A little bit of politics...

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Never mind their effects on the country, right-wing governments are supposed to be a boon for political comedians, giving traditionally liberal satirists something purposeful to rail against. Well, judging by this new political night in London, comedy has got some way to go to recapture the bite of the Thatcher years – although there is some grounds for hope.

However, with a headliner who sings parodies of X Factor contestants and a poet doing observational verses about family Christmases, it’s clear that Comedy Coalition hasn’t fully grasped its political remit – whether by careless booking or a deliberate ploy to combat a perceived fear that 75 minutes of political material will prove too much of a turn-off.

The night is the brainchild of Billy Hill, a reporter on BBC Parliament, who also introduced the show. Although ‘introduced’ might be too ambitious a word for his brief moments of nervous, half-formed attempts at we might assume to be jokes before hastily bringing on the comedians to a befuddled room.

Opening act Nick Revell has been around – on and off – long enough to remember the radical roots of the modern comedy scene, and relished the opportunity to get his teeth stuck into a passionate polemic. He’s clearly well informed – when he mentions such comedy staples as suicide bombers’ 72 virgins or George Bush being an idiot, it comes with enough context to avoid the obvious.

The wide-ranging set apparently comprised material he’s still working through, although the arguments were nonetheless fluid and the emphatic, heartfelt delivery exemplary. Despite his persuasive manner, some of his points of view failed to strike a cord, while other opinions need clearer jokes attached to them. But Revell is clearly an intelligent comedian with plenty to say, and the oratorial skills to say it with style.

Next up was Malcolm Head, by day assistant archivist at Kent police museum, by night a deliberately awkward performance poet. His low-key delivery and mundane inspirations have more than shades of Tim Key, albeit less stylised. Verses evoking images of Eastbourne, family festivities and dogs won him plenty of laughs, though there’s not a strongly distinctive edge to him – and certainly nothing topical – but he’s still a newcomer and seems to have a solid base on which to build.

Young Joe Wells bodes well for the future of political comedy, opening his set by stating his communist beliefs. But his set won’t scare those who fear the hardcore left, instead taking rather playful swipes at racist sloganeering and muddled homophobia. They’re fairly safe topics for a comedy crowd, and while it would be intriguing to see him pursue a more militant and heartfelt agenda, the material is nicely written. He’s a smart cookie with a few delightful turns of phrase and an engagingly affable manner… expect to hear more from him.

Next – god help us all – yet another ex-MP who misguidedly thinks ‘House of Commons funny’ bears any relation to real-world funny. After Lembit Opik’s ill-advised foray into stand-up, former Labour MP Tom Levitt treated us to an appalling cavalcade of nursery-school level jokes about parrots(!) given his career in ‘Polly-tics’. And yes, that was one of the better lines.

If the name Tom Levitt rings a (division) bell, it’s because he was embroiled in the expenses scandal, after which he had to pay back £6,000, including – most appallingly – £16.50 for a poppy wreath for Remembrance Day. Shamelessly, he’s now written an obvious, self-serving ‘play’ about the incident, making excuses for his behaviour – an extract from which the audience had to endure here before he ‘brought things up to date’ (his words) with impressions of Ken Dodd, Dick Emery and Joyce Grenfell. Two minutes’ silence please, for all the jokes that died here tonight.

Even had Levitt been any good – unlikely though that seems – is it really right that a political figure perform at a night like this? It reeks of the cosy, clubabble world of the Westminster lobby rather than provocative humour from ‘London's premier political satire team’.

Finally, Sooz Kempner proved more than up to the task of closing the show, even though she is a relatively inexperienced comic. She is, however, a talented musician with a voice that impresses in range and power. The upshot of this combination is a performer with a highly entertaining piano-driven set, even if the songs are lyrically weak. Songs about such on-trend topics as footballers’ indiscretions, Katie Price and X-Factor don’t push the comedy envelope, but are jaunty are fun. And again, no politics here.

Coalition Comedy was followed by Canal Café Theatre’s long-running Newsrevue night, which claims to be topical rather than overtly political. Even if the references are from the week’s news, the twee style is definitely from the past – as proven right from the opening song, in which three besuited characters announce in song ‘I’m Osbourne, I’m Cameron, I’m Clegg’ to the tune of Cabaret.

You’re never far from a musical number here, which does help paper over the gaping cracks in the script. The vast team of writers are lucky to have such a talented cast (Cookie Sami, David Ellis, David Persiva, and a particularly versatile Katy Withers) who perform their largely limp lines with such verve.

The show never has passion – just how angry can you be in close harmony? – but rather sticks to toothless, usually predictable sketches on the likes of The Queen getting her own Facebook page or how education cuts will hit Hogwarts.

A few scenes do stand out: depicting Ed and David Milliband as street kids going by the name ‘Dedward’ is an endearing idea, if overused, and there are a couple of one-liners of Twitter brevity that properly zing – a quickie about the Rubik’s Cube movie was particularly inspired.

But mostly ‘insipid’ would be the better adjective for a show that conjures up the chummy spirit of defunct Radio 2 show The News Huddlines more than the sharper talons of Have I Got News For You. In short, it’s old news.

Read More

Published: 23 Nov 2010

Newsrevue 2001

A mildly diverting evening that is as cosy and inoffensive…

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Newsrevue 2001

Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Newsrevue 2012

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

NewsRevue 2014

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

NewsRevue 2015


We do not currently hold contact details for Newsrevue's agent. If you are a comic or agent wanting your details to appear here, for a one-off fee of £59, email steve@chortle.co.uk.

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