Comedyfest 2020: The good, the bad and the ‘ethnic’

Image taken from The Durham Revue Facebook page:

The Oxford Revue, The Cambridge Footlights, and our very own Durham Revue hosted a 600 person crowd at the Gala last Sunday. A mix of students, friends, parents and even the rare local, this comedy fest really did bring the three competing universities together.

But, in all honesty, not all three performances were worth it.

The Durham Revue, ending the show, were fantastic (not even from a biased perspective). Closing the show, the six performers really did us proud. The sketches were unique, short enough to retain focus, and genuinely comic. Relatable in terms of us all having grown up with the sound of Bob crying ‘Can we fix it?’, and all knowing what it’s like to run out of toilet paper when you really need it, laughter resounded amongst the entire audience.

The performers picked on the audience, interacted with us, and used the host’s singing offstage to their advantage to produce a series of acts. My personal favourite was one of their first acts, a first date experience, but with two parents whispering in the ear of a rambling, nervous, student that probably represents each and every one of us.

In direct contrast to them, the first to lead the stage were The Oxford Revue, and in all honesty, I was thoroughly disappointed. Two Oxford students had the opportunity to light up the audience for the night, and didn’t quite achieve it.

Whilst some of the audience seemed hyped, perhaps because they were the first on stage and the buzz from the Gala bar still retained, I personally was quite disappointed.

The opportunities available to joke about ‘crossing the line’ really were missed, as the two performers placed a literal line on the stage to present jokes that seemed too taboo. Some of the lines during the sketches were poorly timed, overall unrelatable, and just felt a bit like scrolling through a meme on Facebook that you take the time to read, but don’t actually laugh at. A shame considering this was the opening act.

And now we turn to the Cambridge Footlights – the best, in my opinion. And the reason for this was probably unpopular amongst the crowd (especially considering this was a show in Durham).

As one of a handful of brown students in Durham, I really have missed a diverse sense of humour. One that relates to a brown girl from an Asian family, and actually acts on this. To use their own words, they were ‘ethnic’ and their jokes and sketches were truly relatable and genuinely funny.

Whilst I can understand that Durham is predominantly a white university town, and that this would therefore be difficult for a diverse group to perform in, I can only apologise to the Cambridge Footlights for the lack of appreciation and laughs in the crowd, just because they didn’t relate.

But the fact is, they didn’t have to relate to appreciate the humour, they probably just needed a more open mind. The Cambridge Footlights were nothing like what we were expecting. They were a breath of fresh air, and not only because they were the most diverse group in town.

Their humour addressed white-brown relationships, brown parenting, accents, and the actors even wore tops saying ‘Western Clothing’, as if to really compare brown stereotypes to Durham ones. The sash used to represent a white person, the scattering of Indian words, and the brown stereotypes emphasised to the max, were perhaps the most relatable thing I’ve found having come to Durham a year ago.

This little spot of home away from home, a sense of humour like no other in Durham, and the diversity that they came to represent honestly made my night. Whilst the Durham Revue were incredibly funny too, I wouldn’t have spent another £8 ticket on just the acts from Durham and Oxford but the show from Cambridge was definitely enough to make all three seem worth it.

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