Amused Moose Comedy's Hot Starlets 2000-2008 Showcase

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Tough crowd. Performing to an audience that’s full of agents, bookers, journalists and producers would be daunting enough for any comedian, let alone this batch of relative newcomers selected for the second of two showcases put together by the Amused Moose. But while such a battle-hardened bunch are unlikely to be whipped into a comedic frenzy, most of the prized a few solid laughs from their brisk six-minute sets.

‘Any teachers in?,’ first-half compere Joe Bor, asked more out of hope than expectation. Nothin. ‘Give me a cheer if you’ve got a shit job!’ Silence. Your normal compering tricks are powerless here, Mr Bor.

And ‘normal’ is probably a fair adjective for his opening set. Though his personality’s as bright as his scarlet shirt, the routine and banter is as straightforward as you can expect, based mainly on adopting street patios and sharing the sort of ‘your mum…’ insults he’s picked up in the classrooms where he taught. As the half moved on, he seemed to grow in confidence, and he judged the room and the energy levels with the skill of a much more experienced MC. But behind the likeability, the actual writing was often unexciting.

Former Chortle student winner Tom Deacon is long on likeability, too. He’s an absolute natural on stage, with his upbeat, fluid delivery of chattily observational material. He lets the absurdities of the situations he witnesses emerge naturally, rather than forcibly bolting on punchlines, making his set feel less like prepared material and more like the breathless testimony of an excitable child. With youthful energy in abundance, it’s clear to see why he’s tipped for greater things.

Steve Weiner’s frame of reference can be pretty familiar - phoning call centres or chat line – but where he wins out are the thumbnail character sketches he skilfully performs as part of these scenarios. Some of the jokes could do with punching up, but being able to conjure up something as precise as a smug couple wrestling over a cryptic crossword as effectively as he can is an undeniable talent.

Quirkily bookish Helen Arney pinned her set on three giant Top Trumps cards based around classical composers, her specialist subject given that she works at such a radio station. Sadly the premise was too contrived – and I think she knew it – but once she began, she was committed to playing it out to its conclusion despite audience indifference. There’s surely some fascinating material to be had from the bizarre lives of composers, but this gimmick wasn’t the way to do it.

Martin Hill offered a confident, slick, well-paced set about singledom, which primarily served to give him a chance to answer back at his ex’s smartarse comments on stage. The comebacks may have been delayed, but they were good. Not all the brief set was as strong as this, but he’s an engaging presence.

The same applies to Colin Owens, an effusive act beneath his scraggly hair. He started off with run-of-the-mill material reacting to signs he’d seen or headlines he’d read, before moving on an anecdote about the sliding toilet doors on modern trains, a soon-to-be-hack topic given how many comedians travel by rail. But he told it with élan, and his final embarrassing anecdote – about a Fray Bentos meat pie – is brilliant if true, even better if he made it up.

Cheekily playful Stan Stanley compered the more difficult second half, with a mischievous glint in his eye and rich vein of silliness in his description of various pranks and anecdotes. We don’t see enough of his slyly entertaining set on the circuit.

Adam Tempest’s largely unadventurous routine failed to stand out, with familiar angles on East London being ‘stabby’ or the South African accent being unsexy. He didn’t seem particularly at ease behind the microphone, and more than a couple of punchlines could be easily predicted. A couple of segments were OK, but that’s the best he could achieve.

In pink shirt and pinstripe suit, posh boy Ross Ashcroft looks and acts like a City banker who’s just sunk a tiny fraction of his massive redundancy into a comedy course. The persona comes off as smug, and the attempts at self-deprecatory references to the fact only reinforce it. He’s got immense stage presence, but doesn’t quite seem how to use it.

Ditto for Imran Yusuf, a vibrant, fast-talking young comic with an expressive face that looks like it was designed by Gerald Scarfe. His theatrical style, laced with street slang and well-choreographed poses, is energetic but fake; a poor substitute for weak material. Strip away the sackful of exaggerated accents, mugging and over-deliberate posturing and you’re left with an Asian lad who says he can always get a seat on train if he gets on with a rucksack. Yo, them is lame lines, bro - you can aks anyone, d’ya get what I’m sayin? Etc, etc…

Kooky Canadian Katherine Ryan can also feel forced, especially with the overused girly giggle at the end of every joke, which nudges the persona from quirky to irritating. She’s certainly been studying Sarah Silverman, trying to ape the trick of looking sweet and innocent while delivering the most offensive material, even if she can’t reliably hit the killer blows that her heroine achieves. Some of the gags are solid, though.

Chris McCausland headlined, being a tad more experienced than the rest of the line-up. Though blind, that forms only a tiny part of his act, which is a mostly mainstream commentary from his self-admittedly unexciting life, with a few puns doled in for good measure. The material he showcased tonight was rather hit-and-miss, but he’s a charismatic performer.

After the headliner, another act, which confused everyone. Delayed by traffic, Matt Rudge took to the stage when everyone had been expecting to head for the bar, which is never the ideal atmosphere to perform in. Rudge comes across as a thoroughly nice chap, which is marvellous, but where are the gags? There’s some amiable banter about the sweet-natured simplicity of life in his native Somerset, which very nearly avoids any predictable inbreeding jokes, some mild pondering over the booklets offering countless uses for vinegar, and a retelling of a ‘kids say the funniest thing’ moment or two. A nice conversationalist, and probably a decent enough compere, but he’s light on substance.

With Rudge, and some others, there were probably as many potential TV presenters in this line-up as there were potential comedy stars, perhaps a sign that fame-seekers are increasingly taking stand-up courses as their first step on the hope-paved road to celebrity. It means the amiably personable, with their eyes on other things, are increasingly sharing the circuit with those with a pure comic calling; so it’s no wonder this showcase reflected that.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
London, January 2009

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Published: 1 Jan 2009



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