If there’s one thing Idiots of Ants can’t be accused of, it’s a lack of enthusiasm. From the moment they bound onstage they produce an hour-long barrage on the senses.
The opening conceit – that the venue’s audience are actually stationed as a fixture of the Idiots’ flat – sets a high benchmark for both energy and ideas. Though some of the material fails to match up to this mark, the general quality of the sketches that follow is high enough, and they are paced well enough, to ensure hilarity ensues over the next hour.
What is really striking about this show is how much of a group effort it is from start to finish. Sketch groups can often be dominated by one or two totemic members leaving others in the shade, but Idiots of Ants always prioritise the scenario over the performers. This allows the best sketches to really shine, with all four equally committed to letting the scene unfold – such as a swingers party populated by glove puppets which falls into a bizarre handheld orgy, and a silent heist unfolding entirely through flip-charts in a bugged flat. The exception to the rule is a standout performance by Andrew Spiers as a disgruntled bee warning a local church fête off his honey – his East End growl and a particularly unflattering costume combine to create comic gold.
...the energy of their performances and the strength of their best sketches are enough to carry this enjoyable hour – even though in future they ought to be more ruthless in cutting out scenes to create an hour without lags and low points. With a couple of cuts, this hour could have been perfect. But once we reach the show’s conclusion – a masterly transformation of sections of the audience into different parts of an ‘air orchestra’ – the low points are forgotten.
The bulk of the hour is bursting with ideas, dynamism, and great laughs that prove the Ants are moving from strength to strength.
If anyone has come up with a better beginning and ending to a sketch show on the Fringe this year than Idiots of Ants, I haven't seen it. Model Citizens opens with a tricksy Truman Show-inspired skit and ends with... well, that would be telling. Suffice to say it's a high-energy, feelgood finale to a high-energy, feelgood show.
Following last year's technically overloaded outing, the four-piece have stripped away the matching black ties and some of the bombast and are back to their 2009 best, when This is War was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award. On a set littered with props of sketches past there are, once again, jokes about the dilemmas of modern manhood, witty "what-if" scenarios and silly songs, all delivered with enormous brio, enjoyment and the odd supremely handled ad-lib. They're at their best when they let their sketches breathe – there's a wonderful slow-burn of an execution sketch, a supremely creepy swingers night and a glorious insight into where honey comes from. Confident, likeable and very funny, this quartet are surely destined for bigger things, but for now it's a joy to watch them operating at the top of their game.
Having seen Idiots of Ants' show at last year's comedy festival (in which they won the Best International Show Award) I was thrilled and excited to learn I would be seeing them again. And I'm not disappointed.
For the uninitiated, the Idiots of Ants are four English lads – Andrew Spiers, Elliott Tiney, Benjamin Wilson and James Wrighton – who perform uniquely off-the-wall sketch comedy.
As with last year's show the lads, or at least 2 of them, are already on stage as the audience fills the theatre, and we quickly learn that we are a semi-permanent fixture in the living room of the foursome's flat, setting them up for some superb fourth wall breaking throughout the show.
Another similarity to their 2012 show is the technical issues they encounter … I'm beginning to think they're not so accidental, but we'll probably never know because of the destruction of the aforementioned fourth wall, and combined with some clever ad-libbing they use these to their advantage.
As far as sketch comedy goes, these guys really do it well and it's great to see new material from them, with a couple of my favourites from their last visit thrown in for good measure (the ‘Hen's party aftermath' and ‘Guide to being a Dad' sketches have us in stitches).
Video games gone wrong, inappropriate use of firearms, avoiding surveillance, oral hygiene and naughty doctors are some of the themes on offer and these guys move between each vignette with pace and energy. There is also some fantastic audience interaction, particularly from Tiney trying to date everyone at once, and the musical finale to the evening, which again involves practically everyone in the theatre.
The Idiots have a great rapport both with the audience and with each other, and it is so enjoyable to watch the play happening between them throughout their show. It almost feels like we're just hanging out with four really funny mates (or flatmates), having a lark.
I thoroughly recommend these guys, especially if you are a fan of Monty Python or Paul Whitehouse, and I am already looking forward to their next visit.
The Edinburgh Festival plays host to over 100 comedy sketch groups, but only one comes out on top as the reigning champions of consistent awesomeness. The ‘Idiots’ have returned to this years festival with a brand new show, reminding us why it is they are still wearing the crown when it comes to this style of entertainment.
As you enter the room, you realise that the show has already started happening around you and you can only anticipate what they are setting you up for. These absolute masters of creating engaging sketches don’t fail to deliver an abundance of hilarious sketches. Ranging from sarcastic takes on devious observations to the completely surreal, the four piece take us on a captivating journey over 60 minutes.
The rate at which the sketches come is something to be marveled. They barely give you time to pick yourself up from laughing before they storm straight in to the next sketch. It’s fair to say that while everyone is going to enjoy certain sketches more than others, every sketch is of an incredibly high standard.
These guys have been on a pretty impressive journey over the last few years, from performing at comedy festivals all over the world (boasting a notable request from John Cleese to perform with them on stage), their TV appearances, radio shows and an impressive touring schedule, they’ve not been short of time to hone their skills working together and it’s really paid off. The chemistry between the four guys develops year on year. It’s evident they’re able to venture off script where necessary and trust each other’s skills to resolve all situations perfectly.
Without giving anything away, a definite highlight is Andy’s ability to appear at the right moment dressed in the most fitting of costumes. They also have a real skill for capitalising on audience interaction. You can always guarantee that at some point during their show, you’re going to somehow become involved with it and this year is no exception. It’s what makes an Idiots of Ants show so memorable.
If you’ve never seen these guys in action before or if you’re not traditionally a fan of sketch comedy, rest-assured that with Idiots of Ants you are in safe hands. If you have seen them, you already know what to expect. You will not be disappointed.
Last year, I missed this comedy troupe due to comedian clashes. (That's the shows, not some kind of bizarro comedy fight club...)
It was, without doubt, my biggest regret of the Comedy Festival 2012. Thankfully, this year I've managed to rectify that - and after sitting through their one hour show Model Citizens, I'm even more mad that I missed them last year.
Sketch shows can be hit and miss, but this four piece (Andy, Elliott, Benjamin and James) have managed to package up rapid fire skits and sketches into something that transcends humour.
The show began as we were filing in with 2 of them on stage at Rangatira at Q Theatre in a front room of a flat set up, before cleverly breaking through the fourth wall, and insinuating their way into the audience's lives. A series of technical snafus certainly blighted their first night in Auckalnd (as their typo revealed at the end) but it showed no signs of throwing them off their game.
Sketches at gunpoint, war soldiers controlled by other forces, a song about the man who took the audience to dinner, a sex change sketch and an ongoing compunction to use two members in the front row for a series of continuing gags - they all came at us thick and fast. High paced energy, frantic and frenetic The Idiots of Ants are a troupe which are clearly destined for real greatness with their sly and wry look at life.
Like the Goons, the League of Gentlemen, the Pythons, they've clearly got some form of magic trapped in a moment and are using it to their extreme advantage. Despite moments of corpsing on stage (due, no doubt to the fact they're having such a good time) the show was an extremely slick and fun affair which ended all too quickly. They managed an hour of tautly paced, quick fire humour which proved to have an extremely high hit rate and amused greatly.
Idiots of Ants last year won the best International show and I can see why - they are one of the best and brightest groups of intelligently sly comedians at the festival so far - and they left me with two things as I walked out - a) a huge beaming grin over my face and b) a desperate unhappiness that the show was over, and had only lasted an hour. I could easily have seen more.
This is the New Zealand International Comedy Festival's first must see act - do yourself a favour, and don't make the same mistake I did last year.
If you’re looking to venture beyond the regular stand up routines and experience some alternative comedy at this year’s festival, I have three words for you: Idiots of Ants. Their show is a riotous and action-packed hour of fast-paced sketch comedy and the best part is we get to be a part of the fun too!
Model Citizens is a mad barrage of hilarious short stories presented by Andrew Spiers, Elliott Tiney, Benjamin Wilson and James Wrighton, who are the talented foursome that make up Idiots of Ants. As soon as the show kicks off the Fourth Wall is torn down with the first short story – a prospective flatmate who loves the place except for the fact that the flat comes with an audience.
The rest of the show carries on in this comedic vein. Each skit is excellently written, masterfully crafted and superbly performed. There are musical magazines, conversations at gunpoint and a casual game of toss-the-baby – and of course an expected encore of the comical “hens night gone wrong” skit which they performed at the Comedy Gala. The boys are skilled performers and have great command of the stage, transitioning between each skit quickly and seamlessly.
There is no one stand-out sketch as they are all brilliant in their own right but a fully grown man dressed as a baby and swearing like a sailor truly is quite a sight to behold! The very funny “the man who took the audience to dinner” pseudo-love song was another favorite of mine. Yes, they can sing too!
It’s no surprise these boys won the NZICF Best International Show Award last year as they are, put simply, a class act. Model Citizens is a definite must see – it’s extremely clever, wildly entertaining and just so much fun!
Sketch comedy overlords Idiots of Ants return for their second Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a golden hour of non-stop action packed sketch hilarity.
This British quartet knows how to pack a punch-line, delivering uproariously silly sketch after sketch; from an audience dinner date, to hang man like you’ve not seen before, and a bawdy trio of cockney ghosts. The evening was devoid of a single flat bit. The crew handled minor technical difficulties with aplomb, enhancing the comic element rather than detracting from the show. Such tiny glitches are a nice reminder to audiences that this is not television.
Idiots of Ants masterfully intertwine slower burn gags with one-off sketches, providing a medley of music, mime and melodrama to the audience’s manifest pleasure. It’s great to see a sketch troupe where each member brings skills and strengths to the stage – all of Idiots of Ants ensemble are extremely competent actors as well as solid script writers. The stage choreography was not far off seamless and all audience interactions deftly handled. You can tell they’ve worked hard to make a show this good; and the Australian-specific content they’ve incorporated into the sketches did not go unappreciated. On top of all of this you gain the mounting suspicion that the crew are really enjoying themselves, which only adds to the performance.
Model Citizen delivers a fresh batch of high energy sketch wizardry and delightful nonsense. A must see this Melbourne International Comedy Festival!
Idiots of Ants, winners of the 2012 New Zealand Best International Show Award, are back!
This crazy hour of sketch comedy is brilliantly performed by Andrew Spiers, Elliott Tiney, Benjamin Wilson and James Wrighton.
How can I sum this up? What starts as a flatting interview turns into a show as the guys explain ‘this place comes with an audience’. Fourth wall? What fourth wall? From the offset you know you are part of the gang. This is a gang that you will want to be part of.
Songs, swearing, guns, karaoke, juggling babies. Want more? There is more, and much more in fact. Model Citizens is packed with comedy, improv and theatrical shenanigans; from magazines with a soundtrack to receiving bad news in the most upbeat and musical way.
Obvious influences from other great sketch shows are evident but this demonstrates that the Ants adore their craft. They really love being on stage and thrive on the audience’s reactions. As the show builds so does their energetic silliness.
I have no one highlight but there is something about a foul-mouthed baby played by a fully grown man!
Sketch comedy is a true art and these gents have got it down. I have a sneaky feeling they will get their much deserved standing ovation every night!
The British have invaded again with another Fab Four! Idiots of Ants remind us why we watch live comedy. If you pick only one show this year pick this one.
It’s difficult to review a show when you can barely see from tears of laughter.
BBC favourites Idiots of Ants have sold out three years running (see EG's reviews for 2008 and 2009), and it looks like they’ll do it again, with the irresistible wit of this year’s Model Citizens.
It’s completely unpretentious, which is refreshing to encounter in what is fast becoming a big name at the festival. There’s no big build up either; in fact, two Ants are already lounging around on stage as we take our seats.
The audience is cleverly incorporated into the show without demanding anything of them, which quickly wins everyone over. Though the sketches alone are brilliant creations, when put at the mercy of such quick wits before a lively audience the result is some exceptional improvisation.
Best of all, it’s clear the four are thoroughly enjoying themselves. The chemistry between them gives a certain elusive quality that makes this a truly unmissable show.
I can't recommend it enough. Go see it, and bring tissues.
Following Stephen K Amos I also went to see Idiots of Ants last night and I will be honest. They were an act who did not stand out to me at all during the Comedy Gala.
I’ll give you a hint now that that was very silly.
Winners of the New Zealand Best International Show Award in 2012, Idiots of Ants is a comedy sketch group featuring Brits Andrew Spiers, Elliott Tiney, Benjamin Wilson and James Wrighton. Well received internationally, their latest show Model Citizens opens with the boys introducing a prospective flatmate to their lounge. Complete with a couch, coffee table, small dining table, flowers, the flats looking pretty respectable – but there’s one catch, it has an audience who must be entertained.
What followed was a hurricane of sketches – some funnier than others, but all achieving a good level of laughter. Every now and then the audience was acknowledged and to my delight the primary victim happened to be my friend Ali – ‘Oh my gosh, Ali, I can’t believe it! I haven’t seen you since we dated five years ago.’
While we had a good time though… I’m not sure if the Idiots of Ants themselves would have. From a broken glass on stage to a music track that just didn’t want to behave. You could say that the show didn’t run smoothly – but that was part of its magic. Sketch comedy thrives on improv and when done well improv can be hilarious.
With dance routines, juggling (of babies), injured balls and a full orchestra to play with, Idiots of Ants have created a show that reminds you of comedy sketch shows you loved as a kid (or maybe still love) – but it’s a bit more dynamic that Whose Line is it Anyway and it has a bit more edge than The Amanda Show. It’s silly, slightly wrong and very importantly – it has flashing lights.
I would highly recommend this show – if it was the winner last year, it may just be the winner this year too. But get in quick as this show closes on Saturday night. Make a night of it even and do the double whammy – Stephen K Amos + Idiots of Ants.
BLURBS FROM REVIEW:
This is a gumbo of everything great sketch comedy should be: wordplay, physicality, songs, running gags, visual gags, call backs, parodies, quickies, prop gags, silliness for its own sake, even some (manufactured) corpsing - always a hit with audiences.
Make sure you see this show - it’s most probably where the bar will be set for sketch comedy at this year’s festival.
If anything could reignite Australia’s infatuation with sketch comedy, it’s UK comedy troupe Idiots Of Ants. The four funny lads have returned to Melbourne International Comedy Festival to present Model Citizens, a show bigger and better than its 2012 predecessor.
The first clue as to the group’s self-styled evolution is their stage design. The Banquet Room hosts lounge room decor reminiscent of your average sitcom. It’s a far cry from what Idiots Of Ants worked with previously within the Town Hall: they milked as much as possible from of a selection of props and office chairs, bringing their skits to life within a shoebox room. Model Citizens is a different beast entirely, in the best way imaginable. From the moment you cast your eyes to the stage, before the show has even started, there’s every indication that Idiots Of Ants intend upon taking advantage of their new-found space, with an audacious new show in mind. Pleasingly, the group rise to meet every expectation.
Idiots Of Ants present a veritable smorgasbord of imaginative and peculiar sketch comedy. Their sketches range from the clever, to the silly, to the downright absurd. They’re more daring than ever, coming along in leaps and bounds since their previous outing. They explore life at gunpoint, stage a Colgate-sponsored sketch, attempt an exercise in dating the audience, and face off with a foul-mouthed, fully grown baby. For a wildly varied selection of skits - a natural symptom of sketch comedy - Idiots Of Ants’ new show is wonderfully consistent in its results. It’s a hilarious show with plenty of surprises, including novel special effects, spots of audience participation and running gags (dismiss their ‘cockney ghosts’ sketch at your own peril).
Above all else, it’s the sensational chemistry between the four performers that makes the show such an enjoyable experience. Moreover, watching Model Citizens, there is the very real sense that the members of Idiots Of Ants - obviously great friends - are genuinely having a blast. This contributes to a cracking hour of comedy much more than perhaps even they realise. Overall, UK comedy imports Idiots Of Ants show that quality sketch comedy is truly something special to behold.
OH GOD. The unbearable agony of loving a show so much that you want to run out and tell everyone how great it is and they must go now NOW, and not wanting to say anything for fear of spoiling it. This is going to be a difficult review.
Idiots of Ants are a sketch quartet made up of Ben (the one that looks a bit like John Hodgman), Jimmy (the one who has recently developed very posh-looking hair), Andy (the one who, for comedy reasons, is dubbed ‘the fat one’ but really isn’t) and Elliot (the one who looks a bit like an ex-boyfriend. Not just personally; we reckon everyone will have an ex strangely called to mind when gazing at Elliot. This is extra disturbing when he’s trying to score with the whole audience – DAMN, spoilers).
Sketch comedy is usually quite small in scope; there just isn’t the space to develop an overarching theme or message as there is with an hour of stand up. However, the Ants have discovered that a flashing backdrop, excellent sound system and fuck-off tunes go a long way to making everything epic and conducive to having a bloody excellent time. Because as well as being funny, this – the Ants’ 2011 Edinburgh show – is good fun. Inventive use of props and two near-silent sketches go beyond what many other sketch troupes are doing, plus there’s water throwing. And baby juggling. And penis damage. NO, we can say no more.
There’s some gentle audience participation and the show ends with a very clever way of ensuring a standing ovation. (Or, rather, that’s the scheduled end to the show; on Saturday night the audience chanted “one more sketch” and got an encore.) We came out full of childlike glee, glowing like the Olympics and then we played air steel drums all the way home. Fantastic.
I’ve never been to a live sketch comedy show before. My first impression was that it’s incredibly different from watching one on TV. My second impression was that it’s even more fun than watching one on TV.
I’ve never heard of or seen Idiots of Ants before because I’m bad at YouTube and apparently bad at comedy festivals, but they delighted me on this first viewing. Winners of Best International Act at the NZ International Comedy Festival last year and comprised of members Andrew Spiers, James Wrighton, Elliot Tiney, and Benjamin Wilson, Idiots of Ants bring their new sketch show, Model Citizens (Auckland, through until May 4), complete with props, tricks, and a boatload of sound cues, to “answer all the important questions.”
I didn’t notice a thematic link between the sketches, not that it mattered when every sketch was as funny as the one before. From a baby-tossing sketch to a coin-dropping one, all four performers were totally game and committed to their sketches, whether or not anything went wrong. As it’s opening night for a very tech heavy show, a few things go wrong, but the performers go along with it and poke fun at it and themselves.
It’s a credit to the Idiots of Ants themselves that the show comes across so easy and enjoyable. All four performers are loose, charismatic (there’s that word again, turns out it’s a good trait if you’re in comedy), and have great chemistry with each other. It’s a genuine pleasure to see them break from a sketch and laugh at each other—they’re in it as much as we are—and it keeps the show alive and moving.
The sketches are funny, the performers are engaging and also funny, and it’s a brisk, entertaining hour. The show works well in the Rangatira Space, it’s lit gorgeously for a comedy act, and the performer’s presence is enough to fill the space. It’s funny—go see it.
A couple of years after being nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award, Idiots Of Ants are showing no signs of resting on their laurels. Model Citizens is another big, bold, funny hour that cements their reputation as one of the Fringe’s must-see sketch shows.
The show starts in the Idiots’ sitcom-like flat, fitted with remnant props from bygone sketches. Such elaborate scenery turns out to be the setting one of their inspired, metaphysical in-jokes when the flatmates suddenly realise they’ve an audience to entertain. And, my, how we are entertained.
The Idiots are now at that that stage where they are so confident in their writing – and rightly so – that they can perform loosely, letting their own personalities shine through. They corpse, screw up, and deliberately try to undermine each other, which makes for a riotously fun atmosphere, which spreads throughout the audience. That said, they never let the wheels come off completely, and no sketch is submerged beneath the horseplay. Slick but loose is the order of the day.
How good are they? Let’s just say they make juggling, mime and even just the act of spraying air freshener amusing. And when Elliott Tiney fumbles the first, the reaction is not the usual sarcastic ‘way-hay!’, but apparently genuine upset, so much do the audience buy into their comedy.
There are solid, witty ideas at the core of all their scenes, clever ‘what if…’ scenarios that approach the familiar from a new direction; the sort of twisted observation the best stand-ups might employ, but expressed in sketch format, then acted out with unwavering conviction and a willingness to suffer for their art. Slapstick sensibilities run through a lot of it, but there’s a reason for every physical humiliation.
The hour zips by in a whirl of strange ideas, which I could list but that would spoilt the selection-box surprise – but rest assured there’s hilarity all the way, until the audience are up on their feet helping with the joyous send-off. It’s simply sketch comedy how it should be done.