Teenage Cancer Trust benefit 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Julian Hall

Comic Relief might be the most symbolic melding of laughter and charity, but it’s far from the only comedy fundraiser in the calendar.

Tonight's Teenage Cancer Trust Concert played it safe to suit the clientèle likely to be attracted to the sumptuous Royal Albert Hall, employing the talents of dependable comics such as host John Bishop.

Bishop's bankability comes double-edged, with a tendency to labour through routines such as predictable battle of the sexes set-pieces or material about sexual behaviour. The latter sees him adopt a kind of Carry On posture of mock indignation, something that seems to typify the limited range of some of his observations.

While his pacing meant Bishop was never going to whip the Albert Hall up into a frenzy, his material caused a few frissons; perhaps the most daring was his honesty about his fellow Liverpudlians and their hostile attitude to the royal family. Kevin Bridges, the first full act of the evening, went one further by suggesting that the Queen's funeral would afford her nation a longer holiday than even Kate and Will's nuptials.

Bridges was bright and bullish from the start, pointing out the upsides of obesity and depression, but the Scotsman got bogged down during a riff on American reality TV show My Super Sweet 16 that saw his focus veer in and out.

Seann Walsh, meanwhile, conducted his whole set with some aplomb and managed to draw the audience in. Familiar routines about the behaviour of London commuters with their strange ability to fall asleep on the Tube, (‘You need to know this is wrong,’ he says, a line reminiscent of Dylan Moran) were ratcheted up a notch and this coupled with his wry eye won his audience over. Walsh's momentum could, however, link his routines better – at the moment they feel accomplished but very separate from each other.

Dan Renton Skinner's Angelos Epithemiou character seemed a strange and token choice for this otherwise stand-up heavy gig. Him closing the first half in his trademark ramshackle style was befuddling without being endearingly funny, as he can sometimes be. In this context Angelos's corny jokes and goofing around to music could have benefited from a shorter slot.

James Corden kicked off the second half with a rare stand-up appearance, and it was a curiosity to see the ebullient performer in a less lairy mode than usual, as he carefully plotted a routine around the emasculating effects of the iPhone. He recalled a sequence from a Horne and Corden sketch in which he simulates sex – a haunting image, as John Bishop remarks, but one that bolsters the energy levels.

Similarly louche and self-deprecating is the fabulous Greg Davies, whose turn was the undoubted highlight of the evening. Though the tales of his eccentric family, particularly his father, are now a tried-and-tested part of his act, he always invests them with a great deal of energy and always looks happy to be wherever he is. Meanwhile, his take on growing older, as seen through the Dead or Alive song You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) and its reworking by Flo Rida, is a routine that has undergone a remix itself, and is all the better for it.

Given that he is nursing a broken foot, thanks to an embarrassing tumble, Jason Manford still proved pretty nimble; and cleverly employed his testicular cancer routine, one that was obviously appropriate for tonight’s cause. The Mancunian's even-tempered timbre is often belied by some sharp asides, for example likening Andy Gray's downfall to his own recent off-screen problems in a way is more deft than it first appears.

Despite a brief Miranda Hart cameo at the end, playing opposite James Corden's Smithy character, this was a solid evening that lacked surprises and fireworks, yet was never in danger of being a non-event.

Review date: 22 Mar 2011
Reviewed by: Julian Hall

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