Finalist in the 2010 Chortle Student Comedy Award
Emerald Paston Videos
Chortle Student Comedy Award Final 2010
Maybe it’s because the standard at the top end of the new act spectrum is rising, or maybe it’s because the addition of semi-finals this year made the barrier for entry higher, but the standard of the 2010 Chortle Student Comedy Awards was the most consistently high yet.
I know that is exactly the sort of cliché producers of such competitions always come out with, but this is a review of the performers, not the process, so hopefully you can trust our impartiality. In any case, the show started late and over-ran terribly – so just two stars for organisational skills.
People’s Choice finalist Matt Richardson kicked the night off in lively style, full of verve and energy and with a fine opening line about how Edinburgh straddled the line between rough and posh. A couple of similarly quirky asides brought sparkle to his act, although other sections – notably about Facebook – were more middle-of-the-road, although undeniably well-told.
Ed Patrick was more deadpan, but not lifeless, and displayed some masterful, often playfully provocative writing that took the audience in directions they didn’t expect. There were a couple of mis-steps, but equally a couple of genius lines, in an assured set from a young comic with an inventive mind.
Judging by the deafening applause that greeted him Phil Wang had plenty of fans in the crowd. And, I’ll wager, he had several more by the end of his short set. Cheekily subverting the traditional stand-up opening of saying who resembles, he moved on to mocking the epidemic spread of the LOL acronym with a series of deliciously dry examples he’s invented. And while ukuleles are becoming near-ubiquitous props on the comedy circuit, he used his sparingly and to good effect. A strong all-round set, which managed to vary the style while keeping the cleverly dismissive lines coming, Wang was a popular winner.
Slightly eccentric Scottish act Matthew Winning has some fine and distinctive one-liners in his set, with strange points of reference and clever exposition. As a slightly obtuse routine, it requires the audience to find his wavelength, and they didn’t quite do so tonight – but the running Robert Mugabe joke, a nicely subversive ‘How many bankers does it take to change a light bulb?’ routine and a strong opener about a decapitated chicken all point to an inventive writer.
Finally in the first half, the apparently delicate singer-songwriter Emerald Paston, whose immature lyrics are at odds with the sweet guitar strumming. Choose Me, Not Her, especially, is a deliciously barbed way of trying to undermine a love rival. This is the sort of act that will have you gently chuckling than belly-laughing, but it’s rich, well-executed stuff.
The dry conversational wit of Ian Smith opened part two, with some nice lines and a new take on the Michael Barrymore scandal. The pictures and cuttings he showed us were ill-suited to such a large room, and the second half of his set, about school photos, didn’t quite engage as he would have hoped. Yet he’s a smart operator with an appealing manner and can expect a fruitful comedy career ahead.
Talking of not quite connecting, Nicholas Cooke’s misanthropic misery set struggled to hit a cord with the audience. There is something distinctive and strangely appealing about his irrational distain for humanity in general and his flatmates specifically – but the delivery here felt sluggish and with not quite enough solid punchlines to persuade listeners to stick with him.
Matt Rees was by far the most inexperienced contestant on tonight, and his nerves were obvious as he tried to reach through his anxiety to find the material. It makes him likeably vulnerable, and when he became almost fatally tongue-tied though his own uncertainty, the sympathetic audience audibly buoyed his spirits. But it wasn’t sympathy that secured him the runners-up place but his strong writing, with several memorable phrases made all the stronger by being delivered by such an unlikely messenger.
Finally otter-sponsor Max Dickens, who has a potent mix of material spanning smart one-liners and witty observations, from his friends who misunderstand double entendres, the racism of Mr Blobby and the magazine he gets from supporting those semi-aquatic fish-eating mammals. There are a couple of minor niggles – the ‘wink’ routine he has is rather similar to a Demetri Martin one, for instance – but another strong performer on a night that was rife with them.
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