Sketch comedy must be notoriously difficult to perform. The pressure of trying to create distinct, but recognisable characters in a short space of time, having to subvert expectations of punchlines and the old cliché that “there’s nothing new under the sun” can often result in performances that are too reliant on either profanity, jokes at the expense of easy targets or are just plain predictable and therefore if not outright mediocre, tired or just plain bad. It is surely necessary, then, that the performers be likeable, experienced, and have a flair for subversion, or, if they’re going to go with an old joke, have their own take and deliver it with confidence and gusto.
In the latest from Dr. Duck (Andrew Keen, Susie Kazda, Liam Howarth, Chloe Towan, Rian Howlett and Lara McArthur-Dowty), there are a fair share of your standards – policemen and other authority figure acting strange, dates gone wrong, and the like – but also some interesting and new takes on humour. I really enjoy some of their callback characters, quite a few of the puns I’m amazed I missed coming, and two particular examples of meta-humour I just loved.
Without spoiling too much, notable highlights included Garden Blitz, with Liam Howarth as the host of a garden renovation show who just gets it wrong, Rian Howlett as a mugger in the aptly named Mugger, Chloe Towan opposite Howarth in James Kipper (former male stripper, now working in the media industry, points if you guess as what!), and the entire cast in the finale, Customer is Always Right, where the simple customer service idiom is taken to the very brink of insanity, with Keen and Howlett as the unfortunate retail employees. There was also some nervous laughter during Freud, in which the eponymous tries to explain his new book to his mother.
If I had to pick fault with anything, it would be that the Fortune Teller sketch – the second of the show – ran a little long; the punchline came quite early, leading to the remainder just stretching that out to a secondary punchline that seemed straight out of the bumper book of vaudeville. This is a very minor complaint; in this specific sketch, a lot is carried by Keen’s intense hamming of the “wide-eyed naive” of the Fortune Teller’s scam, and the final line almost invites the audience to join in, acknowledging, in a meta way, it’s own predictability, and making it therefore hilarious.
Oh, also, Towan broke at the end of James Kipper, but in fairness to her it was a very funny punchline – I couldn’t have done it!
Dr. Duck are at the Courthouse Hotel at 6pm until 21 September. Tickets $15-20.