Fergus Craig Is Still Having A Bash At The Old Comedy

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Were I feeling lazy, I could surely compile this review entirely from comments Fergus Craig made about his own show.

He notes that the hour lacks structure, that people normally come away with the opinion that he’s a likeable guy, frets that a joke he’s got is too similar to one of Tim Vine’s, and concerned that he hasn’t got the stand-up skills to negotiate some morally tricky material about race he wants to get off his chest.

All of these things are true.

But mainly he repeatedly makes reference to how small this audience is and how uncomfortable everything feels in this intimate hotel function room. That, too, is true, but only because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly mentioning the awkwardness is no way to cure it – as the 30 or so audience members who came in search of laughs probably wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss, had he not brought it up.

One more thing Craig told us was the Leicester Comedy Festival, situated as it is precisely halfway between successive Edinburgh Fringes, is an odd event. Half the comedians revive last year’s shows, and half perform work-in-progress ones in early preparation for this August, a fact which could easily leave the people of Leicester feeling short-changed. I’ve certainly lost count of the number of festival shows I’ve been told are not fit for review, even though there’s nothing in the programme to suggest they are under-developed.

Craig didn’t mind the scrutiny, even though part of this nicely-titled show was mix of work-in-progress routines and more proven ones. He’s not Edinburgh-bound this August, so this was just an anthology of unrelated thoughts and fragments – and, despite his fears, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Of more concern is the fact that that the quality is so vary varied, and that his lack of faith in the gig means it was inexorably doomed to mediocrity.

His opening routines on accents seemed very pedestrian – apparently Glasgow and Northern Ireland are scary – although this showcased his vocal dexterity and culminated in a nice, wry payoff. Eventually.

Similarly a routine about the over-deferential coverage of the Queen in this jubilee year came to a pleasing conclusion, but after a lot of vague opinionating which could have been expressed in a sentence or two.

Reading extracts from badly-written celebrity autobiographies is an established comedy trope now – thanks, Robin Ince – and Craig showed Paul Gascoigne’s unpleasantly cruel side in a couple of well-chosen paragraphs. Though funny, you can’t help feeling, as he (inevitably) pointed out when he played us a terrible yet graphic rap song that he is just sharing things he’s found.

Less amusing was a flat anecdote about a Scottish entertainer of the year awards bash that lost its way, while that Vine-esque gag – about one in five people being Chinese – is simply too old and too obvious to be worth clinging on to.

Yet there’s a couple of more quirky jokes too, and that ‘nice guy’ impression he gives off is very forgiving, so the show pootles along in an affably low-key way, even when little comedy gold is being spun. But it’s critically short on confidence.

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Published: 13 Feb 2012

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