The Sky is the Limit
Rob Auton’s victory in Dave’s annual Funniest Joke Competition has drawn if anything more than the usual complaints. Without wishing to defend the joke in question (though it’s by no means the worst on the list), at least this time round the award has been given to a relatively obscure comedian who will benefit from the publicity. Auton’s hour, The Sky Show, is quintessentially Fringe, in the slightly old-fashioned sense of being determinedly peculiar and staged without a great deal of polish. Auton sets up his backdrop (several pieces of cloth across which is written ‘The Sky Show’) as the audience enter. The theme, such as it is, is the sky, encompassing surreal stories about a factory where the weather is made and a tatty rival to The Sun which mostly consists of photographs of the sky stuck onto pieces of paper. It’s the kind of humour that’s best thought of as a tightrope act – there is little by way of snappy material, slick stagecraft, audience interaction or big set pieces. Nor is it a piece of deliberately bad or obscure anti-comedy; there was never any sense that the show was a comment on stand-up. Rather, Auton has put the standard tropes of comedy aside in order to do something as much on his own terms as possible. It’s not always successful, but it is far more interesting than his winning joke might suggest.
As for the also-rans, one that stood out for me was Liam Williams’s, which he’s been using for a while to open his set:
It’s a fine joke, but much like the winner it’s a variant on an idea that’s been around for a while. Apparently this was a popular Victorian quip to sum up the difference between the mind and the physical universe: ‘What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind’.[i] Maybe someone should use that at the Fringe next year – there might be a prize in it…