Comedy Central at Highlight preview show

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Oh god, there’s a midget dressed as a bloody elf here. That’s the first impression of the show launching Comedy Central’s sponsorship of Christmas nights out at the Highlight clubs, not doing much with the Santa’s little helper gimmick to dispel the chain’s rather unclassy image.

The TV channel, on the other hand, has always had more of a split profile – home to much-lauded gems such as 30 Rock, South Park and Frasier but also the likes of Two And A Half Men and Mike and Molly (it’s funny ’cos they’re fat). However you can understand the marketing appeal of this tie-up to a broadcaster trying to boost its links to comedy. (It’ll probably work better than the current poster campaign, a bleak affair where the biggest words on the billboard are ‘depressing’ and ‘lonely’).

Highlight’s reputation, however, is rooted in it being a magnet for stag, hen and office parties who demand coarse gags; rooms only playable by alpha-comics who’ve developed impenetrable crowd-control techniques at the expense of subtlety. There’s certainly some truth in that, but it’s only half the story. as the best comedians can handle troublesome rooms without plunging straight towards appeasing the lowest common denominator.

Ian Stone, compering tonight, is one such performer, playing with obvious stereotypes about his Jewish nose or German efficiency, but creating smart, unpredictable jokes on the subjects. There’s no dumbing-down, but an assumption people know broadly what’s in the news, such as the much-vaunted Australian ‘points system’ for immigration, which is given a deft punchline. He has the authority over the room, too, with some quick-witted banter not getting quite the reaction it deserved, but certainly earning him kudos amid this specially-invited audience.

He also ploughed through the almost untenable position of entertaining an uninterested crowd between the two acts, when an interval was clearly called for. Instead he absorbed the hubbub of drinks orders and toilet breaks with good humour, settling the room as quickly as he could.

Opening the night, Kerry Godliman exuded a similar unshakeable confidence, with an unpretentious charm and easy likeability. Her persona is that of the feckless mother, with a grudgingly sarcastic approach to life. There’s a slight tendency to head below the belt for a punchline, especially early in the routine, before she’s established herself. Plus her set piece about applying small-print advert disclaimers to everyday situations is an old idea.

But her tired grouchiness is an appealing persona in which to wrap he astute observations, while she gets to push a few provocative buttons for both genders with her playful comments about women’s emotional over-reactions and hysterical Bridezillas. It makes for a winning act, despite the occasion transgressions.

Rudi Lickwood is the other way around, with a set full of easy jokes with the occasional hint of something more interesting. Perhaps he’s learnt that he doesn’t have to try particularly hard, as simply saying ‘Lidl food is shit,’ draws a laugh – so why bust a gut with anything deeper.

So we get the boring, hack line about suicide bombers and the 72 virgins they are promised, quips about the budget airline that should probably be rechristened EasyJoke given how often comics turn to it, the strikingly unoriginal observation that ‘Prince Charles married a horse’ and even the old joke about ‘If I could put my head between my knees…’ all done with but with little flair.

There’s so much more he could do. The idea that he suddenly found out he had a 28-year-old daughter when the Child Support Agency caught up with him is full of promise, though it is reduced to a lascivious comment about ogling her mates. But his succinct take on what it really means to be British is memorably done.

He has plenty of personality and warmth; but needs stronger writing to back it up. He joked about desperately pitching to get a Comedy Central special, as if this was the States, but such overfamiliar material won’t set him far enough apart from the crowd for that.

Review date: 13 Oct 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Comedy Loft Camden

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