Next Level Sketch with Bab Comedy, Charlie Vero Martin and Thick ‘n’ Fast

It’s hard to be an anteater at Christmas time.

It is impossible for me to review a show I myself co-produced with any subjectivity or fairness, but: Wednesday’s Next Level Sketch was a ruddy triumph, and I am willing to mud-wrestle anyone who disagrees.

Poster by Nadine Bailey.

Our Hallowe’en show was cancelled due to too many ghosts on the line[1]; our show before that, I was ill. I was, therefore, bursting with glee to finally be back on stage with great fellow sketch performers, in front of a decent, knowledgeable and appreciative crowd.

As host, I has an important task: to explain to the audience that we were raising money to help ease the plight of anteaters at this time of year, when the plunging temperatures unfortunately make it very difficult for them to find the ants they need to survive.

For crowd work, I asked an American couple [2] how out they were when they found out Santa was murdered by the CIA.

Hosting.

Next Level Sketch

Audience duly warmed up, or at least not explicitly cooled, Next Level Sketch took to the stage.

We were very good, with a set well balanced between NLS classics and some brand spanking new material.

The pandemic delayed things somewhat, but we’re getting closer to where I assumed we’d be back in 2020: a loose but hopefully welcome collective of writers and performers, with a molten core of regulars and producers who keep this particular clown car on the road.

Forcing an orphan onto a chat show.

One of the other acts – I forget who – described our set as “silly, but with some really dark moments”. I think we are getting closer to who we are, and producing material that no one else is.

Madeleine and Shruti as small business owners.

People seemed to like my Privates School sketch, brilliantly performed by Euan and Shruti, and I really enjoyed the role of the lead singer out of Black Lace attending the Stranger Things writer’s room.

It was the role I was born to play.

Nowt as festive as Death.

Bab

Closing the first half were Bab, two young midlanders who came to the stage with full pints and an easy charm.

I especially enjoyed a bit on our modern addiction to relaxation podcasts, and an important and surreal treatise on a certain chain coffee shop.

Bab.

Charlie Vero Martin

I have booked Charlie more than any other comedian, over the course of NLS and its sister event Factually Inaccurate Stand Up. Not only is she extremely funny and charming on stage, she’s also a thoroughly good egg off it. [3]

So naturally I repaid all of this by failing to mention that we had no projector this month, for World Cup reasons, forcing her to a) rush back home to get one of her own and then b) abandon her set entirely and do the whole of A Christmas Carol, on her own, playing every single character, in ten minutes.

She got the biggest laughs of the night.

Tiny Tim and Charlie Vero Martin.

Thick ‘N’ Fast

Myself and Nadine had the pleasure of seeing this duo at the Edinburgh Fringe, in a show that answers the important question of what happens when you put two people who don’t know what they’re doing in charge of the entire world.

Here, they were trying out material loosely based around the theme of the internet, for a show they’re working on for next year. It was both funny and thought provoking, particularly during a very clever and physical bit about art and the future of artificial intelligence.

After I thanked all the performers and our brilliant tech human, I announced the good news: we had raised enough money to record a Christmas charity single for the anteaters.

“You have to stay and listen”, I explained. “I’ve locked the doors”.

The plan was for everyone to come on stage, Band Aid style, and to sing along.

Strangely, and movingly, this actually happened.

[1] fine, it was Covid.

[2] Cat, who saw us perform last year, returned from the States for another visit with her husband in tow, which was extremely brilliant of her. Was the entire trip to London planned specifically around seeing our sketch group again? I am not at liberty to speculate.

[3] AND has written some extremely good articles about where the comedy industry is at and what that means for young performers.

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