QED Comedy Lab are a remarkably prolific comedic body, holding several nights a week across Oxford, with each of their showcases adding a twist to the stand-up formula. In the case of Spoiler Alert!, the show focuses its comedians' talents on movies, which feels perfect for a cinephile like me. The setup is simple, with each comedian preparing a five minute run-through/plot synopsis of a movie of their choice, before following it up with an even brisker one minute take on a film they select from a hat of audience suggestions. The concept worked rather well, leading to a night of mirth.
Matthew Chadourne acted as the showrunner and first act, setting the bar high with his 5 minute take on The Abyss. Not only did he hilariously get a bit stuck in the ever increasing complications of the narrative (divorced couple, nuclear weapons, spaceship at the bottom of the sea, aliens, crazy marines), but he also managed several swipes at James Cameron's apparent hate for the army. He followed this up with Donnie Darko, which, if you haven't seen it, is a very complicated film indeed. It highlighted some of the fun of the evening's concept, with the act of squeezing the synopsis down to a minute, leading to one of my favourite lines of the night; describing Patrick Swayze's character as "a child molester, but that's a whole different thing." Chadourne held the night together, returning between acts to riff off of what had come before. He also ended proceedings on a lamentation of Solo: A Star Wars Story (a welcome target, as I am still licking the wounds of that blockbuster snooze fest).
The rest of the comedians were fun and engaging, with several acts successfully working in extended reinterpretations of classics. The condensing of The Lion King led to not only witty descriptors such as "secretary of state/parrot" (Zazu) and "adorable interspecies gay couple" (Timon and Pumbaa), but also dipped into a favourable interpretation of the actions of Scar and the hyenas that almost made sense. Almost. Another highlight was Gone Girl, and it seemed to make sense that the convoluted plot would move off in a tangent that took in Whiplash-in-15-seconds (living up to its name).
This was my first time at a QED Comedy Lab event, and I will certainly look out for more events like it in the future. I feel there is room to further expand the concept at the core of Spoiler Alert!, and the night seemed to particularly flourish when the comedians focused on stranger, more convoluted films. And even if at times we didn't fully grasp the film being focused on (I'm not sure that five minutes could begin to unpick Xanadu) the acts never failed to raise a smile.