The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged)

Talking about comedy is seldom that funny, so aiming for an entertaining history of it was a brave move for the Reduced Shakespeare Comedy.

Promising to cover everything from caveman slapstick to Chris Brown’s standup, they enticed a near-sell out crowd to the Norwich Playhouse for 90 minutes of hopefully hysterical history.

The actual outcome was more wryly amusing than laugh out loud, as the three-strong cast interweaved their own jokes with concise explanations of ancient Greek comedy, 16th century commedia dell’arte, the early days of silent film, and a song name checking numerous modern comedians that bemusingly picked out Mike McShane for a mention.

The trio are an impressively tight unit, frantically swapping costumes and roles without missing a step, and the historical elements are interesting, but much of the material is fairly obvious fare.

The show climaxes with a prolonged skit about Rambozo the Clown – an apparent reference to a Dead Kennedy’s anti-Vietnam song – that fails to really make an impression, and was not the only cross-cultural references to be lost on the Norwich audience.

This is comfortable comedy. Enjoyable, reasonably engaging, and a decent night out, but it’s not going to merit inclusion in any future history of comedy – even an extended version.