© Steve Ullathorne
Joanna Neary studied visual and performing arts degree at Brighton University, where she wrote plays and peformed her first character-based comedy. show. When she graduated, she bcame a nanny, while continuing to write and perform 'little comedy plays’. In 2004, she made her Edinburgh debut, where she was nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer award. She has made several appearances on TV, including the Armando Iannucci show Time Trumpet, and is probably best known as Judith in the Johnny Vegas sitcom Ideal.
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An Ideal Night Out
A little over 24 hours after explaining why he was no longer doing stand-up, Johnny Vegas was back in the same Leicester venue doing, what to most observers, would have looked pretty much like stand-up.
True, in hosting a night of comedy themed around the axed BBC Three sitcom Ideal, he has curbed the self-loathing rage that made him such a mesmerising, if messy, comedian at his unassailable peak. He confessed to still having ‘waves of anger trying to get out’, but these days he’s learned to control them.
If you didn’t know what he was capable of in his previous form, you would have credited this as a fine example of the compere’s craft – a fluid, spontaneous dialogue with the audience that created unique moments of magic. The living cliche that was the drama student, a fey middle-class curate’s son in hippy garb, provided most laughs at his expense, but not all were easy ones, as Vegas’s fertile mind makes leaps and connections that are beyond the obvious.
Yet he also knows when to hold back... this wasn’t the manic Johnny Vegas Show with the other comics as an afterthought; he managed the energy of the supportive room well, allowing every other act to shine.
He was less fastidious about timekeeping though, and the scheduled end time whizzed past, so the demands of the last train home means I can’t report on the stand-up stylings of Ben Crompton (aka Colin, to Ideal fans) or the promised ‘live dubbing’ of an episode of the show. Nor can I tell you about creator Graham Duff, due to appear but medically absent by abscess.
Opening act was Mick Miller, enjoying a much-deserved career revival since being cast as the father of Vegas’s Moz. The alternative comedy pogrom cast all old-school club comics into the cultural wilderness, but Miller proves there was plenty of talent on that circuit along with the dross, and that we shouldn’t write off a whole generation. His gag rate is enviable, and while the format might be traditional he imposes his own personality – and writing – on to it. His drunk Noddy story is a classic comedy performance, but all the gags have perfect rhythm, and there’s a real twinkle to his delivery as well as a commitment to the punchline that some more anecdotal comedians would do well to emulate.
Character comedy stalwart Peter Slater – Christian-turned-killer Alan in the show – found Miller hard to follow, and acknowledged the fact, as he donned the guise of ‘king of entertainment’ Bernard Bananas. Because Vegas already so completely inhabits the persona of the shabby wreck beneath the showbiz glitz, Slater’s brand of anti-comedy struggled to emerge from that sizable shadow. We’ve seen bad jokes, bad magic and bad guitar playing as devices so often, he didn’t offer enough of a distinctive take. But when he started bantering with the particularly perspiry punter he’d volunteered, the spontaneity of the encounter proved a lot more fruitful.
After a break full of photographs and autographs for the fans, Vegas introduced Joanna Neary for a couple of one-woman sketches, which went down a storm. Her ultra-nervous presenter giving a talk about sex toys might hit a few familiar areas, but the skillful delivery makes it zing; while her stand-up routine skewers the cliches of the ‘I know what you’re thinking...’ brigade with an astute knowingness.
Overall, this is a great premise for a comedy night, given the number of strong stand-ups employed on the series who could do with a profile lift. And it delivers for the audience too: an Ideal night out is not just a punning title; it contains a truth, too.
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