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So You Think You’re Funny? Final

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

History will be the ultimate judge, but this did not seem like a vintage So You Think You’re Funny? final. It seems tough to say so, as these are the greenest behind the gills of all new comedians, and although plenty had a spark of something, few seemed that exciting at this early stage in their career.

It’s a tough gig, mind, the hot but metaphorically cold expanse of the Gilded Balloon’s debating hall proving a tough nut for even master rabble-rouser Jarred Christmas to crack as MC. So sympathy for Alex Kealey, having to break this tough ice in the opening slot.

This slightly posh, slightly awkward, comedian was often more wry than funny, often choosing rather easy topics such as Chat magazine headlines and doing little more than pointing out how stupid they are. He mentioned, in passing that he was brought up in Iraq, which could have provided rich comic fodder, but was thrown away here; and his premature ejaculation gags seemed routine, too. However a more political joke about the Middle East, inspired by the infinite well of Sarah Palin’s idiocy suggested he is capable of more.

Nicola Mantalios-Lovett is never going to escape comparisons with Sarah Millican – especially with this act. She has the same sweet Geordie voice, which is just coincidence, but often uses those soft tones to get away with material that might sound too rude otherwise. When she says euphemisms such as ‘rake me fairy’ for pubic topiary, she seems little more than a tribute act – although a couple of the stronger lines are funny even if, or because, they are so wrong. Though confident and appealing on stage, a battery of fat gags, and others about her being half Greek and therefore hairy, does little to make an impression.

Similarly, Scot Darren Connell, who had some energy to him, sometimes felt like a weak Frankie Boyle tribute act when he tried sick gags – although even those were better than his tiresome overuse of the clichéd ‘…and that was just my mum!’ ‘….and he’s 25 years old!’ style of pullback. A closing section involving carrier bags as props was more original with at least one genuine surprise, although Elephant Man impressions are surely long past their sell-by date.

Dayne Rathbone, here because he won the similar Raw comedy competition in Australia, was the highlight of the evening for me. He carefully arranged his stool and microphone before sitting down to read his self-penned book The Boy And His Dad. This slow start, and indeed the laugh-free first couple of pages, demonstrated a calm control of the audience, before hitting them with the first gag. The tale builds up a head of sudden non-sequiturs which genuinely surprise at every turn. A class act, to whom judges awarded second prize.

For half of his set, Andy Clark played it very safe, contributing the already over-full pool of jokes about Bear Grylls’ extreme survival tips and mocking a charity’s dog-sponsorship scheme (the dog is writing to me!) and it’s slogan ‘we never put a dog down’. However there was a great little routine on edible birdhouses – now that’s something you don’t hear every day – and his conclusion about a children’s drawing game was cute, although he milked it for too long.

After the interval, Stuart Hossack, who puts a trippy routine about a perfect world to a suitably dream-like soundtrack. Though the routine has its limits, there are some nice lines in the narrative, even if the point about this fantasy land being a totalitarian regime is made, and mocked, with a heavy hand. It is, however, a sweet and frequently funny set.

Hull girl Lucy Beaumont has that intangible ‘something’ that gives her an innately charismatic stage presence. She’s slight and vulnerable, a bit ditzy, and utterly charming, even if her material needs a lot of work. There are a few nice lines in here, although the one about a family planning clinic’s sign is an ancient one. After the event, it transpires she’s only done half a dozen gigs, which makes her beguiling presence all the more impressive. She tied for third place, which seems a fair reflection on her obvious potential.

Tommy Rowson displayed a similarly appealing poise as he delivered a dry, quirky set displaying a quintessentially Welsh sense of humour. It’s based around a quietly subversive take on the Bible, and includes some great lines about splitting up with his girlfriend. And while bashing Michael McIntyre is something of a national sport these days, Rowson sneaks in his witty jibe with guile. I’d have had him at a close second to Rathbone, but you can’t take issue with the judges’ decision to award the gold to this cool customer.

Finally Fern Brady delivered a set of two halves. This spirited Scot has a strong opening line, which she follows up with an enjoyably sarcastic take on the media coverage that followed the fox attacks last year. In the second she introduced the Clone-A-Pussy – a device that allowed her to make a perfect rubber replica of her vagina. There are a couple of good lines here, but it too often seemed simply base. In the end, she shared the third position with Beaumont.

Review date: 26 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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