In their second show, The Pin nail sketch comedy with room to spare, and a massive pile of cherries on top
Love these two. Alex Owen (left) and Ben Ashenden are a pair of ex-Footlighters who are on their second full-length show now, and it’s pretty immaculate. From the flair in their writing to the intricate structure of the show, the pair are displaying some seriously sophisticated comedy chops.
There are so many plates being spun here – firstly there are the sketches, obviously, though much of the show is about their “real-life” dynamic of Alex the dynamic, ambitious and exasperate one; and Ben the imbecile who continually stymies Alex’s projects. A sort of updated Blackadder and Baldrick. There is also the promise of a short play that they hype and hype throughout the show, called The Vicar’s Secret. And aside from all that are a couple of running themes (eg Ben’s obsession with how much people look like crocodiles), a lorry load of jokes, and a couple of daft catchphrases.
And there’s plenty of the good stuff. Their sketch about a spy attempting to adopt a new identity deserves to be a classic, and Frank Lampard bungling his Gillette advert is absurd and brilliant. Their timing and physicality is spot on – at one point the paces slows right down to the point where the merest flicker of Ben’s face is enough to have people cracking up.
A couple of reservations – the bright spark/dunce dynamic isn’t the most original, and it’s hammered home a little heavily. A sketch where Ed Miliband is making a hash of a meeting with Barack Obama is smart and refreshing, but it reprises the dynamic between Ben and Alex, and the law of diminishing returns starts to pull.
Also, while I don’t subscribe to anti-Footlights inverse snobbery, The Pin do perpetuate the Footlights stereotype of erudite, smart-arse comedy acts – and yes it would be good if they could vary the tone, perhaps with more sketches and less of the brotherly bickering. However, the sheer quality of The Pin is the ultimate defence against any attack. There are plenty of sketch acts trying to do this sort of thing and flailing, and here they are, nailing it with room to spare and a massive pile of cherries on top.
Review written by Paul Fleckney
• The Pin are at the Pleasance Courtyard at 6.15pm