FHM Search For A Stand-Up Hero

Review by Steve Bennett

For the final of one of the most valuable competitions in comedy – its £5,000 top prize topped only by the Edinburgh Comedy Awards – the audience for FHM’s Search For A Stand-Up Hero contest seemed sluggish and hard to impress.

Though, to be honest, the finalists also frequently did little to impress, with a largely underwhelming line-up that often felt like a normal new act gig simply elevated to the Jongleurs Camden stage, rather than a prestigious showcase of the best new comedy talent. Even the presence of Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy – pretty much royalty for FHM readers – couldn’t bring a sense of occasion.

Opening act Tim Bradbury can beatbox a bit, but there’s very little comedy to be found in his bland set, which largely involved complaining about his being ginger in a camp scally whine. Presumably he brought some much-needed energy to a moribund heat to win his place in the final, but once here he seemed overwhelmed by nervousness, garbling a few set-ups and hoping to rely on whinges rather than jokes.

Kevin Shevlin showed some genuine promise in his distinctive writing, though his performance skills are still very underdeveloped. He paints a convincing picture of an unemployed drop-out, unconcerned with engaging with the rest of the human race (including the audience) and useless with women.

There’s an enjoyably lethargic misanthropy to his work – a touch of Dylan Moran, perhaps – although his downbeat delivery is something of a turn-off. But enough sharply offbeat lines shine through to keep it interesting, and his closing routine in which he bleakly describes in morbid detail a descent into lonely old-age is very bold, getting laughs from the unremittingly depressing image he creates rather than anything funny. The lad’s definitely got something on which to build, and he deserved his second placing.

Australian Richard Brophy, with five years’ experience under his belt, went through the motions of stand-up, but his slickly performed, but rather unchallenging, material largely failed to strike a chord with the audience. There are some succinctly witty one-liners in his observational material, but for the most part the attitude and the subject matter is too uninspiring.

He tried to be quirkier with a routine about palindromes that’s similar to a gag his compatriot – and actual palindrome – Hannah Gadsby does; while he capped his set with a muddled routine about tapping out Morse code during oral sex that was incredibly slow in the telling, and in the inevitable miming of the activity, with no benefit from the reduced pace.

Marlon Davis (pictured) burst on to the stage like a breath of fresh air, with impish grin, boyish enthusiasm and an effortlessly open, confident style that instantly won him friends in the audience.

His material is developing to match his presence, too, ditching the derivative Def Comedy Jam-inspired rabble-rousing with which he started on the circuit in favour of a well-observed routine about the different lifestyles of his separated mother and father. There’s a loosely topical angle to some of his material, with routines about how Barack Obama has changed attitudes to race, or BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, but it’s light and mischievous, rather than working to any agenda. His short set is solidly constructed, too, with a nice line in running gags, but most of all, he comes across as an engaging, naturally funny young man – reason enough for him to walk off with that handsome first prize.

After an interval, Stuart Black’s set struggled to take flight, though he has some interesting ideas and the occasional delightful – or otherwise – turn of phrase. His description of a haemorrhoid in his routine about Embarrassing Bodies will sear itself into your memory.

The matter-of-fact delivery eschews the hard sell, but also means he can struggle to demand attention, especially in the sections that are less assured, such as his discussion of his ill-fated attempts to spice up his sex life… a routine which ended in a Chewbacca impression that seems rather passé these days.

Richard Bowen’s selection of punny one-liners – delivered with the unforgiving deadpan many an unconfident newcomer adopts – are decidedly hit and miss, even over a relatively short routine. There are a small handful of top-notch puns, including one very impressive callback joke, but diluted with an awful lot of filler and the odd over-complicated routine. He also has to learn to leave some of the gags to the audience’s imagination – several times he redundantly added a punchline to a joke everyone had already got; deadening the impact.

Bold and brash Scotsman Barry McDonald looked and sounded mightily impressive. But then he got into his material, and that notion was soon dispelled. His strongest joke is an ancient heckle put-down, rejigged as if it happened to him, which he tagged with an even old one – ‘don’t you hate it when your dad comes to a gig’.

Elsewhere, he makes obvious observation about the unhealthy food supplied by Greggs the bakers, gets bogged down in an overlong discussion about a phrase he overheard in the street, then does a clichéd gag about those sultry Marks and Spencer adverts being re-voiced by a typical Glaswegian bloke.

There’s very little new here, which is such a shame as he’s an imposing stage presence with a strong delivery. If he ever does write some decent material, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Last up, Olawale Gbaja-Biamila, who sensibly goes by the name of Ola The Comedian,is a vibrant, likeable performer who refreshingly encapsulates a young, urban spirit.

His material, unfortunately, is largely superficial – bitching about fat people in KFC, pouring scorn on a woman he saw with six toes (which seems more than a little unkind), and revealing how he exaggerated his British accent while in New York to please the ladies – but he has an infectiously playful spirit that’s very forgiving. Ola is the sort of enthusiastic, charismatic act likely to be plucked from the circuit by TV producers seeking a presenter to appeal to a youthful demographic; though for the sake of his comedy career he should stick at the circuit to develop his material beyond the fun but lightweight which he currently peddles and into the more powerful. Third was a fair place for him on the night.

Published: 24 Nov 2009

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.