Barry Ferns

Barry Ferns

Nominated for best compere at the Chortle Awards in 2014 for his work with the Angel Comedy Club in London, Barry Ferns first started as stand-up in 1995, aged 17. But then he quit stand-up to make Edinburgh Fringe sketch shows, including The Leisure Virus in 2000, Doreen the following year and This Sketch Show Belongs to Lionel Richie, which began in 2007 and became better known for its marketing ideas than its content – including Ferns legally changing his name to Lionel Richie. In August 2008, Ferns started stand-up again and in 2012 got to the final of the Leicester Square Comedian Of The Year competition.
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Barry Ferns: The Barry Experience

Review by Steve Bennett

Barry Ferns is the master of promotion. In Edinburgh it seems there are more stickers for his show – and his previous Lionel Ritchie-themed activities – than there are cobblestones; and he has made a great success of the Angel Comedy Club in London.

This might explain the extended routine about his first name which opens the show, giving him the opportunity to say ‘Barry’ more times than you would think possible, reinforcing the brand identity. He’s trying to imbue the name with special qualities that make him destined to be an idiot, even though the name doesn’t immediately appear that exceptional. But Ferns would beg to differ, and for quite a while, eventually using it a cypher for a sort of silly outsider feeling, and asks us all to release our inner Barry.

Although this is his debut solo hour, Ferns has been around the business long enough to know all the presentational tricks of the trade; and The Barry Experience can feel a little like he’s following a template of loose, affable, free-range stand-up gradually herded into a uplifting conclusion. If he once used the trick of ‘accidentally’ saying slightly the wrong thing and riffing on his ‘mistake’ for a minute or so, he used it a dozen times.

Most don’t notice that, of course, and the material is all presented with good humour and the sort of light and uplifting banter he’s acquired compering his own club. He’s a self-confessed ‘people pleaser’ and no punter is left behind as he sustains an inclusive, likeable energy over the hour. The audience is made to feel involved through call and response sections, or singing the opening theme to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air – a track that has clearly lodged in the collective consciousness of a generation. It’s not innovative crowd work, but it’s effective. Let us not forget the potency of cheap music.

Similarly, quite a bit of the material seems unambitious, although when he strides out into a more storytelling style things really come to life. The long tale of an accidental drug deal is a delight, funny, awful and with a compelling ‘what happens next?’ narrative. And the consequences of a childhood medical diagnosis is shocking, but inappropriately hilarious. In his writing, Ferns does good analogy, too.

He seems to have realised a little too late to properly incorporate it that the word ‘barry’ means ‘fantastic’ in Edinburgh slang. His show’s not at that status yet, but it’s a solid hour of feelgood stand-up; a robust base on which he can build a follow-up, hopefully deploying a bit more of the inventiveness that goes into his marketing campaigns.

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Published: 23 Aug 2014

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