By Darren Gutteridge
“Workshopping” is a comedy term I have only just been introduced to. For some reason, it had never occurred to me that comedians need to “workshop” a show before they go on tour. I’m used to bands and plays having warm up gigs, but naively I thought stand-ups just turned up and were instantly funny.
I first experienced this when I went to a comedy festival in a remote village in Wales, basically designed to be a low key affair for comedian of varying degrees of fame to sharpen their skills prior to the summer touring season. We watched these funny men basically throw things at the wall to see what stuck, before declaring “That’s in the show!”, “I’ll work on that”, or “Nope, nothing there”.
Essentially, this is what it felt like watching night one of Colt Cabana’s latest comedy tour.
Colt, alongside Australian comedian Brendan Burns, packed the Electric Cinema in Birmingham with their show “Colt Cabana and Brendan Burns Do Comedy and Commentary to Bad Wrestling Matches”. Witty, I know. It was odd seeing the tiny yet beautiful Electric, the oldest working cinema in the UK, filled to maximum with wrestling fans, but it showed that the concept of the show works at least.
After a few technical difficulties, Colt and Brendan came out to work the crowd a little bit. Setting the tone for the show, it was part ad libbing, part sketch show. Burns is a great storyteller with a real love of wrestling, so the highlights early on all revolved around him talking about his many and varied experiences screwing with wrestlers. Track down his retelling of how he pissed off the Great Khali, it’s worth it.
Then came the meat of the show – the lights go down, the projector fires up, and things turn into Mad Libs – the WWE Version. Or “Botchamania Live” if you will. Colt had a stack of bad wrestling clips on his laptop, and the pair moved through them one by one, relying either on the obvious (DDP falling off the top rope) or the obscure (Cena wrestling while looking quite, er, “excited” in the trouser department).
The very nature of the unscripted, “improvised comedy” approach meant this show was always going to be hit and miss. When it was hitting, the crowd was in uproar. We all laughed at Mean Gene swearing, and the good old Scott Steiner promo. Burns was the MVP, but Colt would add some great lines too.
On the other hand, the show felt very random, even by ad libbing standards. Burns joked that they hadn’t seen each other in a year, but at times it felt like they hadn’t seen each other in a year until two minutes before they jumped through the curtain.
There would be stretches where Colt laboured over which clip to play next. There was even a good 30 seconds of silence when a clip failed to play. This therefore made the show pretty stilted at times, with no sense of flow or escalation.
This is where the feeling of workshopping comes from – this felt like the trial run before the Edinburgh Fringe festival, a massive month long comedy festival where this show originated four years ago. Burns even admitted he was seeing some of the clips for the first time with us.
That said, there never tended to be big gaps between genuine, room filling belly laughs. When the jokes landed, they did so brilliantly. My criticisms of the show don’t outweigh the huge positives it contains.
When this show is refined, it will be brilliant. If you are lucky enough to be going to the Fringe, I’d highly recommend checking this show out. I sincerely hope they have the technical kinks worked out though, otherwise they may have to go with the title “Colt and Brendan Sit in a Dark Room Watching a Macbook Fail to Cooperate”.