Can you capture online the raucous energy of the best live comedy cabarets? It’s not easy – because audience and performers aren’t in the same room, and because bad internet connections can be fatal to comic timing. The Stamptown collective, spearheaded by clown duo Zach and Viggo, are having a crack with this fortnightly variety show. It’s pre-recorded and edited, which gets it closer to the quickfire rhythms and spirit of creative tumult you’d find in its live counterpart. It’s also less spontaneous, but you can’t have everything.
The overall effect is more alternative sketch show than cabaret. Yes, there’s still a compere – in this case, Zach Zucker’s crap standup alter ego Jack Tucker. Tucker’s live routine is a double act with his own tech operator, who scores every joke with cheesy audio stings. It’s fun to see the same thing happen here, and more widely, to see the Stamptown gang make merry with the possibilities of Zoom-era, socially distanced comedy. A running joke finds Viggo Venn, at home in Norway, kidnapped by two Russian hoodlums, who hack into the webcast and fix a moustache to Tucker’s lip.
As live chat scrolls across the screen – most of it posted by the organisers themselves – the better part of a dozen acts cram the 45-minute running time. None does standup. Ex-Edinburgh best newcomer champ Natalie Palamides contributes a dotty, faux-arty short film from California. Jamie Loftus stages Waiting for Godot with plastic dolls. Tarang Hardikar in Mumbai gets trapped within the framing of his video image, while UK oddball Luke Rollason does prop comedy – a la Spencer Jones – with goggly eyes, a harmonica and a leaf blower.
One or two segments feel like filler, and less attuned to the show’s oddball mode. (Who knows what brief was given to contributors?) With tighter editing still, it all might work better at a Fast Show-style half-hour length. But the show’s potpourri curation and free-for-all character has its charms. With live performance in abeyance, and Netflix specials more prominent than ever, more power to outlets like Stamptown’s that fly the patchwork flag for leftfield comedy.