August 12, 2009 / 3:28 PM / 10 years ago

Go viral for laughs with UK's Idiots of Ants

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Don’t despair if you haven’t already got tickets to the sold-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe show of one of British comedy’s best up and coming troupes. Go viral.

Idiots of Ants, four young Englishmen whose serious white shirts and black ties offset their absurd sketches, will prance, preen and make you laugh until it hurts your spleen in your own living room today.

The troupe that had Monty Python’s John Cleese laughing out loud on a tour of Canada this year and was chosen by leisure bible Time Out magazine as a top pick of the three-week long Fringe has also racked up millions of hits on YouTube with sketches like “Facebloke” and “New York Cop.”

“We’re frantically making as much viral (video sketches on the Internet) as we can to show off our style and what we do,” Elliott Tiney, one of the four Idiots, told Reuters.

Tiney, alongside Benjamin Wilson, James Wrighton and Andrew Spiers have been selling out successively bigger venues at the Fringe for the past three years. They were invited on a Canadian tour alongside Cleese and other “best of British” comedians and have the television supremos sniffing around.

“I guess that’s a sign that things are going in the right direction,” Wrighton said in an interview alongside Tiney and Wilson.

Their madcap sketch show “Idiots of Ants - This is War” at the Pleasance in Edinburgh was sold out this year before it opened and is an onslaught of gags, video clips and some pretty outrageous humor about the male perspective on life.

They are not afraid of high risk comedy, making one member of the audience a major part of the show each night. At the Fringe, where people wander from bar-to-theater with drinks in hand, that kind of risk-taking can go badly wrong.

As the crowd enters, Wilson is already on stage picking out which audience member he thinks will get the most laughs and give the least amount of trouble.

“I’m kind of giving the briefest psychological assessment you’ll ever give when I’m stood at the front going ‘right who looks the least mental,’” he said.

After that they’re off with skits on the “Federation of Fatherhood Preparation” in which dads-to-be learn how to tell terrible jokes and be generally embarrassing, a bachelorette party — where four women wake up with hangovers and sex changes — to a cheerfully morbid song about cannibalism for airline crash survivors stranded on a mountain.

How did they come up with their quirky name?

Tiney said he thought that Idiot Savants would be a good name for a comedy club and quickly Wrighton and Wilson chirp up to say they didn’t.

“We thought that was quite pretentious, so Jimmy said what about Idiots of Ants, which is a funny collection of words but also it has a double meaning buried in there,” Wilson said.

When asked about the growing comparisons to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the 20-something Ants shuffle their feet, look embarrassed and then Elliott tells the story of how they caught sight of Cleese laughing out loud in the wings at one of their shows and then asking them for advice about a joke.

“He asked us did we have any different ideas for the punchline of one of his jokes and we just all stood there like bumbling idiots kind of saying it’s fine, it’s brilliant John you did really well, John.”

Editing by Steve Addison

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