Think of your favourite stand-up comedian, then take away their carefully rehearsed routine and pre-prepared jokes. Would they still be funny? That’s exactly what Set List is all about.
Each comedian is given a set list of topics they must implement into their routine, but they don’t find out what they are until they’re on-stage. Some quick-thinking is required to turn an awkward moment into rapturous laughter, but the best comedy acts do it so well.
This is stand-up comedy told by adults to other adults, on the Internet. Expect the usual strong language and adult themes, though no more than you would at most comedy clubs and festivals.
I had a great time seeing Rich Hall live a few years ago, and his blend of rough American charm and dry British witticisms are excellently demonstrated in this video. Shot at the Ediburgh Fringe Festival, Rich has to make his way through a set-list laden with land mines like “The AIDS Kilt” (well it is Scotland, after all) and “the ababababa pattern” for which he resorts to rudimentary scat singing.
Shot in London’s Soho Theatre, Australian comedian and musical stand-up performer Tim Minchin expertly makes his way around such topics as the opening “Titanic outtakes” (because sometimes life itself is edited down) and the eventful “chlamydi-yeah!”. Minchin has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand for the duration, and even manages to link blind topics together like a true comedy hero.
“On the way here the maddest thing happened to me,” starts Marcus as “getting a cab for Hitler” pops up on-screen, and so begins a hilarious ten minutes of unplanned comedy. If Set List is all about taking comedians outside of their comfort zone, then Brigstocke takes it one step further conceding at one point: “there’s a reason I don’t do dirty comedy ladies and gentlemen, and that’s because I can’t maintain eye contact throughout”.
Wait, Mark Wahlberg does comedy? No, not really – but Dan Van Kirk does, and he does a rip-roaring Mark Wahlberg impression – which he fleshes out for the duration of his five minute Set List gig. Clearly Dan has had lots of practice in his Mark Wahlberg role, which allows him to tackle tough ringers like “Acid vs. Heroin vs. Stairs” as if it were the punchline to his own joke.
If dry and deadpan are words that appeal to you, click play above. Writer, actress and stand-up comedienne, Sara Pascoe leaves her own brand of comedy on Set List’s Edinburgh Fringe show, dryly turning topics like “everyone should have a trapdoor” into ambitious tales she could have written herself. This is personally one of my favourite episodes of Stand Up Without A Net, and quite possibly the best yet.
Jason is a comedian from the north of the UK who by his own admission spends much of his normal routine recounting awkward family moments and colloquialisms. Not only does he manage to relate both of these things to the topics he is dealt, but he stays out on stage for one extra “big closer” joke just because he can. Proof that taking comics out of their comfort zone can in some instances only make them funnier.
Spoiler alert: they’re really not all that good – how could they be? Not everyone can deal with jokes that are virtually dead on arrival, but those who can more than make up for the dead wood. There are currently 48 episodes of Stand Up Without A Net, and every single one has been posted to the YouTube playlist embedded below.
If you enjoy this sort of thing you might enjoy last week’s Stuff to Watch featuring Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee as well as our DIY Dammit! round-up, another of Nerdist’s popular shows.
Watch: Set List – Stand Up Without A Net
Image credit: Microphone (Mika Hiltunen)