I don’t know if it is the thought of aristocratic English folk flailing about in an embarrassing way, or nostalgic thoughts about the comedy greats of Monty Python, but for whatever reason I find that comedy is 150 percent funnier when performed by those from across the pond (i.e., Brits). Even the English accent itself occasionally causes me to giggle. It was with this great accent-related joy that I attended my fourth Cambridge Footlights performance on Monday night in McConomy Auditorium.
The 11:00 p.m. performance was attended by far fewer people than the troupe merited. Not even half of the rows of seats were filled as we were patiently ushered toward the front after buying $5 tickets. There had been a fire drill before whose alarms had kept performers and audience members outside during the time when the show was supposed to start. It’s possible that with this delay and no promise of the performance occurring, some audience members gave up the ghost early in favor of snuggling in bed with some homework.
The performance opened with Carnegie Mellon’s very own Tisbert, the sketch comedy sub-troupe of the drama club Scotch’n’Soda, performing a series of comedy sketches to consistent laughter and applause. Though perhaps a little less ribald than later audience responses, there was still an air of appreciation and enjoyment. Particularly successful was the sketch that turned the watching of a network TV nightly news show into something resembling the conversation that serious fans of Game of Thrones might have while watching the show. Talks of spoilers and a thoroughly fabricated characterization and plot line of the featured meteorologist causes giggles to erupt from the audience. Instead of books offering spoilers to those watching, one of the characters read a newspaper that the other two on the couch did not want to hear anything from. The depth of the joke and its different facets and references captured the audience and entertained them at each clever turn.
When the Footlights came on stage, the energy in the audience definitely picked up. Throughout the evening, they performed sketches that ranged in length from 30 seconds to 15 minutes or so. Throughout the evening, they also called out audience members sitting in the front row, much to these individuals’ mortification and glee. Perhaps one of the best sketches of the night was an extended scene that chronicled a school bus full of children on their way to an evening performance of Cats. The field trip had already encountered other difficulties, so the evening performance was the last shot. The two female teachers, both played by male actors, were very thorough in attempting to confirm that everyone had used the restroom prior to getting on the bus. At one point, both actors mimed going to the back of the bus to examine the onboard toilet, and their miming of the motion of walking back on a school bus had the audience completely erupting in laughter; rather flamboyantly, they walked in synchronization while grabbing on to the backs of invisible seats on either side. It was absolutely absurd and also entirely relatable.
One of the more bizarre sketches of the evening was between two of the individuals and contained very little dialogue. One of the women performing held out a sheet of paper to another performer to show him that it was warm. The actor touched the paper, and then in the following minutes with more and more intensity and drama, the actor proceeded to moan in ecstasy and bewilderment and rub the paper all over himself. It was the type of comedy wherein half of the humor came from the duration of the sketch. The poor actor looked like he wasn’t breathing, such was the intensity with which he was moving this paper over himself. It was so strange and totally hysterical.
These are just two of the amazing sketches from Monday night. The five actors — two women, three men — put their all into it, even after being delayed by the fire alarm. For those lucky enough to have more years at Carnegie Mellon, I hope they come back, and if they do, please attend and laugh until your belly hurts.