Yankin It

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

This has to be an unusual arrangement by anyone’s standards: American comics billed as ‘the stars of tomorrow’ jet into the UK to perform not in front of the industry movers and shakers in London, Manchester or Edinburgh – but in the function room of a Leicester Indian restaurant on a quiet Tuesday night.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Pakistani-born headliner Kumail Nanjiani found a better engagement to keep in the States for the first night of Yankin It at the Leicester Comedy Festival – although he was due in for the rest of this unlikely tour of the East Midlands.

It was therefore left to the remaining trio to take up the slack, which probably explains why the affable Cameron Esposito seemed to hog the stage for way too long for a compere. She was all shiny American enthusiasm, repeatedly assuring us it was ‘great to see you guys’, although she transfixed on the one dominant and raucous crowd of work colleagues at the front, to the exclusion of everyone else.

She made a lot of the fact she was a different nationality to us, tilting at the transatlantic stereotypes, but only superficially. To British folk being American is not quite the strange and novel thing that perhaps she’d hoped. We’re not that different – except we’ll never clap to indicate we’re answering ‘yes’ to a comedian’s question, however much she exhorts us to.

She did OK, but there’s little distinctive to mark her out as anything special – a verdict that could equally easily apply to the next act, Becky Garcia.

This Californian girl began with a rather baffling bit about how she looks like the sort of person who’s rejected at the late stage of reality dating shows. Maybe she was referencing some trash TV that hasn’t made it here, but it wasn’t clear what she was on about… and it was the same when she mentioned Charles Darwin ‘you know the guy who made the Post-It note’. Huh?

Her looks seems to be an obsession, though it’s hard to understand why. There’s something quite boring about hearing a perfectly attractive woman talk about perceived flaws in her appearance. But then, when she moved on to different topics, she fell short too, with weak jokes about Ikea flat-pack or a toupee/to pay pun.

Elevated to headliner, the wiry Josh Cheney was the comic that showed most promise, thanks to some sharp-but-quirky writing and an willingness to confront the odd dynamic of the big work outing at the front.

A few silly, deprecatory gags broke the ice, and he had some especially fine material about vegans – although some of his later routines, which didn’t have that killer punch, proved too long winded: a tall tale about trying to buy the Kama Sutra especially wasn’t worth the long journey to get there.

But even if he lost his way, Cheney has a smart – and smart-arse – attitude that’s appealing. Though whether it was worth the carbon emissions to come to Leicester is another matter entirely…

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2009

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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