Ham and Cheese Panini? A Review on The Smirths

By Kenalyn Ang

4 Apr. 16

Audience members file into a lit theatre, finding their seats, perusing leaflets of upcoming OTR events. Soft chatter fills the house, but soon attendees catch sight of a solitary Blind Mirth member, standing on the stage, seemingly running over his lines off a sheet of paper. The lights dim, and the solo comedian stands under a single, bright, white spotlight. The audience intently listens to his speech, waiting for something funny. Abruptly, he is interrupted by a voice offstage. He pauses, but then continues talking. Some audience members catch the distant call and chuckle, while others, missing what was said, dismiss it and continue to wait for a cue to laugh. He is interrupted once again, as the voice returns with a very audible “HAM AND CHEESE PANINIII?!?!!”, and just like that, the theatre fills with laughter, a laughter that carries through right until the last sketch.

Following St. Andrews Night Live on Saturday evening, Blind Mirth, the university’s ‘oldest, best, and only improv comedy group,’ presented their annual sketch show on Sunday night as On the Rock Festival’s second comedic event of the week. Armed with an assortment of new sketches, the witty student group acted out simple, daily scenarios with hard-punching puns and jokes spun off of a vast array of quotidian themes topical to St. Andrews, the UK and beyond. The result was 70 minutes of pure merriment, where regulars and newcomers to Blind Mirth alike shed tears of laughter for the duration of the show.

The first scene established a recurring theme: the ham and cheese Panini. This sandwich linked together the different sketches and introduced the hysterical, yet random significance of the sandwich within the show in the audiences’ heads. By doing this, the comedy group creatively blended a range of themed sketches together and effectively generated humour by bringing back topics previously touched upon that did not necessarily relate to what they had just been talking about. Sketches ranged from seconds to minutes long, as a voiceover would introduce a ‘one-line sketch’ and a performer would present a literal interpretation of that statement (ex. One line of ‘cocaine’ was sniffed, a singular line was drawn on a clipboard). Topics for longer sketches included budget air transport, Harry Potter, Pixar, the recent student union election, and St. Andrews student societies. Taking ideas and well-known subjects such as these, the comedy group imaginatively created new interpretations of the ordinary, straying from reality and presenting the absurd. With detachable airline seats, an animated bed sheet, stereotypical Scots and English men, and a six-inch-tall TV personality, Blind Mirth exercised their artistic freedom to produce comedy for all. Furthermore, the student group was composed of convincing actors and actresses who stayed true to their characters no matter how silly, and successfully utilized a range of voices and accents whether meant to be authentic or blatantly, hilariously wrong. The costumes, sound effects, transitions, as well as the minimal use of props, were suitable to the humdrum nature of the subject matters dealt with, and only emphasized the humour of each sketch even more. The use of accurate, recognizable details and a simplistic frame enabled the cast to bring out the comedy in ordinary situations. For example, during the sketch about Easyair, in which Blind Mirthians mocked the quality of budget airlines, one of the characters was realistically dressed as a stewardess in a plaid skirt and blazer. In another scene, Mirthians parodied the famously dull show Crime Watch by lining up individuals as candidates for imprisonment to be voted on by the audience. In sketches such as the one about the fourth wall, the group cleverly played with real life concepts such as the ‘fourth wall’ between audience and performers on stage. What could read as over-the-top or ridiculous was just enough to have the audience hooting and roaring with laughter. Overall, Blind Mirth exuded a cool confidence of simplicity and creativity in The Smirths, a hilarious showcase of sketches. Despite performing and publicizing themselves as an improv group, Blind Mirth has skillfully taken on sketch and give the St. Andrews community a performance to remember.