Leicester Mercury Comedian Of The Year 2016 | Review by Marissa Burgess

Leicester Mercury Comedian Of The Year 2016

Review by Marissa Burgess

The penultimate night of Leicester's three-week comedy love-in means it's time for the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year, the traditional beginning of the end of the city's comedy festival. Once again it's sold out, but then punters know there's going to be talent here as all the contenders have been selected by promoters from around the country.

Introduced by compere Andrew Ryan, who tonight was on fine form, Rob Mulholland had drawn the short straw to be up first. It's a tricky position but he attacked it gamely and was rewarded with third place. Beginning with more conventional opening material about his gangly appearance (he's 6ft 7in) the latter half of his time was spent on a brilliant joke about adopting a cat that has a pay off that's well worth the wait, as well as the uncharitable comments about an elderly feline.

Many comedians from outside the UK lean on the cultural differences for comedic effect but Japan's Yuriko Kotani takes it a step further. The winner of last year's BBC New Comedy Award has a deadpan, slightly bemused, stage persona through which she ponders the lack of punctuality in British culture and our love of vague timings. Kotani plays up the quirkiness to great effect portraying a picture of herself as confused between two cultures, a stranger who has taken to talking to posters on public transport. It was a shame not to see her placed but it's clear she'll go far.

Ed Patrick has been performing stand-up for a while but he's also been plenty busy in his other life as a hospital doctor. It's a timely set, allowing for a few jibes at Jeremy Hunt and the threat he poses to the NHS. Patrick's point of view allows a freshness to familiar routines – his confessed fear of conducting a rectal examination offers the other side to comedians talking about the intimate medical examinations carried out them. Elsewhere he turns his back on the audience and sits down to deliver the remaining section of a routine, it's a brave move in a competition but works to great effect.

Nigel Ng has already been a finalist in the Leicester Square Theatre New Comedian of the Year and Laughing Horse New Act of the Year last year, and the confidence that delivers him to these finals clearly shows. He's from Malaysia originally, having lived in America for a while before moving here. It allows for some pleasing fish-out-of-water observations about finding his place in society, or not, in both the US and UK. He rounds off the set with some nicely cheeky material about marriage.

Into the second half and George Lewis is a master of the pullback and reveal, the pinnacle of which being his James Blunt punchline. It's a clever and tightly penned routine that won him runner-up status. His cheerful expression and almost naive eagerness belies a set that sometimes takes a moment to think about, especially if you've had a few beers. It's well worth it, his is a finely crafted set punctuated by some school poetry as well as an unlikely rap.

Twanya Mayne is apparently sometimes referred to as a the black female Jack Dee, and it's easy to see why. She has a lovely downbeat delivery making her tales of disappointing birthdays and crap holidays all the more amusing. Sections of her routine are close to the bone; a disgruntled complaint letter to the Moroccan tourist board has the potential for white middle class discomfort but it's deftly undercut with knowing asides and rolled eyes at the naively ridiculous alternative names she is called. Another act we'll be seeing more of surely.

Our winner Tom Lucy has obvious star quality. Still a teenager he's already supported well-known acts on tour and you can see why. The old man's head on young shoulders displays a self-awareness beyond his years – as well as a medical condition more commonly found in the middle-aged, as he dryly bemoans all the sex he's not having and his Mum's amusing confusion between a terrorist group and a shopping website.

His is a turn of phrase and pacing that is similar to seeing an early Alan Carr – and we all know what happened to him.

Final competitor Travis Jay stormed into his set with confidence, gleefully playing around with black stereotypes. It has great potential but unfortunately some punchlines fall unexpectedly flat. However he ends the set with a nice gag about a black man's directions that goes some way to making up for it.

As the judges deliberate, the night rounded off in traditional fashion, with a set from last year's winner Tom Little. Little displayed the unhinged offbeat qualities that won over the judges last year – and rightly so.

Review date: 21 Feb 2016
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess
Reviewed at: Leicester The Y Theatre

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