Leicester Square Comedian Of The Year 2012 Final

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The Leicester Square New Comedian Of The Year award should perhaps be renamed the Leicester Square New Anti-Comedian Of The Year for 2012, given the number of awkward, deadpan acts who seemed too embarrassed to put any salesmanship into their jokes

The meek attitude is as much a pre-emptive defence mechanism  for unassertive new acts as it is down to their beatification of Stewart Lee, but it made for a low-key final last night.

Opening act Barry Ferns put distance between himself and the audience not by cold lack of enthusiasm, but by the more blatant – if smart – technique of referring to himself solely in the third person, and basing the whole set around that linguistic quirk. It made the set seem a little more like a sketch than a conversational stand-up routine, and the idea frequently looked like it was running out of steam. But just as that was happening, Ferns would add a twist to reignite the interest. It's hard to judge him as a comic on what was clearly a curiosity of a routine, but there were nice ideas at play here.

Dane Sofie Hagen said she had been busy learning things about Britain, in particular the term ‘chubby-chaser’, which she seemed particularly taken with: both the language and the concept. There followed a few wry fat jokes, solid but not game-changing, and then an antidote to all the rape gags blighting the circuit – which she slightly spoiled by over-explaining. But she’s a reasonable newish act, and took home a respectable bronze on the night.

Ryan Cull was similarly solid but unspectacular – and similarly foreign. This young Canadian has a polished technique and a pacy set that’s been honed by repetition, ensuring each emphasis and pause is ‘just so’... But what’s lacking is much personality; mocking the ironic British use of the word ‘cheeky’ for being, well, ironic, and using 50 Shades Of Grey to springboard into a routine about how men and women get their sexual stimulation seems mechanical, as if he’d written it by following a ‘how to do comedy’ book. Full marks for technique, but a C- for content.

Tired and unoriginal Quint Fontana is the laziest sort of musical comedian. A cheesy lounge singer character supposedly celebrating 30 years in the business, he not only he swaps the words of hit songs for ruder ones - making Jive Talkin’ into Cock Talkin, for example – he stretches out the gag (if, indeed, it qualifies as a gag) for a good minute, repeating it throughout the chorus. The creation – who between songs inflicts convoluted chat-up lines and grating fake laughter on his bored audience – is ill-drawn, and acts as if he’s stranger to subtly or consistency. Poor stuff.

At its core, Ed Caruana’s set is nothing out of the ordinary, with observations about him looking pale, living in a rough part of London or that some blokes don’t like going to the doctor much. But the flourishes and garnishes that surround this are wonderfully inventive, elevating his work above the norm. From his arrogant version of the comic technique of sipping water or beer during applause breaks to his lovely finale, mocking a particular aspect of awards ceremonies, there is a clever mind at play here. Had he been more consistent with that, he would surely have earned himself a place on the leaderboard.

Opening a second section that was rich with anti-comedy acts, Harriet Kemsley also offered a take on being a nice, geeky, middle-class girl living in a more ‘earthy’ working-class area of the capital. She’s very consciously a nerdy, unconfident persona, verging on character comedy with her breaking voice and knitted cardigan, but she’s also an elegant, efficient writer. Most of what she says leads to a punchline, ensuring a good flow of laughs, even if she plays things a little safe.

Phil O’Shea shuffles on, looking dishevelled in his faded Hawaiian shirt, as a preface a deliberately borderline-shambolic performance, in which he wilfully stretches ideas too far in a series of free-flowing random mutterings. It’s a charmingly hit-and-miss routine, with some segments testing the audience’s for meaningless nonsense, and others conjuring up well-drawn imagery. But at his best - including a surprisingly neat payoff to what had appeared to be a rambling, aimless final section - he offers some quirky ideas. That was enough to secure him second place.

Laurence Tuck cuts a distinctive, tweedy, greasy-haired figure on stage – but aside from a couple of valiant exceptions, his material does not stand out quite as much as he does. Anyone with such slow delivery and long pauses needs to have knockout gags that transcends the lack of presentation, but he often he hopes, unsuccessfully, to get by on mildly wry alone. The kidnap yarn on which he closes has a neat ending (eventually) and his tall tale about manipulating Excel spreadsheets is another original highlight, but it’s an inconsistent set which shows flashes of offbeat originality – but not enough.

Andy Storey plays up the professional Northerner Adrift down South, as if they’d never heard of croissants at latitudes above Milton Keynes. He mixes this with slightly camp compere-like banter – even in the tight five minutes allowed here – and mundane routines concerned with the plot points of porn films. One or two lines stand out, but it’s not a particularly memorable act, especially among tonight’s 14-strong bill.

Another deadpan comedian in a buttoned-up anorak next, in the form of Sam Ashurst, who again provided the occasional chuckle, but lent too heavily on the misapprehension that simply being weird is enough. When he announces, grandly, that he’s going to do ‘observational comedy that we’ve all experienced’, you know it’s going to be a strange, over-precise, and probably violent scenario – and so it turns out. Then we just have to wait patiently for it to end...

But that was nothing compared to the painful tedium inflicted on us by Amir Khoshsokhan, who re-lived a humdrum argument with his girlfriend, stretching the mirth-free blow-by-blow account out over his full five minutes (which felt a lot longer). There were no jokes, other than the odd callback, just a test of endurance. Such an ordeal might qualify as a comedy in-joke that could possibly work with an audience of other jaded open-spots, but that’s where it should have remained.

Dave Green will win no awards for brevity and efficiency, either. Yet another deadpan act, he probably had two of the top ten lines of the night – but little else around them, with more gags extended too long by an emotionally distant performer.

Breaking the trend was the welcome voice of Funmbi Omotayo. He may have a subdued approach next to some comedians but tonight he was a comparative firework. His set is rich with humour, often self-deprecating and frequently having tongue-in-cheek fun with ideas surrounding race. A couple of gags seem beneath him – mistaking the Olympic Torch for a giant spliff or taking football chants personally – but the fast-moving set brings along better material soon. He was one of very few comedians tonight who the promoter of a big club could have confidence in booking, and although relatively mainstream avoided being dull. It all made him the night’s clear winner.

Finally Daryl Perry was – surprise, surprise – another low energy act. He had a little more fun with the persona, with misplaced boasts and an ill-advised wardrobe, while offering a few offbeat ideas in the Welsh accent that works wonders for slightly otherworldly material. He again fell into the trap of making his routines go on for too long (his story about shagging while holding chips is covered by Simon Evans in one gag) but of all the deadpan comics tonight, he displayed more flashes of possibility than the average. But it still seems like early days for him.

Review date: 27 Nov 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.