupid mates, or – conversely – chat about real issues like war and stuff).
It’s not the puerility that’s the problem – it’s that it’s textbook puerility. Everything from terminal illness to rape to sleeping with your mum to to over-the-top gay gangbang re-enactments to inappropriate actions with animals have all been done before. It’s not shocking and it’s not fresh. The sketches are delivered at lightning-pace; slicker and faster than any other sketch group I’ve seen on the circuit, to their credit – but unfortunately, that doesn’t compensate for the material. Late Night Gimp Fight are clearly not a lazy group, but their sketch writing frequently feels that way – and it’s genuinely disappointing, because the group clearly have the capacity to be tremendous. Their director Steve Marmion truly brings the best out of them as performers, and all five are clearly talented actors – but for such a successful, acclaimed sketch group, their writing leaves a lot to be desired. As much as I cringe to admit it, I barely laughed during their show.
Perhaps I make it sound like there were no good sketches: there were. Of the thirty-plus performed on the night, around eight or nine at least made me chuckle, and four sketches stood out as genuinely brilliant: without wanting to give too much away, these sketches were the rap song, the Crystal Maze, their closing sketch/song, and – my favourite by a mile – the beautiful, hilarious sketch involving Henry the Hoover.
When I reviewed LNGF in Edinburgh in 2010, I gave them four stars: I praised how polished, slick and well-choreographed they were, and noted that their best material was not their "dark" stuff, but the clever, original, theatrically inventive moments – I picked out their wonderful sketch with hoodies as a highlight, and that example remains one of my favourite live sketches I’ve ever seen. That sketch, and similar moments in their last show (including bursting out of laundry bags for their opening) were what made the difference between four stars and three last time round. Unfortunately, their Henry the Hoover sketch was the closest we came this time to catching those glimpses of imagination and creative talent which LNGF clearly do possess. That level of quality felt largely absent here, and therefore I can’t bring myself to give them more than three.
I hope that when they inevitably read this, the members of Late Night Gimp Fight can forgive me for the criticism. As I wrote at the start of this review: they all, individually and as a group, deserve to go far. But I didn’t laugh a lot during their show, and I genuinely wanted to. Their material needs a powerful injection of inventiveness – something with LNGF have proven they are capable of.
They earn their three stars out of five for being one of the more polished sketch acts I’ve seen on the circuit, their wonderful stage presence, and their too-brief flashes of genius. A big part of me wants to give them four, but I don’t feel like I could honestly say their core material deserves it. By all means, Gimps, continue with the trademark borderline-offensive comedy – that’s never bothered me, and will never bother your fans – but use your powers of puerility for the more inventive and original jokes we know you have in you.