Piccadilly Comedy Club Comedian of 2013 final

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Sneaking in between Christmas and New Year, the Piccadilly Comedy Club shows there’s no corner of the calendar now free of new act finals. And what a mixed batch this end-of-year shindig threw up: with just eight hopefuls – a more manageable number than some similar contests we could name – spanning the full range from the promising to the mundane.

The first of three thirds set the bar pretty low. Opener Nick Saunders was the best of a pretty rum trio, with a certain youthful appeal in his delivery, but his material had a very narrow vision that’s perhaps inevitable for a comic fresh out of school. But grown-up comedy audiences will want to hear more than stories about the time he said a naughty word in assembly.

Outside of that, there’s a lot of material based on obscure quirky stories he’s seen in the press – or more likely been forwarded online – which pretty much writes itself. And that’s an inherent weakness, that the laughs he gets come more from the retelling of the story than from any extra input. We’ve already got Russell Howard doing this line of comedy much better than he could, and Saunders seems like yet another comic of a kind we’ve already got a glut of. But he has a charm, and maybe once he’s lived a little, he might be more interesting to listen to.

Eleanor Procopiu was even more uninteresting, getting laughs from a comedy Nigerian accent and complaining that that the Poles are coming here and taking all the jobs. Yet she has the gall to complain that SHE is typecast as an actress because she’s from Eastern Europe. Apart from the tired stereotypes, she has a routine imagining the voice from the satnav having sex that would have been cliched at any time since the gadgets have been commonplace. ‘I sometimes get a clap after that,’ she says after that routine – shamelessly catalysing one. But it isn’t earned. This audience know hack when they hear it.

Finally Sean Brightman, who’s been in comedy a while, but here seemed to have turned up with the scantest of material. You might have though he was trying to wing it by complaining about his crap Christmas presents, commenting that his part of London is ‘a bit stabby’ or how annoying it is to have Facebook friends who constantly update you with their every move – but much of this, apparently, is his prepared set.

This isn’t even vaguely interesting conversation, and definitely doesn’t cut it as stand-up material. Anyone who spends time telling us that he’s happy as he’s recently got married and there isn’t any comedy in that – then doesn’t add any jokes as if to prove the point – clearly hasn’t thought about what he wants to convey at all.

Things took a definite turn for the better after the break, thanks to Glaswegian Larry Dean. He opens with a few cheesy double entendres and a couple of standard lines, yet sells them with an irresistible chutzpah. And the set goes up another gear when he reveals himself to be a ‘bender’ – and a homophobic one at that – which prompts a number of sharp and unexpected lines. There are a few cheap laughs from sick material, noticeably the almost obligatory child abuse joke, but overall the attitude is cheeky more than crude. And the payoff to his ‘coming out’ tale is a brilliant callback. He took the runner-up slot on the night, and could easily have taken the crown on another night.

That honour, though, went to misery-monger Sunil Patel, a skillful act who takes pride in the fact a personality test revealed him to have no empathy with his fellow men. The result is a deadpan delivery of content that ranges from the bleakly misanthropic – his description of the maturing of a relationship is a particularly depressing delight – to stories that reveal his own social awkwardness, without labouring the point. To keep the laughs coming when you have such a nihilistic view of the world can be difficult, but Patel, with his aloof demeanour, pulls it off with an outsider charm and a distinctive persona that will stand him in good stead.

Fern Brady, however, offers a much bumpier ride into the disturbed mind of the pathologically antisocial. There’s a lot of uncompromising, self-degrading filth in her act, which can be funny for its bluntness but gets wearing quickly, even if it’s coming from the clear point of view of a depressive who considers life nasty, brutish and short. The problem is she tends to bring the audience down with that relentless darkness, rather than get them to laugh in the face of the barbarity of existence. There are also some rather odd ramblings about Embarrassing Bodies, and nice PS about urban fox attacks that offers a slight relief, but ten minutes is more than enough of her coarse sarcasm.

If there’s ever a slot for a posh klutz that Miranda Hart can’t fill, they should call in Lindsay Sharman, who drew much comic capital from her well-to-do background. Even though as a struggling comic she still lives with Mum, that just offers her a better vantage point from which to observe the upper-middle classes. Her set could do with having more gags in, but she has the attitude and persona nailed – which is a blessing and a curse; she can’t do a straightforward bit about her visit to Cambodia without it sounding a bit ‘gap yah’-like, even when that’s not the point. And the corny joke she ends on, which she self-deprecatingly describes as ‘terrible’ and an ‘act of self-sabotage’ is exactly that – although it didn’t deprive her of the third place she was awarded on the night.

Finally, Dane Sofie Hagen has two strands to her act: being fat and rape. Of the first, she has some playful fun with the term ‘chubby-chaser’, which comes as a surprise and a delight to her when she first hears it. There are some nice lines in this, especially about her representing all overweight people. But, she doesn’t really know when to quit and overindulges in the subject – not that such an approach did Jo Brand any harm.

In the second part of the set she wryly and wittily comments that those who complain about rape jokes miss the point... but then gives fodder to those critics with an extended – and frankly uncomfortable – passage describing how she might want to encourage a rape. She says women sometimes find that difficult to laugh at, and I did too, which must surely be reducing the audience to a demographic you probably wouldn’t want.

Review date: 29 Dec 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Comedy Pub

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