Earl Okin hits back

Response to High On Laughter review

Having been one of the people on the bill at the High On Laughter show, I read with incredulity the review on Chortle by Steve Bennett.

Granted, Jerry Lewis's collapse at the end was certainly not the climax that we were hoping for, to put it mildly, but the rest of the show, I thought, was a triumph.

I disagree with just about everything in the review, but I will confine myself to just a few comments.

The suggestion that Boothby Graffoe of all people would have made a suitable compere for the evening, I find ridiculous. He would have made it into a sort of Boothby Graffoe and Friends show quite out of keeping with what the evening was about...a CHARITY comedy gala. Far better that his talents were used in the form that they were together with that astounding guitarist, Antonio Forcione.

Considering what was going on backstage, I thought that Steven Alan Green did particularly well in the first half, on purpose NOT accentuating his own persona, (this despite other problems backstage to distract him, apart from Jerry's health).

I personally, would have liked Steven to have done more of his own act, for, when he does, he can be superb, dangerous and certainly much much more original than many of the current crop of London-based stand-ups.

However, on THIS night, he knew that his function was that of presenter and producer and did precisely what those roles required him to do. Huw Thomas, the other presenter, is of-course THE compere supreme, as anyone who knows The King's Head Comedy Club will already be aware.

For once, we had a three-hour show of really VARIED talents, (with lots of music I'm delighted to say), aggressive, quiet, weird and surreal US and UK styles all blended and hardly any of the 'usual suspects' of Channel 4 or Off The Kerb/Avalon-managed talent that are generally involved in comedy galas.

Incidentally, the idea, that because people have a guitar in their hand, they are are too similar is especially ridiculous when considering how so alike are most stand-ups on the circuit these days. I especially enjoyed Rick Right's laconic rock-based act and I cannot imagine anything less like MY Jazz-based understated stuff. How I could possibly be described as 'sinister', by the way, I don't know...'silly' maybe. Nor did I do a parody...

Max Alexander, (a close friend of Jerry Lewis' and first to come to his aid when he collapsed), gave us all a chance to experience the older 'Las Vegas' US comedy style of the 60s and 70s, so added Variety to the mainly youngish bill.

Rick Overton is another superb and original performer from the USA with the extra skill of impersonation thrown in for free. Not only do you not need explosive energy to grab an audience's attention, but this audience didn't need it's attention grabbed anyhow. All evening I noticed particularly how well the audience adapted the wildly different styles of comedy thrown at them every 7-8 minutes. At no time in the admittedly long bill did their attention or appreciation flag.

I could continue, but your reviewer, even allowing for differences in taste, seems to have understood nothing of what happened on stage this Sunday.

Alone in the audience, he only seems to grasp only a very narrow form of stand-up comedy. Nor does he seem to comprehend what a charity gala is.
There is nothing 'pointless' about telling the audience about what the charity that everyone is supporting does. That IS the point of the whole evening.

Likewise, the few people who paid £60 for a ticket did so at least partly, knowing that this is where the money was going. The vast majority of people there, however, had £15 pounds. Considering that you pay a tenner at least to hear the usual mix of often copycat comedians at Jongleurs, I thought that the three hours of constantly changing comedy styles at The London Palladium even without Jerry Lewis making it to the stage was superb value.

I certainly know that I couldn't tear myself away from the wings because 90 per cent at least of the performers were great, despite the handicap of only having a short set each.

There was even a free extra as, unprepared, Tony V tried to cover (brilliantly, I thought) while Jerry Lewis (we hoped) could be helped back onto his feet to perform.

I'm delighted to hear that Jerry Lewis seems now to be recovering from this nasty attack. He has lung problems, by the way; it was not a heart-attack.

Significantly, despite Jerry Lewis' non-appearance, barely a handful of people wanted their money back.

The original review

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Published: 10 Sep 2002

Unhappy ending | High On Laughter review

Unhappy ending

"Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?"…


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2009

School For Scandal


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