Comic Voice Management Showcase

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Not so much a comedy night, this, as a talent market, as an audience of industry bookers is invited to a stylish hotel’s function room, given a programme/auction catalogue in which the comedians are listed like lots, and invited to make notes, much to the chagrin of the acts. It’s a tough crowd, but agency Comic Voice Management clearly think it a worthwhile endeavour to secure more work for their clients.

Compere Rudi Lickwood identifies such industry types as a bingo operator, a Cartoon Network employee and, of course, Chortle, in his warm-up banter. Numbers are made up with some friends of the comics, ensuring at least some of the audience isn’t sitting in judgment.

Lickwood’s patter before the first half is notably unadventurous – and he knows it. After concluding one routine with the universal get-out ‘...and so I stabbed him’ he turns to me with the explanation: ‘I know it’s an old joke, but it’s a good one.’ But is it, though?

Quips about people taking cruises ‘just before they go to Eastbourne to die’, Camilla Parker-Bowles looking like a horse, or the inappropriate response to the perennial cry, ‘Does this skirt make my bum look big?’further ensure that the boat of creativity is never in danger of being pushed out.

He has some better stuff, though we have to wait for the second half for it. Bad parenting is becoming a staple among comics of a certain age, but Lickwood does it well, while his witty take on what it means to be British is a stand-out moment –but he seems to be a little too happy to rest on his laurels as a confidently affable presence, rather than trying to find more interesting material where the good stuff came from.

I don’t know what the lady from the Cartoon Network thought of Simon Feilder, but has the look and manner that TV producers immediately turn to if they want to appeal to ‘da’ youth. Fresh-faced, lively and unthreateningly quirky – even wearing a cutesy T-shirt with a rainbow on it – he’s a clean-cut, charismatic figure.

His upbeat set is enjoyable, too, comprising relatively formulaic observations but with enough of a distinctive twist and liguistic flourishesto make them his own. It’s unashamedly feelgood, but achieves that aim with apparent ease.

For one of the more experienced names on the bill, John Ryan delivered a surprisingly pedestrian set, revolving around the two betes noires of self-service supermarket checkouts and the tribulations of having teenage kids. Straightforward observational stuff, he didn’t go the extra mile to find strong comic lines that would elevate this beyond a middle-aged man having a mildly amusing whinge.

And openly soliciting a good reaction by telling the audience: ‘I expected a round of applause for that’ is certainly unbecoming, especially when they line registered merely a titter, let along a spontaneous outpouring of approval.

The animated Imran Yusuf seems to be losing his unfortunate habit of delivering with a forced and rehearsed theatricality, and allowing a more fluid physicality to shine through. He talks not only with his hands but his entire, wiry body which certainly breathes life into his material.

Some of it needs all the help it can get, though. Anecdotes have a tendency to be woolly and convoluted, with no clear path as to what he’s saying, or what the ultimate punchline is. But he gets giggles along the way, and his conviction in his own material is so overpowering , that the audience instinctively believe in it too. When he can focus his writing to match that, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

But do spare us the heartfelt sincerity bit about looking beyond race and religion e to love each other unconditionally. Such Jerry Springer moments jar in emotionally subdued Britain.

Supercilious Paul Pirie, pictured, was the stand-out star of the night; a Frankie Boyle you could actually book. He shares the tabloid whipping boy’s uncompromising Scottish bluntness, but while the put-downs he describes are hilariously brutal, they steer clear of outright unpleasantness.

Silly little jokes soften the blow, and he’s got some impressive, offbeat one-liners to keep the gag rate high. The intolerant grumpiness is thus combined with impressive efficiency, and the result is a definite hit.

Next up, Gerry K with the most unintentionally funny moment.

‘Anyone here been skiing,’ he asked the crowd.

‘Yes!’ comes back the cry.

‘Did you see any black people there?’

‘Yes!’ again.

Then he ploughs irregardless into his routine about how black people never go skiing, with nary an acknowledgment of what just happened. Never let first-hand evidence get in the way of a hacky routine about how black folk and white folk are different, that’s his motto.

That’s mixed in with some bog-standard ‘dyslexic’ jokes about getting words jumbled, plenty of by-the-book pull-back-to-reveal gags plus a raft of blatantly unoriginal jokes about stealing flowers from accident blackspots, prejudice against ginger people or mocking the admittedly trite lyrics from Do They Know It’s Christmas, only 26 years and a hundred other dull comedians too late. Uninspiring stuff.

Finally, five-ma n improv group The Noise Next Door, in identical black shirts, distinguished only by their bright single-colour ties. Their first task was to make up a song based around two audience suggestions fused together– in this case ‘life insurance for badgers’ – and an impressive job they make of it too, generating seamless, rhyming lyrics that fit the jaunty tune.

A more traditional ‘Whose Line…’ style game proved much more flat, and while seeing improvisers struggle is part of the fun, they never managed to turn their ad-libbed story of space travel into anything more mirthful, and the minutes dragged. Another song to end left no doubt as to where their talent really lie.

But as for what the industry ‘buyers’ thought of it all, only their chequebooks will tell.

Review date: 14 Jun 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Bermondsey Square Hotel

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