Chimp Cop: family patriarch, heroic police officer and actual ape
Sketch troupe Chimp Cop return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, only this time, Chimp Cop is dead. The fourth installment of the Chimp Cop series, the Death of Chimp Cop, focuses on Chimp Cop’s sons – Chimp Cop Jr. and Francis Cop as they take to the courts to determine who is entitled to Chimp Cop’s fortune. Moving a cop show into a courtroom drama is a logical evolution, and it works on stage just as well as it does on TV. Yet again, the Chimp Cop crew mine the tropes of cop shows, 80s action flicks and sketch comedy for gold, and yet again they hit pay dirt.
At this point, Adam Knox, Timothy Clark, Rosie Vernel and Ben Vernel have performed together so long that their dynamic is unshakably funny. The awareness that what they’re doing is somewhat ridiculous still permeates the comedians, but there is a justified self-assurance in every joke delivery and prop punchline. There’s a stronger narrative structure to the show than previous years, meaning that the performers can better employ not just the timing of their deliveries but also of the story to comedic effect. The writing and pacing of Death of Chimp Cop allows for a genuine narrative climax and a comedic denouement, something many sketch shows strive for but few achieve. This isn’t to say there’s some weepy emotional punches or surprising heartfelt moments – there aren’t, this show is still silliness and parody – but more that levity doesn’t have to preclude storytelling in sketch.
This narrative is largely anchored by Ben Vernel as Chimp Cop Jr., with a low-key incredulity Vernel plays for maximum laughs through wide-eyed expressions and the occasional deadpan delivery. Rosie Vernel’s character beats are comedic twists on hardarse lawyers, though presumably if the tropes failed she could draw on her own criminology degree (like she does in her podcast, On Trial). Adam Knox also lawyers up, fully embracing his talent for playing bumbling fools (a direct contrast to his intelligently whimsical standup). Similarly, Tim Clark surprises with a series of intensely physical bits that leave the audience doubled over with laughter.
If you’re not already on the Chimp Cop bandwagon, it’s not too late to jump on – no previous experience of the Chimp Cop canon is necessary.
The Death of Chimp Cop is on at 8:30pm at Trades Hall as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, show details and accessibility information can be found via the MICF website.