Phil Ellis Videos
Manchester Comedy Festival: Phil Ellis and Chris Stokes
Comedy festivals should be more than coordinating tours so all the big guns pass through town in the same week. So, then, to a basement sci-fi-themed bar hidden beneath one of Manchester’s main thoroughfares, where a couple of newish comics try out extended sets beneath feeble yet irritating disco lights.
The spirited Phil Ellis has more than enough likeable energy to overcome any such technical failings, as he flits around the audience with his frisky, easy banter spreading a feeling of good-humoured fun.
This half-hour routine is based on old family photographs, inviting us to laugh at Seventies fashions or how stupid he looked as a child. It’s far from ambitious, but Ellis does has the flair to make the most of this slight premise. Faded images of faces from the past are given invented back stories, as we’re invited to guess how severe their cause of death was or simply chuckle at their facial hair.
Whether there’s enough substance here to maintain a full-length show has to be questionable, but her Ellis sets such a cracking pace that you rarely have time to register how flimsy the whole idea is. His personality is more important than any jokes, as he’s got more than enough of the former to overcome weaknesses in the latter.
Chris Stokes is the polar opposite, delivering with monotonous deadpan that can test the audience’s tolerance, while hoping the material is so strong it’ll carry him.
However, like so many new comedians, he needs to stop watching quite so much Stewart Lee and explore his own voice a bit more. His dry, repetitious set-ups – especially over his detailed knowledge of the Titanic – is a near carbon-copy of Lee’s style, but the writing is, understandably, less assured.
When he does allow a little of his own personality to peek out from behind that mask of aloofness, he’s certainly more entertaining – and the routine about sharing his name with a child molester is nicely done. There are other inventive punchlines in the set, but he’s in danger of boring the audience between them.