Teenage Cancer Trust Benefit 2007

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

The imposing and cavernous interior of the Royal Albert Hall with its swathes of red velvet and intricate cornicing does not make the perfect setting for comedy. But with Noel Fielding and Russell Brand hosting the evening, the audience were buzzing with excitement even before the house lights were dimmed.

The night began with the first of several appearances by The Moon from the Mighty Boosh. Sadly the video screen was partially concealed from the top three tiers of the hall by the lighting rig ,but this only slightly diminished the effect of the wonderfully ridiculous introduction.

Brand and Fielding made an unusual double act. They appear well matched but Noel’s experience working in a duo shone through and although he said half as much as Brand, he won more than twice the laughs, especially when performing a ‘Goth makeover’ on an unsuspecting member of the audience and promising an appearance from Eighties decathlete Daley Thompson.

Chris Addison was a cerebral antidote to the madness of the hosts, bringing some pithy and intelligent material to the 5,000-strong crowd. Perhaps the contrast was a little too marked, as the audience did take a while to warm to him, with only some small giggles through some very funny gags about British motorway signs. He won them back with arguably his best material to date, from The Ape That Got Lucky, focusing on the development of language, our similarities to chimps and the ease in which you can beat a lobster in a game of rock, paper, scissors.

In another abrupt change of pace our second act was introduced as folk music legend Merriman Weir. Matt Holness (aka Garth Marenghi) was initially so convincing in this role that some of the audience took this chance to nip to the bar. Those unfortunate few missed some beautifully gentle and delightfully funny comedy from this wonderful character act.

A stand-up set from the surreal mind of Noel Fielding, which included a hilarious impression of a moth, or ‘Seventies butterfly’ and a tragic tale of the death of a full stop in Punctuation Village led us into the interval.

To welcome us back, Fielding and Brand held an impromptu spacehopper race (throwing not bouncing) and then auctioned them for a whopping £1,000.

Then Stewart Lee proved why he is one of the most gifted comedians in the UK. Lee draws the audience into his set with his fierce intelligence, an impressive dexterity and a stunning knowledge of language. His deadpan coolness and the disdain that drips from his every word has the unexpected effect of creating an intimacy within this massive room. The audience are transfixed and there is a constant murmur of giggles frequently punctuated with roaring belly laughs and applause as Lee explains how he has finally managed to write a joke that Joe Pasquale cannot steal.

Russell Brand now had to follow a flawless act and end on a bang. Although Brand is a talented act, his tendency to overwork setups and offer weak or non-existent punchlines leaves some of even this partisan audience cold. People are chatting around me and a few leave. This may be because the show is now over-running by an hour or it may be that we have seen the best we are going to see with Lee. Brand’s anecdotes seem self-involved and almost name-droppy, his biggest laughs coming from his material about his run-in with sniffer dogs. Dogs having jobs while he was unemployed just doesn’t seem fair to him.

It was a small anticlimax to the end of a good night. Brand could not compete with Lee and one has to wonder if the running order was based on TV airtime or comedy talent. Perhaps it was just padding, with the vain hope Daley Thompson would eventually show up.

Reviewed by: Corry Craig
Royal Albert Hall, March 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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