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Published on Monday, 31 August 2009

The comedy sketch show is one of the least-well-respected of the comedy show formats, yet one of the most popular. It's rare to come across a sketch show that doesn't follow the tried-and-tested format: a collection of up-and-coming comedians perform in a collection of multi-penned scripts, the pieces hit and miss at regular intervals - and while a particular joke or two might stand out, the whole experience is largely entertaining but not inspiring nor ground-breaking. At first glance, Superclump could very easily be classed as such a sketch show and, to be fair, it does tick nearly all of these conventional boxes. But what helps it stand apart and stand out as a truly great show is the quality of writing and performance.

Yes, the hit-and-miss formula still applies; but the sketches are kept short and airy, the wit and comedy is of a very high standard, and there is a sense of fun and enjoyment in the air. It's ridiculous and witty in equal measure, and a pleasant side-project for some of the (prodigious) talent on stage.

Superclump, at first glance, reads like a Who's Who of underground talent - a collection of excellent an exciting performers who are just breaking into the wider comedy scene. Mike Wozniak is the best-known of this eclectic bunch, and he is joined by Henry Paker, Josh and Henry Widdicombe, Nat Luurtsema, Tom Craine, Benjamin Partridge, Sian Harris and Elis James. Don't be surprised if any of those names ring a bell: all are excellent stand-up comedians, writers or performers in their own right, and you may have seen one or two of them before on the comedy circuit. They can and do brag of an interesting collection of awards and jobs between them, working from the BBC through to Channel 4, holding Student Comedy Awards and if.comedy nominations.

All this is evident in their work, and is part of what makes the show so watchable. They have all been through the mill, have had successes and failures, and are clearly as comfortable as can be with what they perform. These guys have not shot to fame on the back of one or two jokes, or getting fired from a radio station: they have worked hard to get where they are, and this professionalism is another of their endearing qualities.

The sketches themselves are a little hit-and-miss, but are played quickly and effectively enough not to dwell on the mind. When the material works, the humour and wit is quick, and the slightly bizarre and ridiculous parts are played very lightly. The sketches are nicely tied together with some simple, ongoing themes, and characters that allow for quick transitions - a trick that's hard to pull off in a staged sketch show. The ongoing jokes are also some of the best of all, and help the audience move along through the piece nicely, encouraging a quick laugh to make sure everyone is still enjoying what's on stage.

This is clearly a very talented group (or should we call it a supergroup?), and it's always a pleasure to see a collection of stand-up comedians who enjoy working with each other so much. I hope their long-term efforts remain a combination of working together and apart, as seeing these guys together made me wish I'd had a chance to catch their own shows as well.

In fact, was that the whole point of this fortuitous grouping? I hope not, as Superclump stands on its own very well - each performer brings their own style of comedy to the table, as well as the engaging humility of being able to play another's. All in all, then, this may be a formulaic endeavour... but rarely is a formula done so well.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2009.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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