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Published September 24, 2018

A series of comic characters played by one man, whose energy and professionalism were impressive, while a pre-recorded MC bemoaned and articulated the audience’s mild disappointment with things. A good summary of a Sir Cedric and Friends! A Beginner’s Guide to Being Stand-up Comedy in essence, a show which was hampered by a poor audience turnout and an inappropriate venue.

If the audience’s attention was distracted periodically by one of the audience member’s antics, then the show as probably not amazing. This was not a total disaster of a show – there were plenty of enjoyable moments and funny quips. Some of the characters were genuinely laughable (in a positive way), and should definitely be explored subsequently. The use of an automatic MC was a cool touch as well. It somehow managed to keep the show light and transitioned between characters quite well. Automated comedy can be a very tricky thing to do, but this was handled well enough. Perhaps the layers of irony were responsible?

And before anything else negative can be said the actual acting was very well done – the actual character of Sir Cedric, aristocrat attempting comedy, was quite amusing. Despite distractions from both the audience and externally, he never once broke character, and it was oddly believable. The level of professionalism and energy radiating from the performer managed to save the show for the most part, although this ability to have a thoroughly believable character did end up causing some strife during a section that was uncomfortable for the audience rather than funny.

So now we move onto the striking negative element of the show: “Dave the Racist”. It is hard to determine what exactly went wrong here – aside from the excessive use of thoroughly offensive language and no real “comeuppance” for repulsive views of the character. There was the attempt to play off the snobbery of an inner-city Melbournian audience (not inherently a bad ploy), the fact members of the audience were some of the groups being “attacked”, and the fact that it dragged on way too long.

There are definitely ways touchy subjects can be handled funnily, and while it was obvious the object of ridicule was the backward views held by “Dave the Racist”, the skit was still uncomfortable and poorly handled.

There were some other factors playing into the negative vibe. First was that there was hardly anyone there – a tough gig for any form of comedy. People tend to laugh when there are lots of people around laughing as well (we’re social animals after all), and having a tiny audience can really cramp a performer’s style. Having members of the audience that your highly inappropriate act actually mentions (even in a highly ironic manner) also didn’t help the cause and made for some very uncomfortable silences – but again, that could not have been foreseen by the performer.

Second of all, the venue would probably work better as a venue for a tiny punk or jazz set, or as a meeting place for some radical political group – not for a show that requires attention drawn to the front at essentially all times. Had there been a different venue, there could have been less distractions (the audience were right next to the kitchens), which did detract from the show somewhat.

But, overall, Sir Cedric was a talented actor in a mediocre play that had questionable content. The venue and audience size was not ideal, and although the actor’s enthusiasm and ability were solid throughout the show and earned a few laughs, it just really wasn’t enough to save the day. Unless you can bring a horde of mildly intellectual people who appreciate it, the show probably won’t be for you.

 

Sir Cedric and Friends! A Beginner’s Guide to Beginning Comedy was on at Pilgrim as part of the Melbourne Fringe.

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