It seems fairly fitting for Cup of Beans to review a Work in Progress night. This is, after all, only the fourth piece we’ve written, as well as being the first foray into the live world. Trying something new is a process we can fully empathise with right now.
For those of you who’ve never been to a Work in Progress night before, it basically involves an array of comedians punctuating punchlines with a quick trip to their notebook, in order to scribble out or bookmark a joke depending on the audience’s reaction.
On balance, there are probably more scribbles than bookmarks for most of the acts, but what does land should be a lot of fun in front of a larger crowd.
MC Phil Ellis doggedly drew some banter out of an audience who had left the front row well alone, and it did help the atmosphere when this happened. Sitting at the front isn’t for everyone, but you only need to see the effects of an empty front row once to know how much it slows things down on nights like this.
By its very nature, it’s not a night of sustained laughter, more one of the occasional mirthful outburst in between chasms of pity and silence. These are braver people than I, and it’s not hard to see why opening act Chris Washington starts out by explaining how much he dreads new material nights.
It’s fair to say that material about abortion, suicide and depression is quite a delicate balancing act. However, Hannah Platt’s deadpan delivery somehow makes it work. Towards the end of her set, she seems to suggest things aren’t going very well, but she’s doing herself a disservice as she’s one of the strongest acts of the night.
I’d imagine Chris Tavner is used to getting a little more back from an audience as he tries to chat to them. It’s quite a mellow crowd and there’s not much bouncing back. If he were to keep or cull material based solely on this night, he’d have a pretty thin stack of notes.
Next comes Jack Carroll of Britain’s Got Talent fame. A quick trip to YouTube reveals that a lot of his material is well over a year old, which stretches the definition of ‘work in progress’ somewhat. It certainly explains why he gets some of the biggest laughs of the night, as the routine is pretty polished by now.
Sam Gore tries some political material, freely admitting at the start that it’s a topic frequently doomed to failure. He’s right too, as a lot of the jokes rely on prior knowledge of a person or news event, and this Wednesday audience isn’t really in the mood for a current affairs memory test.
Sam Avery rounds off the night, coaxing out enough laughs that suggest there’s life in the material.
This kind of comedy night is interesting. Your inner comedy nerd will try to guess what the comedians will keep and what they’ll never speak of again. You’ll also learn quite quickly not to get into a rounds situation at the bar if your intention is to remember what order the acts performed in.
The thing is, to create something new, it’s necessary to wade through that awkward initial period where some of it’s a bit shit. Watching other people try this in front of a live audience has certainly had a galvanising effect on this little seed of a comedy blog. We’ll keep having our own little Work in Progress party right here.