The biggest problem facing Call of Dudey is an undeservedly small crowd. Where there should be a wave of laughter, there’s a ripple, and what could be choruses of hoots feel more like a couple of owls. It’s a little hard to look past at first. Maybe it’s their fault, you think. Are they not funny? In a time where comedians can pack out Wembley stadium, and decades of sitcoms come with laugh tracks, it’s easy to feel awkward hearing just your own laugh. It’s when I realise I’m mot alone, just that 20 odd people don’t quite drown out my own like 50 or 100, that I really settled into Call of Dudey.
To be fair to my sense of apprehension, things do start quite slow, but as the show moves on it’s clear Call of Dudey’s better material is loaded up after the first ten minutes or so. Structurally it’s not a bad choice, you could walk into just about any decent venue at the Fringe and see a quality slow-burn show, but again the slightly (just slightly) awkward start doesn’t mesh well with the earlier timeslot and small crowd.
What the show unfolds into is playful, light-hearted sketches with more than a dash of Monty Python. When the four girls are men, they wear mustaches, they love to mess around with voices and the props contain subtle little jokes – watch out for the covers on the books. It’s all pleasantly daft. Each of the four is funny, and there’s quite a number of standout solo sketches where one takes the reigns for a few minutes. Some jokes don’t always land with the whole crowd, but I can’t say I ever went long without a laugh.
Call of Dudey is good-natured fun, and it’s only a shame they don’t do more with the military-themed opening of the show. It seems like it might be a running gag but doesn’t quite develop. Impish caricatures of masculinity, a slightly absurd streak, and one or two ruder jokes here and there all add up to an enjoyable show mostly let down by a lack of exposure and a less than ideal time-slot. Solid.