JOHN LENNON once sang “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. And it was certainly the case when long-time sketch duo Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon were too busy writing a television sitcom pilot to pen a new show for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe.
“We thought it might be fun to do a late night show where we get two comedians, get them drunk and then have them play Street Fighter against each other,” says McNeil.
“It ended up being much better than anything else we had done - people were more interested in seeing someone drunkenly playing Mario Kart than sketch comedy which had taken a year to craft.”
The original set-up used a Nintendo Wii projecting popular games Street Fighter, Mario Kart and Guitar Hero (“because it’s good to end on a song”).
Now it has expanded to include the cutting edge virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, and an audience game of Pong using smartphones thanks to technical wizard Rob Sedgebeer (aka King Rob).
Video Game Guy, Guy Kelly from The Beta Males, pictured right, shows his skills on difficult gaming challenges. Further games include Bomberman and the audience favourite Donkey Kong Jr Math which adds a mental arithmetic edge.
McNeil and Pamphilon are both hosts and team captains, with audience members using their smartphones to opt for whose side they want to be on.
“The first year everybody watched the comedians play games, but now we have the audience involved in every single round,” says McNeil, who has Richard Soames and Paul Foxcroft commentating on the action.
And there is much at stake, as the captain of the losing team for each round has to perform a forfeit devised by “evil genius” Will Hartley from Clever Peter.
“He comes up with the worst things he can do to us,” says McNeil - who lost three out of the four performances in Edinburgh this year.
“He's a horrible man and I regret asking him to do it.
“One thing he does is blend different ingredients to turn into a smoothie for us to drink. Tuna, Skittles and Chipsticks don't go together very well. I don't know if you have ever drunk a fish, but I have and it's not good...”
As well as the gaming and the forfeits there are stand-up sets from the guest comics - many of whom have revealed themselves to be true gamers.
“When Imran Yusuf and Chris Coltrane played each other on Street Fighter it was the first time we had seen both players bring out every special move,” says McNeil.
“Usually it's just a frenzy of hitting buttons, or jumping up and hitting each other.
“Scott Capurro got lapped on Mario Kart by Tim Vine which was one of the funniest things we've seen. Usually Mario Kart is always down to the last bend as the game cheats.
“We were surprised how many comedians came out of the woodwork who were passionate about gaming. They are playing to a crowd which will get the references - [sketch group] Casual Violence did a piece about the inner details of Resident Evil 4 which they couldn't normally do.
“It's a celebration of all things nerdy.”
With talk of a television series in the near future, and a stage at this year's Eurogamer Expo in Earl's Court later this month, this Brighton visit could be a chance to see the 8-bit action in an intimate space before it goes stellar.