An heir apparent to Tim Minchin? | Tim Harding's comedy diary

An heir apparent to Tim Minchin?

Tim Harding's comedy diary

Tim Harding's comedy diaryReviewer Tim Harding gives a rundown of the best comedy he's been watching in London this past fortnight... 

When I first got into live comedy, its transience posed a significant psychological barrier to entry. It stressed me out then – and, who am I kidding?, stresses me out to this day – that I have no way of going back and seeing, for example, the shows that won John Kearns his Edinburgh Awards, or great acts like Laura Solon who got out of the game before I got into it. 

So there’s something comforting about Gillian Cosgriff’s efforts to tie her show to a particular artefact, even if her heavy handwritten book is one of a kind, and can only be viewed by the public in the lobby after her show. 

I’ve been excited to see Actually Good since Chortle’s Steve Bennett gave it the rare, glittering five stars at Melbourne International Comedy Festival last year. It hinges on a quest to find good things; things that are Actually Good, building from the small to the significant. 

In every performance, the audience are asked as a group to submit ten good things, and our submissions are entwined with her own list, her excellent original songs, and previous suggestions given by other, wittier, crowds that are incorporated as examples into the performance.

It's a very tight little concept for a show. Reviewers have asked, how does she manage to pull it off without veering into the saccharine? Well brother, she doesn’t, but there’s no shame in creating or enjoying sweet things. Cosgriff could be an heir apparent to Tim Minchin, not just in the clever writing and songs, but also in the wide-eyed Broadway optimism thinly veiled under a layer of cynicism.

I do wish the jokes packed a little more punch, though. It’s not a show that I clicked with – my own inner cynic was mollified but I still need more bite to get me going.

Indie darling Lorna Rose Treen has recently started contributing to South London’s vibrant clowning scene with her own mixed bill night Lorndrette, a showcase for some delightful oddballs that takes place in some kind of abandoned dance studio where you have to knock on a big iron gate to be let in. Very cool; it would be giving New York industrial-chic art happening if it weren’t broad daylight and taking place in Woolwich.

There was a lot to enjoy in this flurry of very quick sets, but highlights include the charismatic Rosalie Minnitt in character as a small boy crawling from the wreckage of a failed birthday party, and a hilarious turn from double act Ada & Bron in a doomed romance as two Jim Morrison-esque rock poets. 

Pravanya Pillay was impressive as usual, one of those acts who seems to have a new tight five every time I see her, and seemingly equally at home on any bill. The very talented Lachlan Werner also debuted a compellingly strange new character – a sinister corporate hag in sunglasses obsessed with delivering bad news to her staff. As is often the case in Werner’s work, it ended with some gruesome Grand Guignol. 

There are a lot of new nights popping up in London right now, and this is up there with the most exciting.

Stretching the comedy remit slightly, New Zealand comedian and Taskmaster’s assistant Paul Williams launched his new album Summer in Salzburg at Earth in Hackney. One of the many strings to Williams’ bow is his shadow career as an indie pop star, in which capacity he creates breezy bedroom pop that brings together hip hop and The Beach Boys. His first album Surf Music is a minor cult classic, launched six years ago to a coffee shop of 30 people in Auckland. He’s come a long way. 

The launch is definitely more of a music show than a comedy show but has its own helping of cameos. Nish Kumar and Sam Campbell are the openers – with Campbell, incidentally, once again making me glad to be alive at the same time as a once-in-a-generation comedic genius; the man is turning out hysterical material at an unbelievable rate – and featured musicians Kumar on bass, James Acaster on drums and Rose Matefeo on vocals all joining for a song. 

And look, I’m decidedly not a music critic, but I love Williams’ sun-dappled sense of melody, and the new songs are sounding fantastic, although as a lyricist he is, like most stand-ups, oddly prosaic. 

He still loves to sing about sportspeople, and his songs shouting out Kylian Mbappe and Lindsay Jacob Ellis are paired with video footage of their triumphs and failures. It’s one of those gigs where you wonder what the venue security guard’s take on it would be as we watch a shy Kiwi man singing pop songs on his own on a vast stage, having to change his own NZ/UK laptop adapter for the video projection and apologetically restarting multiple songs because he begins in the wrong key, all of which is received with one of the most emphatic standing ovations I’ve ever seen. 

Takes all kinds, I suppose.

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Published: 17 May 2024

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