Written & PERFORMED BY LAURA RAMOSO
Till Sat 30 Sep 2023, 60 minutes
Sept 22th, 2023
Sketch comedy is the hardest form of comedy to perform live, and it's even harder when it’s performed by a solo artist. Normally, I would be open to a discussion on any topic, but when it comes to sketch comedy, there is no discussion to be had about its place in the pecking order of comedy. I can hear you asking, ‘Ok then, what makes it so hard!’ Simple: a performer has to be fast on their feet, but most importantly, they have to maintain their adrenaline even when certain sketches don’t work as well as others. Joke after joke and this unrelenting barrage of punchlines can take their toll on audiences and performers, but when a comedian has what Laura Ramoso has, there seems to be no limit to where they can take their audiences.
I have to be vague here because I am still processing her show, FRANCES which is enjoying a sold-out run at Soho Theatre after its sold-out Edinburgh Fringe run. With a BFA in Theatre from the University of Victoria, Ramoso has clearly utilised all her theatrical knowledge to craft a show that is layered with her distinctive style. Ramoso is also someone who took their time to find their niche, and ever since winning Best New Show at the Bad Dog Theatre for her debut special, DIANE, there has been no looking back.
One of the most important caveats of sketch comedy is a comedian's ability to create believable characters. Nobody cares about an empty character for a bit; audiences tend to build a longer connection with a comedian when there is an element of realism, or simply truth, in their comedy. It’s about a comedian also being able to observe the people they see every day and figure out a way to exploit what they’ve seen or experienced and include it in their show, naturally, of course. And having lived all over the world until the age of 17, Ramoso is uniquely positioned to have found inspiration for some of her material from the people she’s met all over the world.
This is evident in the early sketch of three friends from Canada who have just come back from their solo trips to Italy, France, and Spain. Each, having only spent days in these places, has come back completely ‘changed’ and is now very willing to embrace their new-found European sensibilities. It goes without saying that this was fast-paced, with Ramoso playing three distinctly different characters, and her energy is infectious. These are three women we’ve all met. It made me think of 'Kathy Beale' in Eastender’s coming back from Spain and ordering a margarita, but then she realised she was in the Queen Vic and not the 3-star King's High Hotel in Majorca.
Bookending the show is the telenovela between Frank and Francis. Frank dumped Francis a few months prior, and out of the blue, he calls Francis to ask if they can meet in person. She’s hesitant and reluctant initially to see him, the pain all too real, but then relents after getting some help from Emmy, an unsuspecting audience member. This becomes one of the highlights for me, as audience participation can really throw a show. We’ve all been there one time or another when a comedian opens their mic up to the audience and they get crickets. Last night was different from most audience participation moments; there was a twang of awkwardness due to the fact that the audience member wasn’t just a prop; they had to provide some answers to Ramoso’s questions. This was a good break from the sketches; it brought the focus back to the telenovela, and it gave Ramoso a brief rest-bite from her manic characters.
Things are going great; Ramoso is killing it, then she throws a real spanner in the works— with a bit that is as surreal as it gets. Moving the scene into an open-mic night, a litany of “comics” come to the stage until we meet Ralph, which is so random. This goes in a direction you can’t begin to imagine; it’s so well written and maintains Ramoso’s ability to create comedy by building layer upon layer. As Ralph explains, taking a journey with his mother, who is always asking him to do stuff for her, takes a surprisingly dark turn. As mother and son are sitting there in the car, perhaps more kudos to Ramoso’s theatre background, she convinces you there are two people up there. This is a rare skill in the age of fast, easy comedy, where skill or ability is only really measured by numbers and views. But here, Ramoso proves any doubts wrong; she has the skill and bravery to try out something a little darker, more surreal, and see it pay off.
"Her characters have depth, and there is a cruel, self-deprecating touch to her comedy that is genuinely exciting to watch."
If you head to Ramoso's Instagram, there is a post she made on April 17th in which she said, “…all I ever want to do is make people laugh, and to have had the opportunity to do it as my $JOB$ is truly indescribable.” After witnessing what Laura Ramoso does, one cannot deny that this is her calling. Her characters have depth, and there is a cruel, self-deprecating touch to her comedy that is genuinely exciting to watch.
Ramoso has something special here, and the success of the runs she’s had will only help toffee her ambition and creativity. What comes next is anyone's guess, but one thing is a guarantee: Ramoso will give her everything, and it will be funny.