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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2012
So You Think You're Funny? 2012 Final
So You Think You're Funny? Final: Fringe 2012
It might have been the silver anniversary of So You Think You’re Funny? But yesterday was not a golden night.
Usually new act finals have a spark from the sense of occasion combined with the excitement of friends and family, but the atmosphere in the Gilded Balloon’s Debating Hall was cold as an Inuit’s outhouse, despite compere Jason Cook’s best efforts. And if he had difficulties, it’s little surprise that few of the inexperienced finalists managed to inject life into the sluggish room.
Opening act Glenn Moore’s pained puns certainly didn’t do the trick. He’s got some clever little one-liners, but there’s not enough personality behind them, and they need to be given some presentational pizzazz to avoid ‘dad joke’ territory.
Mentioning the gruesome Nazi origins of the band name Joy Division made the mood even more tense, but it opened up for his reading of an alleged historical textbook which contains a surprising number of references to more poppy boy bands. He performed this routine at the final of the Chortle Student Comedy Award last year, and it worked well enough then for him to be named runner-up; yet here something just didn’t gel, and it left the audience as cold as they had started the gig.
Where Moore had wordplay, Conor Neville had twinkling whimsy, but an unexciting, mild-mannered delivery that again failed to set the room alight. He started off very slowly, with half-hearted jokes about how some audiences didn’t get his parochial Irish material, but then took too long to establish why we should find him funny.
This eventually give way to some nice ideas about a Dublin panto or a few twists on the cliché that he ‘died doing what he loved’ (which could, unfortunately, have metaphorically applied to Neville tonight. This material raised wry smiles, though not breaking through into laughs, as did a quirky premise of a one-sided football match, which rather outstayed its welcome. He offered glimpses of original writing, but needs more attitude to get them over.
Next, Jonathan Pelham who, magically, managed to make a virtue of his low-impact delivery, possibly down to his lisping voice that demands focus from the audience. His self-deprecating material generates both sympathy and laughs and he nicely plays against the ‘we’ve all been there, eh lads?’ approach which clearly wouldn’t suit him. His bluntest payoff wrongfooted the audience into the strongest laugh and here – as in the Chortle student final last week – proved enough to secure the runners-up slot.
Amir Khoshsokhan describes his own comedy as ‘timid whimsy’, which is already a turn-off though not, in fact, true. Instead he takes us through a blow-by-blow account of a row with his girlfriend that takes in too much unnecessary detail, peppered with only the occasional mild punchline, while painting himself as an entirely unsympathetic figure. His break-up story was a rather sad affair that needed an explosive payoff like Pelham’s break the dullness. We’re still waiting.
Norwegian Ingrid Dahle was – for half of her set at least – the most interesting finalist on the bill, thanks to an oddball physical routine in which she twists and shapes her £5 Primark trousers into all manner of alternative garments; a uniquely funny calling-card routine that will surely become her trademark. Her spoken material was less distinctive, about her homeland being expensive and what it’s like being an outsider in Britain, but I’d have given her third place for the originality of that opening alone. Those actually charged with judging, however, didn’t agree.
In Aisling Bea we finally had an act who actually looked, sounded and acted like a fully-fledged comedian. She’s got energy and physicality that makes her lively, scattergun routine fire on all cylinders and although she’s something of an oddball, it’s couched in the reassuring terms of a confident stand-up. Exaggerated mannerisms – especially in her routine about her unlikely love of hip-hop – add extra quirkiness to her apparently country-bumpkinish persona. But she’s a sharper writer than she lets on, and there simply couldn’t have been another winner on the night.
Wayne Mazadza returned the performance energy to a slow, deliberate pace, but sadly the laughs slumped to match. His background of being a Zimbabwean transported to one of Edinburgh’s less salubrious quarters should prove rich pickings… but the emphasis is still on ‘should’. An ill-informed but inquisitive child’s question about coming from Africa could have sparked all manner of insightful material – instead we just get a stock pull-back-and-reveal. He has a nice payoff in answer to another dumb question, but needs more along those lines. Nonetheless, he was awarded joint third on the night.
There’s a lazy misogyny running through some of Nick Dixon’s act that was surely meant as irony but didn’t have the wit to overcome the more direct meaning, so alienating more than half the audience. Otherwise, his material is obvious or weak (‘I want to be a great-grandfather’ ‘But you’re not even a good one’) while his suggestion of the Nazi salute being equivalent to the third option in rock-scissors-paper has been too often done before, including on the telly, to work.
Finally, Murdo Haggs has a couple of good lines: a joke at a dumb American visiting Canada and the tale of the practical joke his housemate played on him, but he doesn’t always inject extra comic vim into the rest of his material, which is more modest, and dependent on stupid things other people have said. He has confidence on stage and isn’t without charm, but doesn’t really stand out from the open-mic bulk – although his joint third tonight will give him the edge when trying to get more of those all-important gigs that he, and the rest of tonight’s line-up, need.
|Date of live review: Friday 24th Aug, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
So to be a winner, you already have to look like a fully fledged comedian. Even though it's a new act night and you are only allowed to have been gigging since the previous September to enter. I am sure Aisling was a worthy winner, but it's a bit offputting for new acts that are a bit rawer round the edges.