[2015107] Joke Thieves

[2015107] Joke Thieves

Will Mars (with Luisa Omielan, Wilfredo, Vladimir McTavish, & Sarah Bennetto) @ Austral Hotel – The Bunka

10:30pm, Tue 3 Mar 2015

Like Set List, Joke Thieves is a concept that I’m surprised I’ve not seen before: it essentially pits comics against each other in a competition to see who can best tell the other person’s joke. Each comic tells their own joke, in their own style, before they swap content… and are then judged by the audience. It’s a brilliant idea, and it raises a lot of strategic questions: does the comic use the material that they know absolutely kills, and risk their opposition leveraging the same strong jokes? Or do they use less-strong material, hoping that they’ll outperform the opposition? Or do they leverage material which would be wholly unsuitable for the opposition to perform?

This evening’s Joke Thieves had plenty of opportunities for the latter option, with two female-versus-male battles. Luisa Omielan (who I’d not seen before, but had an enjoyable stage presence) kicked off the show with some reasonable jokes, but Wilfredo’s set absolutely baffled: a mumbly, clownish mess, he’s much more suited to character comedy than standup. Omielan adapted his material with apparent ease, casting her own spin on things… Wilfredo could barely remember her set. Winner: Omielan, by several lengths.

The second battle was a bit more evenly matched: Sarah Bennetto’s usual gentle story-based comedy was torn apart and rebuilt with brutal hilarity by Vladimir McTavish, whose own (weaker) material was tweaked by Bennetto (and her copious notes)… but without really changing in any way. Winner: McTavish, with extra points for the creativity of his adaptation.

Joke Thieves is a bloody interesting concept that, with the right comedians (and a carefree attitude toward their material), could produce an absolutely storming night of comedy. But with only half-a-dozen paying punters in the audience (and a handful of other comics), and some defensive play from contestants, this evening’s performance was a little more sedate. Entertaining, to be sure, but one suspects other shows may have been better (or worse!).

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