Edinburgh University Revue Comedy Championships 2013

Review by Bernard O'Leary | 10 May 2013

Once again, the students of Edinburgh University battled it out for the title of Comedy champion, and a prize which is basically a lump of rock with a piece of paper saying 'COMEDY CHAMPIONSHIP' in biro sellotaped to it. And once again, they managed to demonstrate that this college is a breeding ground for some of the most exciting new talent around. 

All twenty acts bring a sense of adventure and intelligence that's rare at this level, and quite a few of them could kick the asses of more established names. Neha Nayer is one such act, a surreal and intense presence who tries to be an angry radical but keeps getting sidetracked by things like the reproductive organs of Phil Collins. She was cruelly disqualified for overrunning but managed to get Joke Of The Evening for throwing mangetout at the audience while shouting "This is the decadence of the West!" OK, maybe not as pithy as the kind of one-liner that gets on Dave's Best Jokes Of The Fringe list, but it was darn funny.

With a similar intensity, but a better sense of time management, was Katia Kvinge. Kvinge has had a successful year since the last competition but tonight we got to see another side of her, as she abandoned her prepared material and went for five minutes of wild, chaotic shouting. It was a ballsy move and the kind of thing that would fail miserably if you're not naturally funny. Kvinge is naturally funny though, and she blasted her way to third place.

Plenty of young comedians will take on a dour persona and hope to magically channel the spirit of Jack Dee or Stewart Lee. Rory Telfer has the comedic intelligence to know that you've got to write killer jokes too, and his intense, slightly terrifying deadpan is a platform for some great gags about buying condoms at the airport, as well as a staggeringly brilliant routine that takes the "I like my women like I like my coffee..." line and spins it into a heartbreaking tale of bitterness and regret. Telfer took second place on the night.

There was a joint winner in the end, which might seem like a cop-out but was actually inevitable given that two very similar, very strong acts managed to win over the audience with just the same amount of success. Tom Joyce went first out of the 21 contestants, but made an impression that lasted right until judging time. It takes a lot of guts to include an interval in your five-minute spot, and a lot of talent to make it funny. Joyce has both.

The real measure of Joyce's talent is the fact that he could compete against Hari Sriskantha. Science student Sriskantha has been getting a lot of attention in the last year for a unique style that's quite chilled but also blindingly intelligent. Tonight, he stepped out of his own jokes to offer a director's commentary, and then a commentary on the commentary, building it up into an Inception-like tangle of interconnected ideas. It was incredibly complex and he made it look effortless. You get the feeling with Sriskantha that it's a matter of waiting to see which he wins first, a Fosters award or a Nobel prize.

Additional entertainment was provided by the ever-brilliant madman and returning champion Noah Torn, while the whole show was kept cracking along by the funny and lovely Cat Wade, whose audience flirting is not only entertaining, but possibly grounds for investigation by Operation Yewtree. 

Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, 3 March http://facebook.com/GrassrootsComedy