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The Hard Comedy: Offline
The Canal Café
1st August 2013


As a sketch comedy group which regularly uploads videos of their work to their own YouTube channel, the premise behind The Hard Comedy: Offline is a fairly logical one. Take their collection of videos, recreate them live on stage, all whilst promising to reveal the secret of how to make a good viral video. The inconvenient truth is that their type of comedy just doesn't translate well to a live gig, and is lacking in the punchy satire they promise.

There is certainly some kind of structure to the show, plenty of carefully crafted props, and the performers themselves really throw themselves into every sketch, with vigour, sincerity and quite decent accents. But the material itself is the problem, it's just too late to the party - a joke about internet buffering was made in an almost identical manner in 2011, by popular comedian Adam Buxton on even more popular panel show Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Two cutesy characters, the Snuggle Bunnies (Brittany N Williams and Clare Fitton) threatening violence against special friend Nick (Chris Dingli) is an old comedy trope. Think as far back as Tom and Jerry or Itchy and Scratchy - or in more recent years, Happy Tree Friends and the slightly more controversial Retarded Animal Babies.

An ongoing joke about Rihanna's unsuitability as a role model delivered by Williams and Catherine Povinelli did reference RiRi's recent battle with Topshop, making it vaguely current, but the meat of the sketch was a controversial song, and again, we've already seen something similar - this time on South Park.

Like Movie 43 - the justifiably panned celebathon which strung together YouTube clips - we were left with the impression that a lot of talent had been wasted, that the stars had done better and would go on to do better. With The Hard Comedy: Offline, we had a similar reaction - we saw glimpses of potential, but sadly nothing rip-roaringly funny.

Dingli's internet troll would have made a good throughline, it's a shame that he didn't reprise this character. And whilst the unicorn sketch didn't tickle us, we thought he cut a good David Bowie. Avita Jay and Emiko Ishii - and to a lesser extent, Emile Clarke - played to stereotypes, treading the difficult line between humour and racism. They managed not to offend, but didn't quite manage to make us laugh either.

Writing such a negative review feels a bit like voting off a group of young children on Britain's Got Talent, who are up against much better contestants. You know it's right to cheer on the other ones, but your heart breaks a little at the same time. What we would say to the group is stick to the online format, it works much better - the slick cinematography and background music polish off each sketch, and you just can't get that kind of editing live. And invest more time in the ideas stage, you have enough presence and personality to execute the ideas, but only if they're original. And here, they are frankly not.

All the performers seemed to have a lot of fun, not letting the lack of reaction from the audience faze them, showing an admirable "show must go on" attitude. But the audience also need to have a good time - and the applause at the end of the night felt more polite than enthusiastic. We wish all involved the very best of British, but The Hard Comedy: Offline is not going to get a million likes.

The Hard Comedy: Offline opened on 1st August and runs until 3rd August 2013.

Nearest tube station: Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo)

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