Maureen Younger

Maureen Younger

Much-travelled Maureen Younger – who has lived in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Russia and the Ukraine – began performing comedy sketches for a French café theatre group, Meceuil Théâtre de Paris. On her return to the UK, she turned to stand-up, making the final of the 2007 Hackney Empire New Act competition. She is also an actor.
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British Comedian Of The Year 2023

Review of the final at the Comedy Store

Its £10,001 prize has previously wooed some of the circuit's biggest hitters, such as Ian Stone, Steve Gribbin, Mike Gunn and Jeff Innocent. But this year's final of the British Comedian Of The Year seemed more open, with many experienced names but no perennial headliners at the bigger clubs.

Indeed, the winner, Alistair Williams, has previously complained about being cancelled from the circuit for his contrarian views. However there was no such controversy tonight, with a punchy, apolitical greatest hits set that tore the roof of the gig so conclusively he seemed impossible to beat from the moment he stepped off stage.

He makes a few swipes at corporate bullshit and the commodification of education that means he got left with a useless degree – although he got off lightly compared to those who studied subjects overtaken by a changing society – but he makes the points lightly as he winningly mocks himself for being an idiot to be taken in by such nonsense. 

There's a great story about sneaking kids into a zoo, and he's unsentimental about why Britain's colonial past has made us no friends. He's reached the same conclusions as others about culture-shy Australians, but his working-out is original, and his payoff distinctive.

It's his bad luck that I just happened to have seen a version of a joke he did about police pulling over a car on the internet a few hours before the gig – and it seems it's been knocking around for at least a decade – but that doesn't detract much from his talents. And it's his urgent energy and compelling confidence that really make him stand out.

The final had opened with Maureen Younger, and a set built mainly on middle-aged filth. She's taken a leaf out of Jo Brand's book with complaints about men being ugly and terrible in bed, while not excluding herself from jibes about her age. 

It's not especially classy – nor is it intended to be – with many lines ending in blunt insults and unabashedly below-the-belt content, such as the lack of pubic hair these days. However, she's a frequent compere so knows how to work the audience well, earning a a hearty 'wa-hay!' for much of the battle-of-the-sexes material. The crowd-pleasing works, and she was voted third place on the night.

Next up was Jack Hester, who has a touch of the Dave Allen with his whimsical Irish storytelling building up to more recognisable gags, a trait especially noticeable in a tale about his father's funeral businesses.

There are a couple of moments which he confesses might be more interesting than funny – they are, but no bad thing – while the trial of having a camera inserted up his urethra is bread-and-butter for a comic, but he exploits it well. He's an empathetic presence who creates vivid images, and while he might not be the punchiest comic on the bill, he was one of the most engaging.

Where Hester had subtlety and grace, Jenny Hart has none, with an aggressive, in-your-face delivery from the get-go. She's a trans woman but leans very much into masculine images, joking coarsely about her cock and bollocks and trampling over any reticent liberal concerns about saying the wrong thing by saying far worse herself. 

Wielding a guitar and the sort of confrontational, pugnaciousness that calls to mind the late Ian Cognito, her songs are as stupid as they are crude, based on topics such as ordering a cut-price vagina online. Too much of this could be wearying, but her provocative, full-on personality energises the room for ten minutes.

Mike Cox is a far more traditional stand-up, with observational, conversational material about being married with kids and looking back with fond nostalgia at the days when he could go on a wild Club 18-30s holiday.

While the landscape of his comedy is familiar, he has some well-crafted lines – including a perfect illustration of how living with men is different from living with women – that are likely to resonate with his audience. Some of the set's a little more pedestrian, but there's always a focus on gags from this amiable Everyman who comes across as likeable even when his punchlines are dismissively cynical.

Meanwhile, Ben Silver was unlucky not to be placed for his smart, quirky writing. Self-deprecation is key as he describes his sexual incompetence, with lots of giggles at every awkward detail. 

He has a strong sense of logic, however misplaced, but is not so attuned to social mores – as wittily born out by the way he meticulously deconstructs the universal hand signal for 'wanker’. Throughout the set, Silver demonstrates an absurd sense of humour, whether it's in wordplay or observations. They may not be on everyone's wavelength, but is the sort of distinctive approach that could make him a few people's favourite comic, while leaving others baffled as to the appeal.

No such cultishness for Gerry K, who's unashamedly old-school in his approach with an affable, no-nonsense, upbeat Essex charm that instantly makes audiences feel in safe hands. Unfortunately, some of his material's distinctly hoary too. A gag about Joan of Arc feels about as old as the 100 Years War itself, and a couple more feel derivative, at least. 

But others are fresher, and there's no denying that the way he tells them is exemplary, holding the audience in the palm of his hand. He prefaces one bit by saying 'I miss the Eighties'… and no wonder as his infectious verve and easy confidence could have made him a mainstream star back in the day. But being a club comic you can bank on is a fine achievement in itself.

A major shift in energy as compere Ninia Benjamin welcomed Nick Everitt to the stage. Dressed in black, his jacket zipped to the neck, and with his hair slicked down in a Hitler style, he exudes the unsettling menace of a serial killer. And you don't need to take my word for it, as his creepy vibes provide the backbone for his dryly witty set.

With all the charisma and emotional depth of plywood, he needs his material to be strong, which thankfully it is. There might not be much variety to it as he talks relentlessly about his appearance and lack of success on Tinder, but he drills deep to find many unpredictable and amusing ways of describing his sinister vibe.

Finally, in psychedelic T-shirt, came Wilson Milton will some tales of growing up among the gangstas on a London council estate, affably performed but often predictable, from an '…and that was just the teachers' payoff to material about people who say 'know what I mean?' or the old wives' tale that masturbating makes you go blind.

Much of it is nicely executed, such as his chunk on not understanding the phonetic alphabet, but there's a lack of originality in what inspires the routines, which is exposed on such a strong bill as tonight's.

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Published: 30 Nov 2023

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Pretty Dirty Things

Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Maureen Younger: Free Show

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Maureen Younger: The Outsider

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Maureen Younger: Out of Sync


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