Cerys Nelmes

Cerys Nelmes

West Country comedian especially known for MCing gigs in the South West of England. Funny Women Finalist 2012 and Leicester Square Old Comedian Of The Year finalist 2018
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Leicester Square Theatre’s Old Comedian Of The Year 2018

Gig review by Steve Bennett

Are the old ones the best? That’s what Leicester Square Theatre’s Old Comedian Of The Year competition aims to find out… even if 35, the minimum age for entrants (the same age as Nicki Minaj, btw), might hardly be considered past it.  Certainly 84-year-old compere Lynn Ruth Miller poured scorn on some contestants’ idea of being old, as she hosted the 3pm gig with a mix of dottiness and laments over her ailing sex life.

‘Old’ is also the school that opening act Paul Merryck comes from. The Essex bloke is something of a geezer – destroying no stereotypes there –  and has plenty of showbiz patter. He called for three rounds of applause before telling a single joke and flattered the audience for being a sexy-looking bunch.  Yet although not groundbreaking, his set proves very effective, with Merryck quickly earning laughs for relatable gags about his love of drinking and breakdown of his third marriage, told with plenty of self-deprecation. From his gag-focussed delivery, you’d think that the spirit of Mike Reid is alive and well, but he’s self-aware enough to turn the focus inwards, and was probably unlucky not to be placed, given his high laugh rate.

Canadian comic Ryan Cull – the youngest on tonight’s bill – could probably learn a thing or two about punchlines from his predecessor. He spoke about Tinder, and dick pics and how he must be a feminist because he’s happy for his higher-earning fiancée to pay for things, taking delight in passing restaurant bills to her as waiters always assume he’ll be getting. He’s got a decent delivery but the material’s uninteresting and never seems to lead to big payoffs… it may be a long time until comedy’s paying his bills.

Cerys Nelmes doesn’t have a lot of material, either – and the mainstay of her routine involved showing an embarrassing picture it was hard to see from the back of the room. The rest was being the parent of a 20-year-old and flashing her granny pants. But she more than compensates wit great audience interaction skills. She’s most often a compere, and even in competition mode she dipped straight into the crowd for some comically inappropriate flirting and spreading good spirits. Just what you want from an MC, even if it’s a little slight for a set.

Terence Frisby is no stranger to comedy, although he’s not known as a stand-up. He never mentioned it on stage, but he wrote the 1970 Peter Sellers film There's A Girl in My Soup, as well as a handful of other largely forgotten stage plays and sitcoms. He’s also the father of comic Dominic Frisby. Enough background; this afternoon he cuts a dapper figure in his mustard blazer – and proves to be a raconteur as elegant as his dress sense. Not that he’s above a knob joke or sharing the ignominy of a prostate exam in graphic detail, but his routines about ageing have extra impact because he projects so much dignity, which gets lost in the daily humiliations he so amusingly recalls.

Stylophobia is a cheerfully shit act, and deliberately so. A daft eccentric, he takes to the stage with props including a mini-amp connected to a stylophone, setting up the stage shambolically before announcing his intention to recreate a music full festival with only his £20 synthesiser. In effect, that means rewriting The Who’s My Generation as Stylophone Nation and performing it with all rock-and-roll trappings removed. Funnier yet is his attempt to recreate Jimi Hendrix’s distorted protest version of the Star-Spangled Banner, this white middle-aged bloke in shirt and tie trying to recapture the primal anger of dispossessed black youth at the height of the civil rights movement with a tiny stylus. This is fun few minutes of deliberate enthusiasm-over-talent anti-comedy, all the more entertaining given it’s unlikely to ever be a career.

Jules Oliver took third place with her routine partly based on having a do-what-she-likes child-free life – which by necessity leads on to material about hangovers, even though she should be old enough to know better. But the standout part of her set involved some dotty emails sent from her father. If they’re genuine, he deserves a share of her prize for being an unwitting comedy genius, providing so much insane and brilliantly unique material. If they’re made up, Oliver has a very fertile and eccentric imagination indeed.

Crazy name, crazy act: Oh Standfast (Graham Goddard to his mum) is a genuine alternative comedian, or avant-garde performance artist, it’s not quite clear which. As he says. if you laugh, it’s comedy, if you don’t, it’s poetry, and if you don’t understand it, it’s art. The set is all three, involving verses written on quiches, a stuffed magpie, and a lot of shouting, among much more. It’s easy to list what he does, but impossible to explain, which is the delight of a genuinely surreal routine packed with odd ideas and delivered with noise and intensity. You’ll certainly chuckle at the madness of it all…

‘So I’m single,’ says Chantal Feduchin-Pate, uttering the comedian’s cliché after a very long routine about her periods, making very clear– as if it were not already obvious – that she’s taking a feminist stance in addressing a topic so often used to belittle female comedians. The writing’s a bit scrappy, and like any routine that depends on bodily functions of any gender, can be too heavily dependent on the graphic details, which makes for a one-note set. But there are some funny lines in this attempt to bring a still-taboo subject into the open, even if as a comedian she still feels a little rough around the edges.

Rob Deb, on the other hand, is slicker – as well he might since he’s been a comedian for 24 years, yet is still on the relatively lower reaches of the comedy circuit. He rags on his hometown of Croydon, recalls some of the dumber questions he’s heard in his day job working in a bookstore, and tells us that he’s still living with his Irish mum and Indian dad – whose mimicked accent gives Deb the one decent joke of his set. Otherwise, the writing is all just a bit too soft and bland, mildly diverting for five minutes but with little to lure you in to find out more.

Modestly-spoken Jane Hill is perhaps a little too low-key to really make an impact, too, even though she is quietly likeable and has a couple of excellent jokes that play against that image. However, there is also some more nondescript material about the downsides of ageing, in particular the spouting of facial hair, and daily domesticity that rather washes over an audience.

You could have no such passivity with the force of nature that is Ade Campe, the heavily made-up, extravagantly dressed alter-ego of Naomi Paxton who blusters on to the stage full of eccentrically dotty bonhomie. She has the air of a rambunctious working-class variety act who’s picked up a posho accent from a lifetime in the theatre, while her set is utterly scatty – the promised mashup of pop hits never even materialised – with a few actual jokes concealed beneath all the chaotic razzmatazz.  A real original and with irrepressible funny bones, Campe was a deserved winner of 2018’s Old Comedian Of The Year title.

Second place went to the evening’s final act, Colin Chadwick, for a far more conventional stand-up routine than Campe’s variety-influenced shtick. His is a set that packs in the punchlines, starting with a great gag about an alternative to bungee jumping and rarely drawing breath thereafter. The Irishman offers an off-kilter approach to everyday situations and is able to condenses his peculiar ideas into sharp punchlines, ensuring you’re never far from an inventive and witty gag. 

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Published: 4 Jun 2018


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Cerys Nelmes’ 80s Gameshow Mash-Up


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