Ahh Theatresports. There's almost nothing funnier than watching a comedy performer floundering, bare-faced and scrambling for an exit to a scene.
Ever since Theatresports was franchised in the 80s, improvisation found a new home in popular culture.
The ABC used to screen such games from a theatre in Sydney. Many years later, along came Whose Line is it Anyway? from both the US and UK. Working Dog’s variation Thank God You’re Here has been ripping fun for its scarce seasons.
Now the Comedy Channel revisits the format, set in a wrestling ring for Comedy Slapdown.
With two teams of celebrities, a referee / host, judge and wrestling ring supports, it’s pitched as a no-holds barred comic deathmatch. Every gag is bettered by the opponent, taunts are thrown across the ring, tag team improvisation is pooled at every turn. All of it to great effect.
Roaring ‟HG Nelson is the perfect host for this theatrical blood-sport. His persona slips into the larger-than-life contest with ease, goading the contestants, hurling on the adjectives and mucking in with the bleacher crowd. He is assisted by judge Matthew Parkinson -a commentary role similar to that of Tom Gleisner in TGYH, Asian transgender Miss Wing Ding (whose one-liners practically upstage the show) as holder of the round numbers, a burly bloke named The Duke and John Thorn on keyboards.
The teams across the series will consist of comedians including Julia Zemiro, Tom Gleeson, Steven Gates, Corrine Grant, Julia Morris, Paul McCarthy, Matt Tilley and more.
While none of the games played are especially new (same game, different name) there are genuine belly laughs to be found here. And none are more funny than when a performer is left floundering, bare-faced and scrambling for an exit to a scene. Or a comeback to a line. Or a way to make something of a ludicrous prop. They pedal madly desperately hoping inspiration or a visual gag can rescue a feeble moment.
The small studio audience has a rollicking time here, and the home audience has every good reason to join in. Get ready to rumble.
Comedy Slapdown airs 7:30pm Saturday on the Comedy Channel.