A decent mixed line-up of performers nicking each other’s sets
The practise of joke-stealing is so frowned upon in modern comedy circles, it’s bewildering to think that it’s become the central concept in a show – and a successful one at that. On the evening of this sold-out performance (many audience members had to forego chairs for standing at the back, this reviewer included), Joey Page, Darren Walsh, Matt Rees and Milo McCabe (in character as luvvie Troy Hawke) took to the stage, compered by host Will Mars. They each performed a short set of their own material in the first half and then, matched up at random by an audience member, took on one of their compadres' sets to see who could wring more laughs out of it.
Far from being a question of the humour to be found in re-examined material though, what Joke Thieves highlights is comedy’s reliance on the comic’s own personality: it’s very much a case of favouring the singer, not the song. McCabe finds the easiest path through: his luvvie character is so well-developed, all lines become Troy Hawke lines, no matter who wrote them originally (it was Page). Welshman Rees also does a good job of filtering Walsh’s one-liners through his dour, deadpan persona, also scoring easy points by standing on a bucket to compensate for an obvious height discrepancy. Page and Walsh, on the other hand, are slightly less successful: Walsh’s shtick relies on carefully-crafted zingers that are hard to conjure up inside five minutes, while Page openly admits he put more effort into duplicating Hawke’s look than filtering the jokes through his own surreal-observationist lens.
On a final note, there’s a lot to be said for standing at the back – you can peek behind the dividing wall to see how the original comedians respond to their thieving counterparts.
Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 0131 226 0000, until Aug 25, free .