Addy Van Der Borgh
An Audience With Peter
Angie Le Mar
Anthony J Brown
Glasgow Comedy Festival
At the preview show, held in London
More Arthur Smith videos
|Glasgow Comedy Festival|
Arthur Smith has become one of comedy's elder statesmen: an Edinburgh Fringe stalwart and a club compere since the early days of the alternative scene, he still uses many of the same gags today.
He's also become a regular on Radios 2 and 4, one of TV's Grumpy Old Men, and a writer whose best-known work is the World Cup play An Evening With Gary Lineker.
Before joining the comedy circuit, the Bermondsy-born stand-up worked as a warehouseman and teacher, and studied the University of East Anglia, where he took the acclaimed creative writing course run by novelist Malcolm Bradbury,
He has long been a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe, where he was instrumental in many of the pranks played by his late friend Malcolm Hardee, and his raucous late-night tours of the town became legendary for their high jinks, if not their historical accuracy.
His Fringe shows include Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen, and Arthur Smith's Last Hangover, about his being forced to go teetotal after he nearly died from pancreatitis. Both were subsequently broadcast on Radio 4, where he is also a frequent guest on such shows as Excess Baggage and Loose Ends. On Radio 2 he has presented the long-running Smith Lectures, linking together clips from other comedians.
As well as the Olivier-nominated An Evening with Gary Lineker, which he co-created with Chris England, Smith's other plays include 1989's Live Bed Show, which starred Caroline Quentin and Paul Merton and ran at the Donmar Warehouse.
In 2005, Smith reportedly turned down a lifetime achievement award from the Perrier Award organisers, but in 2007 an exhibition of art from other comedians that he curated won the panel prize from the Perriers' successors, the if.comedy awards.
Leicester Comedy Festival London preview
In its home town, the Leicester Comedy Festival Preview show is one of the highlights of the comedy calendar, filling the 2,000-plus capacity De Montfort Hall every year.
But in London, it is a harder sell, and unfortunately, despite a couple of decent turns, this felt rather more like just another mid-level Thursday night gig than a prestigious gala showcase.
After Arthur Smith's usual affable, if no-frills, intro, the show got off to a faltering start, thanks to an atypically lacklustre Naz Osmanaglou. Normally spirited, he squandered his first couple of minutes idly asking after the wellbeing of various audience members to no comic avail. It eventually emerges that he's seeking an alpha-male so he can go into his alpha-male 'bit', but it was entirely unnecessary blether. The actual content - an exaggerated consideration of Bear Grylls' ruggedness - is his trademark routine, and scored reasonably well, even if the performance was surprisingly underpowered.
Material was the problem for eager sketch group Dog-Eared Collective, who failed to do anything with the age-old management advice of giving criticism sandwiched between praise, other than simply execute it with the minimum of twist. The idea of an Italian version of Top Gear, testing out gondolas and Popemobiles, was stronger, although the inventive flame petered out until it became little more than comedy accents, sounding like a pale imitation of the Fast Show’s Channel 9.
Much-tipped Luke Benson was equally patchy, getting off to a strong start with his material about his 6ft 7in height making him an actual giant, his Geordie lilt giving the whimsical material a helping hand. But when he spoke about being a genuine victim of harassment – a premise full of promise – things got less assured. It would take a comic genius to make anything from the tortured starting point ‘better to be stalked by a cabbie than cabbed by a stalker’, and Benson couldn’t come good.
Finally John Kearns, with the sort of weird, room-splitting lunacy that’s certain to get talked about, even if bewilderment is the result, rather than laughs. His twisted duet with a stuffed robin, and aggressively shambolic attack on Paul McCartney’s Jet were much more funny peculiar than funny ha-ha. A throwback to the days of alternative cabaret, this is certainly a change from the parade of affable twentysomethings observing things; even if the oddness hasn’t yet got the sense of purpose – however misplaced – that will really make the set zing. Still, his unwavering commitment to the absurd cannot be doubted in such a forceful performance.
The second half of the show was on much firmer footing. It opened with Vikki Stone, who once starred in a Yakult advert with Arthur Smith, even though they had never met before tonight. She played the chip-eating protagonist; Smith her turbulent stomach – an odd situation that powered their banter.
She opened her set proper with the low-aiming routine about condoms and the song about her psychotic Phillip Schofield obsession which we didn’t rate at the Leicester preview last week – although the showmanship carries the day. Infinitely more inventive is her love song as expressed through the music of Jurassic Park composer John Williams, which had some of the crowd swaying joyfully.
As far as comic songs go, it doesn’t get much better than Pat Cahill’s rap about a tumour-riddled dog that ‘is not in any immediate pain’. It’s an unlikely subject for comedy – which only makes it all the funnier – while Cahill is careful to play up the absurdity of the situation without being cruel. This was preceded by a similarly imaginative slice of leftfield stand-up, a delightful mix of the dry and surreal, which nonetheless remains rooted in a warped reality.
Finally, Paul Sinha with a 20-minute extract from the show he debuted last Edinburgh, based largely around the fallout from his chance encounter with Jim Davidson at the Comedy Store – though sharing a TV panel with the object of his lust gets a good showing, too.
This is a meticulous structured and carefully written piece of stand-up storytelling, with all component parts perfectly engineered to hold their place in the whole. There are some brilliant line in it, too – and, yes, there could be more, but the locomotive of strong narrative and intelligent comment holds the audience throughout a richly satisfying set.
|Date of live review: Friday 20th Jan, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
Friday 9th Sep, '11- Old Royal Naval College
Saturday 13th Aug, '11-
Tuesday 31st May, '11-
Wednesday 26th Jan, '11-
Friday 5th Nov, '10- Highlight Camden
Friday 10th Sep, '10- Barbican
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Arthur played at our Red Cross comedy fundraiser (Giggle Aid IV) and was brilliant. Proper jokes, delivered by a true pro. Still funny after all these years, I'd highly recommend you catch him wherever you can.
I saw his show at Edinburgh this year and it was dreadful - lazy, shambolic unfunny, and a total waste of money!
I'm 15 and I think Mr. Smith's banter is simultaneously humorous, heartfelt and not dated in the least. He may not have the the political insight of many of the current circuit acts but, when he performs the jokes he has perfected through age, the audience can clearly see his skill. His tribute show to Leonard Cohen is a fine performance, in which he balances classic Cohen hits with his own banter.
Has won acclaim and status through, well, being around for over twenty years. His comedy is fake-anger reflecting whatever is the particular fashionable political viewpoint of the time in the Groucho. We don't owe you a living Mr. Smith.
I'm 21 not really a grumpy old man! I think he is hilarious and enjoy everything he does, looking forward to hearing Daphne Fairfax
You need to be a bit of a grumpy old man to understand his humour. Not really funny for me though =[
|'This was comedy's version of punk'
Arthur Smith recalls the early days of alternative comedy in this chapter from his memoirs...
13/05/2010 Permanent link
My Name Is Daphne Fairfax, by Arthur Smith
Grumpy Old Men
An Evening With Gary Lineker
Arthur Smith's Swan Lake
Edinburgh Fringe 2006
Arthur Smith: That Which Is Not Said
Edinburgh Fringe 2007
Arthur Smith: ARTURART
Edinburgh Fringe 2008
Arthur Smith's Public Lecture: 'The Toilet Role of Arturart in the History of Western Representation'
Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Arthur Smith: Edinburgh Book Festival
Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Aaaaaaaargh! Malcolm Hardee Documentary Preview
Arthur Smith In A Cobbled Up Shambels
Arthur Smith's Edinburgh Bash
Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Arthur Smith's Pissed-Up Chat Show
Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Heroes of Alternative Fringe
This Arthur's Seat Gala Belongs To Lionel Richie
Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Misc live shows
At Last! The 1981 Show
Malcolm Hardee tribute show
Arthur Smith Exposed
An Audience With Arthur Smith