University comedy scenes are well established as the proving grounds for many of the most renowned and celebrated of British comedians. The Cambridge Footlights Revue, as arguably the most famous example, has given us a list of comedians as diverse as John Cleese, Richard Ayoade and Emma Thompson, to name but a few. They make up part of a list that is so large that it is futile to try and write it out here. St Andrews itself, however, is no exception in producing great comedy.
Our own Comedy Society provides an abundance of events and opportunities for would-be entertainers; on Tuesdays potential stand-up comedians have a chance to showcase their talent at Sandy’s Bar in Sundown Stand-Up, the satirical magazine Salvator News publishes regular articles which mock aspects of St Andrews life, the improv group Blind Mirth perform every Monday night 8 pm at the Barron Theatre and the St Andrews Revue perform regularly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.
Now Tom Caruth, secretary of the Comedy Society, is performing live at Aikman’s bar on 8 April as part of the On The Rocks Festival. As an experienced stand-up regular of Sandy’s Sundown Stand-Up, Tom’s show promises to be a culmination of all the talents he has displayed so far as a comedian. Speaking to him recently in Aikmans he told me some of what is in store for his show, entitled Outside Chance.
“The show focuses on issues in my life, dealing with depression and the being open about it,” he said.
I’m assured that the show is not a long monologue, but a more light-hearted take on doubt and adversity. Mental health awareness is something that is important to the performance — although the event is open to anyone and everyone and is guaranteed to be relatable and funny regardless of your awareness of the issues raised. Indeed, the title of the show itself — Outside Chance — is supposed to reflect the ethos of the performance, carrying on despite the odds stacked against you. Uncertainty and reservation are feelings that everyone will experience at some point in their life, and the show taps into those feelings.
Talking about his influences, Stewart Lee, Simon Amstell and Maria Bamford are cited as inspiration for his style of comedy, and in particular Amstell’s Numb tour of 2012 shares something in common with the kind of tone of comedy that Outside Chance hopes to convey. From a short YouTube clip of Amstell’s tour, this brief quotation showcases something of that character: “I live alone, and that’s fine. You just have to make plans. That’s the key […] if you live alone and you don’t make plans, here’s what happens. You wake up…and it just gets darker.”
As with all stand-up comedy, it is not the writing that is the most important. It is the timing, tone, and inflections that really produce the comic effect, but the subject on which Outside Chance is based hopefully comes across here.
Performing in and enjoying sketch comedy at St Andrews is also another big interest of Tom’s, having performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival himself with other members of the St Andrews Comedy Society. In the back of an Edinburgh pub along with other members of the Comedy Society he performed a 15-minute slot which he describes as one of the most entertaining experiences he has had doing stand-up comedy and only wishes he “could do more of it”. Looking to do a career in teaching computer-science as his future occupation, he also wishes that he had more time for comedy. “It’s time-consuming,” he explains. “Though comedy is a dream of mine, unfortunately very few do make it”.
Tom hopes that Outside Chance will appeal to a wide audience and with many other forward-looking and enterprising undergraduates at this university it is certain that the theme of the show will resonate with them. Taking place in the vibrant and atmospheric surroundings of Aikman’s bar is about as good a stage as any student comedian in St Andrews could hope for, and excellent place to market such an event.
This event is a definite must for those who are wanting to get stuck into On The Rocks events this Spring, so if you are free on 8 April, come down and spend your evening enjoying what is sure to be a great night of comedy. Who knows, one day you might be able to look back and say that you witnessed one of the first gigs of a future star of British comedy.