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Alex Petrovic

Alex Petrovic

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Live N Laughing, reopening night

Live N Laughing, reopening night

The new home for Brighton comedy club Live 'n' Laughing is not especially inviting: a rather grim nightclub with dodgy toilets; poor lighting and an on-stage frieze of the New York skyline, Twin Towers still intact. And, significantly on a freezing night like tonight, no heating. It’s hard to laugh heartily under four layers of thermals.

Compere Dave Mounfield, a longstanding stalwart of the local scene, may have a metaphorical warmth, but his material was unfailingly shallow. He looks like some other fat celebrities, which he’d like to tell you about, makes a Michael Barrymore reference and thinks women in burkas look like postboxes.

But most of his content now relates to the Lewes, where he now lives, and its environs. This ranges from some labyrinthinely convoluted gag about how the Domesday Book mentioned how many pigs were in one town – which is now the headquarters for Sussex Police (geddit?), or simply reading our some not-all-that-extreme views from the local internet forum sarcastically, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds.

He acknowledged a lot of this needed work, but it’s hard to see where the funny might ever lie. As an MC, he’s very good at working the audience – but he got every single comedian’s name wrong, or forgot it altogether and had to scurry away to check. Not too impressive.

The first of the generally newer comics he introduced was Martin Buckland. No, scrub that, Robin Buckland, who has a lot of quirky panache. He’s the judgmental, socially timid nerd that so many comics are these days, but he has a killer turn of phrase and plenty of withering derision, which he’ll just as easily at some poncy DJ as he will his own loneliness.

There are a couple of mis-steps, but even then he usually handles it well; with a nifty way of dealing with fumbled words and even bit of flair to the ‘I’ll tell you who I look like’ cliché’. Only his unnecessary abandoning of a promising routine about the evils of drum and bass – which he thought he’d lost because of an unplanned digression – could have been handled better.

In Alex Petkrovic we frequently glimpse an entertaining way of looking at things, but his comic voice is not yet quite distinctive or consistent enough to fully exploit that. He is more than capable of bringing up new ideas of his own, on topics such as his unemployability or the unlikely white lies his parents told him – although repeating, unembellished, witty football chants seems to be outsourcing inspiration to the terraces,

It’s a frequently amusing set, but there’s also the feeling of unrealised potential here, with writing that could do with a shade more confidence and commitment to fully explore all the comic possibilities in the territory he covers.

Martin Henley spoke about what an angry man he was, though it’s hard to buy that, given how mild and measured he was when he did so. The vast gulf between this and, say, Rhod Gilbert, who doesn’t waste time describing his fury when he can express it, is unavoidable. Henley seems too much like he is reading a neatly prepared piece about the stealth of middle-aged men still acting like youths – a familiar thesis, but one that boast some nice comic flourishes. However the performance and the attitude were rather too distant and naïve for real impact.

Norwegian Ingrid Dahle’s almost the mirror-image: an engaging oddball with innate funny, but rough around the edges in terms of her set. Her demeanour seems almost apologetic about being on stage, but the silly physical piece with which she opens, involving no more than a pair of Primark trousers, is charming proof she ought to be there. The rest of her set largely involves her foreigner status, which is hit and miss but always quirky – especially the bit about learning English from Jeremy Kyle-type shows.

Like Henley, the melancholic Laurie Rowan was probably too rehearsed, as he descriptively recalled the misery of growing up in isolated North Wales. Maybe it’s the hand of a comedy course that has fixed the performance to solidly, or maybe he’s just too new to really relax?

Still, the storytelling mode works well for this well-spoken act, as it leads him from the desperation to fit in with the bullies to a romantic ideal of how transition from childhood to adulthood would release him from his worries. Needless to say, it doesn’t quite work out like that, and his myriad disappointments are described with a lyrical wit, if only minimal oomph.

Headliner and radio presenter Max Dickins is missing something as a comic, although it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what – however useless that might sound as a critical comment. And possibly harsh, as he’s certainly a reasonable performer and in some instances shows himself a great writer, with some original lines about anything from Scotch eggs to otters, from David Guest to ideas of manliness.

Yet he also never quite builds up much momentum or much empathy, and when he does it dissipates. Perhaps it’s some of the more pedestrian routines, about rotating toilet doors on trains or casualty victims with unusual items jammed up their jacksies that dilute the effect. Or more likely that he doesn’t seem to put much of himself in the set, appearing another young, personable man with a serviceable career set: perfectly enjoyable, occasionally hilarious, yet somehow distant. But if you ran a night, you’d book him – he’d be professional pair of hands who’d get the laughs.

Friday 10th Feb, '12
Steve Bennett

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