Comedy Central pilots transatlantic version of Joke Thieves

ExclusiveThursday 5th August 2021, 1:52pm by Jay Richardson

Ron Funches

Comedy Central is piloting a transatlantic TV version of hit stand-up show Joke Thieves, in which British and American comics perform each others' routines, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Hosted by American comic Ron Funches (pictured), the format was created by British comedian Will Mars.

It was originally piloted for television in 2014 by BBC Two with production company The Comedy Unit and hosted by Hal Cruttenden. The corporation also piloted its sister show Sketch Thieves, however neither was picked up for series.

Now, Comedy Central is is giving Joke Thieves an international twist with comics from both sides of the Atlantic, with a pilot produced by Hat Trick Productions (Have I Got News For You, Derry Girls).

The live format sees four or six comedians introduced and then split into pairs. In the first half of each show, comics must perform their own material. Then in the second, they must recreate the act of their opponent.

First staged at London comedy club Downstairs at the King's Head in 2013, the live show made its Edinburgh Fringe debut two months later and has been a regular fixture at the festival since, with the Sketch Thieves spin-off arriving in 2015.

Joke Thieves has been staged in the US, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Norway and Iceland, and Mars will be hosting a run at this year's Edinburgh Fringe, from the 7th of August to the 29th at the Laughing Horse @ The Counting House venue.

The Independent has described the live show's appeal as "obvious", saying it "gives audiences a glimpse of the workings behind the mic stand. Acts deliver sure-fire laughs with their usual material in the first half before having the rug pulled from under them as they step up a second time with unfamiliar set-ups and punchlines.

"Most enjoyably, it really brings out the comedians' competitive side. Determined that someone else should not spin more laughs out of their material than they do, acts often perform their hardest-to-imitate routines in the first half."

The Scotsman has said: "Notwithstanding the obvious clash of styles, as dry, one-liner comics attempt to channel the humour of flamboyant musical turns, the original performer will often choose to deliver their most idiosyncratic set-pieces. An observational act who plays up his lumbering social awkwardness is suddenly dared to become a nimble-fingered, playing card-manipulating prop comic.

"However, so robust is the basic premise of the show, that there's a licence to recreate, exaggerate, spoof, deconstruct or just pitilessly smash to pieces whichever aspect of their opponent's set they choose."

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