As soon as I entered the Herald Theatre, I got the sense this show would walk all over boundaries of taste and decency. Two members of Idiots of Ants (aka Idiots Savants) were already on stage; one dressed as a Nazi, the other a British soldier, the pair silently rocking in their chairs as they stared into space. As the audience hushed, two more military men appeared. You could have been forgiven for thinking something more sinister was about to occur but within minutes they were in strip tease mode, revealing comedians in a white shirt and black tie combo.
These four young Brits have made a name for themselves with their modern day Monty Python style sketch comedy. With lightning-fast wardrobe changes, they create a multitude of characters and scenarios while references to Auckland landmarks fix the show firmly in a time and place. Sketch topics range from cringeworthy 'Dad jokes' to toilet humour, online gaming, a hen's party gone very wrong, an angry honey bee and a swingers' party featuring hand puppet wives. There is a theme that vaguely connects the various parts of the performance - but it might not be what you expect.
The sketches are quick-witted and clever. Unfortunately though, the visual projection and music that support the show and help transition from one scenario to another was being a bit temperamental on opening night. At one point, the four of them stared up at a blank screen just long enough for the audience to realise there had been yet another glitch. No matter, it was great seeing how relaxed these pros were, running backstage to manually make changes and rolling their eyes as they yelled out "ta daa!" when they finally got it to work.
The Ants' interaction with the audience was also highly entertaining to watch and a couple in the front row copped rather a lot of flak. At one point an imaginary gaming console was thrust into audience member Flynn's hand with rather unexpected results and soon after the quartet were serenading his girlfriend, much to her amusement / embarrassment.
The group ad-libbed a surprising amount for such a tightly-scripted show and their performance was all the more interesting for it. At one point during a fart sketch, James Wrighton pretty much lost it and was called a "giggly fuck" by Elliot Tiney. James then turned to the audience and once he got his breath back, offered us the explanation that James "really did fart". Sure it's juvenile but I love the fact these guys don't take themselves too seriously. If you want to see something other than musical acts or stand up this festival, check these guys out; they're slick, fun and just the right amount of loose.
Courtney Peters, gatherandhunt.co.nz'I think that’s why I laughed so much. I’d be heading down one path toward a perceived punch line, and then I’d discover that it was actually hiding down a completely different, unexpected path, ready to leap out at me at the perfect moment. The awesomeness of this comedy sketch show had a lot to do with the element of surprise.'open/close
My general opinion of music gigs is that if I don’t leave the venue a little bit in love with someone in the band, it wasn’t very good. With comedy, it’s not quite the same. Yes, humour may be an attractive quality, but comedians tend to be so innately goofy they disable my swoon reflex.
So I was not expecting to feel swoony at Idiots of Ants. These four guys from the UK are the epitome of goofy. They all have that rumpled, vaguely unkempt look reminiscent of Hugh Grant in Notting Hill... but then, Hugh Grant in Notting Hill is kind of adorable (mood dependent), i.e. he’s adorable if you’re home alone on a Friday night and you’ve just eaten a kilo of ice cream straight from the tub, with a fork.
Anyway, I’m not really meant to be talking about my feelings for the Idiots. I’m meant to be convincing you to go (go! It’s awesome).
You may have come across Idiots of Ants on YouTube in the past. They did a sketch about Facebook in real life that did the rounds a while back.
I guess what I was worried about going into this show was that they’d be too sketchy, and by that I mean they’d be unwilling to break out of character and engage with the audience and the moment.
I needn’t have worried about a thing.
The very first sketch made it clear that these guys are quite happy to take the piss out of themselves at any given moment. They make their existence as a comedy quartet a joke, they make the fact that you’ve come to see them a joke, and they make every sketch and technical hiccup a joke too. I didn't know what was meant to happen and what wasn't meant to happen, but that really didn't matter because it all just worked.
I think that’s why I laughed so much. I’d be heading down one path toward a perceived punch line, and then I’d discover that it was actually hiding down a completely different, unexpected path, ready to leap out at me at the perfect moment. The awesomeness of this comedy sketch show had a lot to do with the element of surprise.
Best of all, the Idiots made me feel as if I was a part of it all - like we were all just hanging out on a Saturday night and the subsequent hilarity was completely natural and unforced.
They may just be four goofy chaps frolicking across the stage in various (occasionally offensive) outfits, but they’re ridiculously endearing.
And so yes, when I walked out of the Herald Theatre I was a little bit in love.
You can catch them at the Herald for the rest of the week.
A UK boy-band had NZ teens in a state of constant hysteria a couple of weeks ago, but now a band of four UK comedians is set to have anyone older and with a brain in stitches.
Comedy quartet Idiots of Ants has landed and taken over the Herald Theatre. And if the roars of mirth, the squeals, screams, tears and guffaws from last night's audience are anything to go by, they're worth checking out.
Trust me – they're definitely worth checking out.
Anthony Spiers, Elliott Tiney, Benjamin Wilson and James Wrighton are the Idiots of Ants – as the husband described them last night, "They're like Monty Python's offspring with a dash of Conchords and no fourth wall." We can't think of any other sketch-comedy troupe like them. And we tried.
From the moment we walked into the Herald's slightly claustrophobic theatre, they were on. Literally. They were onstage, in British and German WWII military uniform, shuddering along in a rickety plane on their way to thwart Germany's plans. There they stayed as the theatre filled.
It isn't what I expected. But all is not as it seems. (Although it might have been the only 10-minute block they managed to stay in character for.)
What with an increasingly funny string of technical issues – either the tech person is plagued by jet-lag, or someone has stepped in at the last minute – the show becomes even more side-splitting as the Idiots cope with challenge after challenge. At times it feels as though we've crashed four guys having a laugh, and I for one don't want to be kicked out.
If you like their work on YouTube (e.g. Shotgun!), you'll love what they do on stage. If you never seen them before, you'll love what they do on stage. And if you have a ticket for another night and you can't make it, let me know. I want to go again – just for the subtitles.
The intriguingly named Idiots of Ants open with an elaborate homage to Pirandello's Six Actors in Search of an Author, which proves to be the perfect emblem for a sketch comedy troupe that has obliterated all remnants of the boundaries that once separated role-playing from reality.
The Idiots of Ants inhabit a media-saturated world where gaming consoles, slo-mo replays, Facebook pages, subtitles, Photoshopping and sound effects are blended into an ironic, self-referential soup that is sharply seasoned with a touch of Pythonesque absurdity.
The enigma of the group's name can be solved by exchanging a word space for a letter space and adopting a faux French accent but this kind of cleverness is constantly undercut by a wildly energetic performance style.
Read more: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10802916
Idiots of Ants open with a World War II skit that successfully introduces the British sketch comedy troupe's four charismatic members and their fast-paced style, while simultaneously breaking down the fourth wall.
It's a fine start to a clever show that both reinforces and subverts the conventions of sketch comedy; here, the rapid stream of sight gags and jokes are interrupted by a sports-style half-time show analysing the performers' strengths, skills and weaknesses.
Highlights include a unique take on love songs; a delightful live-Foley sketch accompanying an absurd silent film; a dad joke training school; and a hilarious '70s-style key party - though one too many skits are let down by weak punchlines.
The quartet's use of technology is sophisticated without being laborious, and their ability to ad lib at one another's expense, without impeding the flow of the show, is commendable. This is engaging sketch comedy that largely avoids the undergraduate.
Entering the Herald Theatre greeted by four slightly dodgy war film characters it was great to see that the British obsession with the World Wars, (2-0), was still alive and kicking.
This of course soon descended into the chaos and confusion that we expect from a show like Idiots for Ants.
Having already been to another show earlier in the evening our funny bones had been tickled so we were ready to be tickled pink. And tickle us pink they did.
For fans of British humour the four guys on stage, Andrew, Benjamin, Elliott and Jimmy, delivered their multi-sketch format aka The Fast Show or ‘Python-esque’ with a baffling variety of ridiculous characters and situations.
The ‘idiots’ had clearly arrived in NZ to have fun which was infectious with as much warm humour and ‘piss-taking’ occurring between the four comedians as directed at the audience.
Idiots of Ants epitomises typical British warped humour at its best, which was lapped up with great fervour. Maybe it was the massive queue for the drinks in the foyer of the Herald Theatre before the show, but no one appeared to need much warming up as the laughs came quick and fast.
Crowd participation and the multiple local references, peppered amongst the crazy innovative sketches, kept everyone eating out of the palms of their hands and endeared the ‘idiots’ from the get-go.
They even managed to incorporate the latecomers gently into their skit, without hanging anyone out to dry. And the icing on the cake included personalised touches such as using the name of a volunteer from the crowd, Francis – which went down a treat. It gave us the impression that the show was tailored especially for us, rather than a generic show being churned out.
The clever use of AV in combination with theatricality was further enhanced by some awesome technical f*%k-ups that heightened the experience by highlighting their ad-libbing skills, keeping the audience in stitches.
The no-holes-barred themes that included beekeepers, boring dads, doctors, gaming, hen nights, Nazis, serenading lovers and sex, did leave me curious as to what actually goes on in the minds of young British men in their late 20s to early 30s. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Whatever you do don’t be fooled by their boyish innocent looks and the understated British modesty, which they display when the show commences. This is undoubtedly a very a well-conceived show with a series of hilarious innovative sketches strung together, that push the boundaries incrementally as the show progresses. But although it was clearly based on scripted action the ‘idiots’ made much of the show feel like we were voyeurs watching an improv show, complete with all its dangers and uncertainties.
The opening night showed me two things. Firstly that idiots can be clever. And secondly that like all classic war films the good guys go through dangerous moments with plenty of corpses, but they always win in the end.
Stephanie Bunbury, The Age'If you're looking for examples of how the internet has changed practically every game in town, look no further than the story of Idiots of Ants.'open/close
If you're looking for examples of how the internet has changed practically every game in town, look no further than the story of Idiots of Ants. A sketch-comedy foursome based in London, they started out five years ago, did some gigs and were picked up for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So far, so good. According to conventional practice, they were ready for radio, with television as a distant holy grail.
"But we didn't contact radio people," James Wrighton says. "We just went straight to the internet, that was our way to get ourselves on screen. We filmed sketches ourselves and, off the back of that, we got a TV pilot." It didn't matter, either, that their early television work was for obscure channels; when they put a BBC3 sketch they did about Facebook online, it went viral, collecting 10 million hits before they had to take it down for copyright reasons. "Everyone saw us," Ben Wilson says. "And that got us off the ground. It went from nothing to people picking it up and sending it to their friends. A week later we were being interviewed on Fox News."
Wilson, Wrighton and their fellow Idiots Elliott Tiney and Andrew Spiers got to know each other at university, where they were all involved in performing. When they decided they wanted to work together, sketch comedy had been all but ploughed into non-existence by the stand-up juggernaut. There was a gap in the market. At their first meeting, Wilson remembers, they spent most of their time deciding on matching stage outfits. They wanted to look and be slick, a word he uses surprisingly often.
In a comedy milieu where wayward talents such as Daniel Kitson or Noel Fielding set the bar, they got quite a lot of flak for that. "We did, yes, because slickness is not something associated with comedy," Wilson says. "But if you look at the classics, while there are obviously some great shambolic comedians like Tommy Cooper, there were great slick people who came out in a suit and did a show. We wanted to do stuff to a high production standard, that was our intention."
It is surprising, given that the Idiots of Ants are only in their 20s, how retro their reference points are. Wilson cites The Goon Show and Monty Python as inspirations; even that old warhorse 'Allo 'Allo provides the main gag in one routine. And while they are best known online for sketches about Facebook and Wii, they also have a wardrobe of battle dress for World War II pastiches. "We went to great trouble to get accurate uniforms," Wilson says.
The boys agree five years is a long time to be together. "We know every single one of each other's bad habits," Wilson says. "We toured around the UK in a van and it's just like …" He lets the horror hang in the air. But familiarity breeds ideas. "When we're together, it is a competition," Wilson says. "You know, we are comedians and we do compete with each other for laughs. So those building chats sometimes come up with great stuff."
They also argue, of course. "An incredible amount," Wilson says, "but it's always over the work. You will argue over a line in a sketch almost to the point of duelling." Over the years, they have learnt to back off. "And often you're arguing the same point," Wrighton says, "but you just don't hear the other person. It takes someone else to say, 'Actually, you're both saying the same thing.'"