Last year, Pappy's Last Show Ever was beaten to the Edinburgh Fringe's top comedy award by Doctor Brown. Both are at the Soho Theatre this month. Which should you see?
Pappy's is the comedic trio of Ben Clark, Tom Parry and Matthew Crosby and Last Show Ever is their chaotic, unbalanced show which fills out a flimsy plot with sketches and songs. The story, such as it is, sees the comedians recalling the events many years ago of their final time together on stage.
The three stooges work well together and are charismatic performers in their own right. They have commendable timing and acting skills and they build up a genuine rapport with the audience. Not that the audience should expect an easy time: over the course of the show, gloves are flung randomly around, a stuffed crow is booted into the crowd and every row is asked to carry out that 80s phenomenon, the Mexican wave.
It's just a shame that their talents are paired with such dated material. Some of the punchlines could be seen a mile off in foggy weather while a few of the puns are painfully ancient; one example, "glove will tear us apart", is at least thirty years old.
One sketch based around another 80s concept, Choose Your Own Adventure, is essentially a mashup of Tenacious D's Tribute and TV show Knightmare. Another sketch based around a talent show which celebrates incapability owes much to the verbal gymnastics of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and the musical manglings of 80s duo Keith Harris and Orville the Duck (are you spotting a pattern here?). One audience participation scene is essentially a sacrilegious "homage" to one of the most moving movie scenes ever. To top it off, the denouement is a shockingly misjudged chunk of pathos perpendicular to the merriment that has gone before it and the kind of twist even classic 80s TV show Dallas would be embarrassed to entertain.
The Guardian's Brian Logan reviewed both Pappy's and Doctor Brown at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. In this critic's opinion, by preferring the trio over the American miming clown Logan misjudged what he saw and not for the first time. Thankfully, the judges of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award disagreed with Logan and gave the prize to Doctor Brown, an act which is streets ahead of Pappy's on every worthy criteria imaginable.
Pappy's Last Show Ever continues at Soho Theatre until 20 April. More information on the show and ticket availability can be found at the Soho Theatre website. We saw this show on a press ticket.