The Jest are a comedy sketch group made up of Ella Ainsworth, Tristan Rogers, Jack Stanley, Luke Theobald and Bryony Twydle, a group of University of Exeter graduates who originally began performing as part of nine-person sketch group Simply The Jest. The group are renowned for expertly combining humour with elements of horror and disgust and this has seen them get to the final of the New Acts of the Year Award earlier this year. The Jest are performing their show The Five Humours at the Edinburgh Festival.
To learn more about the group, I asked them these seven questions…
1) How has The Jest evolved over the years?
Well, for starters, when we were starting out we were part of a nine-person comedy group, which meant over an hour show, everyone got 6.6666667 minutes of stage time each. It was a lot of fun to be part of but splitting up material equally was, unsurprisingly, a bit of a challenge. A couple of years back we formed a five-person group and our comedy has grown increasingly surreal ever since. Last year, we probably wouldn’t have considered ending our show with an audience member helping a man give birth to a pig on stage. But it’s easy to say a lot of things with hindsight.
2) Indoors or outdoors?
When you’re on a roll with your writing/have to write regardless of whether you’re on a roll or not, choose indoors. Then when that gets too much, you’ve gone mad and you’re banging random keys on a laptop in the hope a sketch appears on the screen, switch to outdoors. Repeat for 12 months until you have something resembling an Edinburgh show.
3) Why sketch comedy?
Sketch comedy is all about teamwork and we love working as a team or, failing that, being on stage all at the same time. It’s also the form of comedy we loved growing up. The League of Gentlemen, French and Saunders, The Fast Show… As a child, you sit there thinking I could do that and before you know it, you’re in a leaking portakabin in Cowgate having a crack at it and telling yourself that this is how everyone starts off… right?
4) Is popularity vacuous?
No because we’re all incredibly popular so to say that the very idea of popularity is somehow meaningless, empty and a clear cover for major insecurities about careers in a risky industry is obviously inaccurate and wildly off the mark.
5) If you could add anyone to the sketch group, which one person would you choose?
Well one of our group members does a very impressive Maggie Smith impression which we use in the show and is regularly referred back to so it would be so brilliant if in the last sketch of the show he comes on and starts doing the impression when who should come join him on stage but none other than Juliette Binoche because she’s a great actress.
6) Opinions on The Great British Bake Off?
Only two of us have seen it owing to generally dreadful wi-fi in our Edinburgh flat. Thoughts from Jack are: ‘That lion bread face in episode 3 was impressive wasn’t it?’ while Ella’s are: ‘Why the hell isn’t iPlayer loading?’.
7) How did you do it?
In public, on stage, at 10.45pm every night unless we let extra people in last minute (wahey). Honestly though, we’re not sure how we do it. We get by on essentials mostly. Say a Kit Kat Orange for Tristan, a bowl of quinoa and courgette for Bryony, a breath mint for Jack, chorizoed egg on toast for Ella and a flat coke with fag ash floating on the surface for Luke… It’s little luxuries like that which really do make the difference.