The Gingerbeard House at Galway Comedy Carnival | Gig review by Steve Bennett

The Gingerbeard House at Galway Comedy Carnival

Gig review by Steve Bennett

The Gingerbeard House is a regular night in Galway, normally half-stand-up, half-music. However this week even the second half was given a comic spin in honour of the ongoing Vodafone Comedy Carnival.

It’s compered by the man who will – to me –  always be known as ‘the other Steve Bennett’, who’s as warm and generous as you would want from a host. There are a couple of things he does that he probably oughtn’t – not least picking up a ukulele and pointing out he’s not a giant with a guitar and perhaps focussing just a little bit too much on lines about what he looks like – but he has an easy, impish to-and-fro with this international audience and builds a welcoming atmosphere. And with his own material he offered an entertaining twist on that old staple of a stalker-like love long.

Opening act Martin Angolo is an old-fashioned sort of a comic; with well-flagged jokes and a cheesy delivery. He knowns it too, but there’s an apologetic self-consciousness to the way he mocks his creative limitations that might thwart his ambitions to be the next Tim Vine. He doesn’t embrace his ‘dad gag’ material, and every illustrative action seems mechanical, which is intentionally self-effacing but also serves to undermine the punchlines rather than embellish them.

Edwin Sammon was the find of the night, taking familiar starting points and spinning them out into fantastical extremes, but with a conviction and likeability that means he takes the audience with him. Although these are flights of fantasy, deploying some perfectly described imagery, there’s usually a cynicism, or at least sarcasm, at the heart of his strongly-delivered material, which should offer something for everyone.

Then a less exceptional set from Donal Vaughan who starts with a barrage of fat jokes – though none in the league of the late John Pinnette. ‘I’m morbidly obese,’ he says. ‘But to Americans I’m bulimic,’ An obvious gag that nonetheless gets an applause break. That’s followed by the revelation that he’s gay. Not that many people care about that any more, but it leads to an extended riff in which he takes every homosexual stereotype and reverses it back onto the straights. It’s a middling idea, and Vaughan doesn’t build on it, instead offering seemly endless variations on the increasingly laboured theme, driving it into the ground. Outside of this there are a few good gags, but lost in an expanse of mediocrity.

The musical second half began with The Shape Of A Sandwich. And if you think the name is strange, wait till you see it. Normally a double act, tonight it was just one bloke called James, who plucked discordant, sinister chords to add atmosphere to his dark, nightmarish musings – occasionally putting his voice through an effects pedal to add every more creepiness. He’s got some strong outsider lines, too, even if they are spaced a little far apart. He focuses on the disconcerting atmosphere more than the laughs, but they are present, and he has an intriguing, original shtick that promises more.

Aidan Strangeman, who won the So You Think You’re Funny talent hunt at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, closed the show with a more traditional guitar-based act. Perhaps a little too traditional in the song about unwanted erections, which didn’t offer many twists. But other tracks are a lot more creative – with wry lyrics as enjoyable as the upbeat, catchy choruses that sent the crowd into the night in excellent spirits.

Review date: 23 Oct 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Galway Roisin Dubh

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