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Idiots Of Ants: This Is War
Published on Wednesday, 12 August 2009

You can read a lot in the arts sections of the papers and elsewhere about the death of sketch comedy, particularly in (or at) the wake of Horne and Corden’s self-indulgent titular BBC series. The Fringe this year provides evidence that rumours of that death were more than a little exaggerated.

Idiots of Ants, a pun so posh they had to explain it to the audience, is a four-member troupe of self-professed middle class white guys, and they run a slick and confident set. From the off, the theme is breaking the fourth wall, starting with a group of characters who realise they are in a sketch and moving on from there to directly engaging with the audience. At most times, this is well-done, but it can come across as a little needy at times.

One sketch towards the end in particular seemed slightly misjudged, and the crowd was obviously uncomfortable with the subject matter, but they recovered the situation with the neat reveal of a man in a baby costume. Even their mis-steps are not always what they seem, but towards the end there seemed more than were scripted – several were without payoff, suggesting not all of them were planned.

I like that the Idiots have a distinct look and feel, from their uniform thin black ties and white shirts to the well-designed and utilised sound and visuals. Don’t let their fresh-faced wholesomeness fool you though: much of their comedy is a curious sort of intelligent laddishness, which played well with large portions of the audience and less well with others. Some of the excellently-played observations on gender roles wouldn’t feel out of place in Nuts or Zoo (if they were dumbed down a bit), but they're appropriately targeted at their audience.

The group works well together, and their fast-paced and clever set-ups are constantly innovative - always bringing a new idea to an old trope, playing with the audience by starting with the conventional and then turning conventions on their head. The very first Edinburgh Comedy award was given to a sketch group; it’s not impossible that it may yet again. The self-effacing Idiots, together as a group for less than three years, have a polished routine that suggests sketch comedy is back from the dead.

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