It's been nearly two years since Duke's ill-fated talk-show attempt Banter came and went, but host Tim Batt is not giving up hope yet. He's back in the chat game with something better suiting his irreverent sensibilities, going full tribute act in the delightful Space Couch.
A chat/sketch hybrid, the show centres around a fluorescent pink couch that once was a Russian space experiment that became indoctrinated by American chat show transmissions while floating in the atmosphere (yep, you read that correctly).
It now wants to be part of a chat show, and thus enters Batt and music man Disasteradio (Luke Rowell). The earnest commitment of the two human stars helps sell the out-there concept, aided by an enthusiastic voice-over from American voice actor Paul F. Tompkins (best known as Bojack Horseman's Mr Peanutbutter). He gives 'Space Couch' a delightfully positive, pro-Communist personality whose infrequent interruptions add a welcome jolt to the show.
Infrequent is the key word there. Despite the title and a nifty intro, the space couch elements are rarely used. Instead, this is a local spin on an American late night show, including an opening monologue, comedian cameo (Ray Shipley delivered an ingenious set), and feature interview.
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If it had stuck to that format, this would have been great. The opening night guest was Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, and she and Batt instantly clicked. The relaxed environment and Batt's breezy interrogation meant for a frank and funny interview, with Batt nimbly unpacking Swarbrick's answers to weed out some interesting insights. It barely lasted 10 minutes, but I could have easily watched their back and forth for hours.
Batt proved a confident and engaging host, aided by Rowell as the perfect sidekick. The two could easily sell a chat show on their own, but every time the more sketch-y, pre-recorded bits reared their head, the show felt like an entirely different beast. Real comic opportunities were shrouded away beneath random elements like a game that saw them wear shock collars and try to guess what story went behind a clickbait headline.
Space Couch feels like a work-in-progress, and would undoubtedly be a fine chat show given the opportunity outside the Comedy Festival. It has all the makings of a great weekly feature at The Basement freed from the more surreal elements, and I'd love to see what Batt, Rowell and their comrade couch can do if they let the talk show speak for itself.
Who: Space Couch (Tim Batt and Disasteradio)
Where: Basement Theatre until May 18th