Tickle My Fancy review

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

The two most fundamental requirements of a comedy club are not that hard to figure out: you should be able to both see and hear the comedians. Sadly, for want of even the cheapest stage light, the Tickle My Fancy night in the Albert And Pearl pub in Islington, North London, only fulfilled half of these, with an unlit performance that meant any facial expressions were lost to the audience. More crucially, a gloomy stage inevitably makes for a gloomy atmosphere that hardly screams ‘comedy!"

Our MC, Lloyd Griffith added to the amateurish ambiance. He acts exactly like David Brent, and I’m fairly sure it’s not an act. As he chats to the audience, he comes out with weak jokes followed by nervous high-pitched giggle of self-consciousness. He punctuates his patter with ‘Yeah?’ and at one point he even tagged a sentence with ‘– fact’, just to underline the comparison.

As the show progresses, he reveals his day job to be not a manager of a Slough paper merchants, but a choral singer with an impressive male alto voice, and his party-piece bursts of song certainly have the crowd rapt in a way his limp banter never does.

More awkwardness came from opening act Robert Commiskey, a nerdy American stand-up whose deliberate delivery is so soaked in ironic distance that it’s hard to warm to him. Adopting an exaggerated Muppet-like voice for every third party makes him seem like almost a parody of a geeky smart-arse college student who mistakes a cynically sarcastic tone for genuine wit.

This approach creates an unnecessary barrier as some of his material – particularly on British traits only an outsider could have noticed – is well-observed and naturally funny, something his rather unnatural delivery does a disservice to.

Kishore Nayar was almost the mirror-image, with some rather pedestrian conversational stand-up told expertly well. There’s some stuff about him Asian, and some stuff about him being a lawyer, even though he lives up to the stereotype of neither. Slick presentation at the expense of personality is perhaps, the norm in today’s comedy-course-germinated open-mic circuit – so while he’s exudes an air of a man who knows what he’s doing, there’s not enough to mark him out.

Given his background as a former star of Hollyoaks and Casualty, it’s only to be expected that sharp-suited James Redmond addressed that issue straight off the bat, to save any audience mutters.

But the first half of his set, in which he talks about being recognised in the street and doling out autographs, seem rather boastful when he hasn’t yet established his credentials as a stand-up. They neither connect to the crowd, nor set him up as a high-status comic funny in his arrogance, but inadvertently alienate him as a ‘celeb’ among plebs like us.

Beyond that, the set’s a mixed bag, with several good lines on admittedly rather unadventurous subjects such as how the people of his home town of Bristol sound a bit dim. Plus he wasn’t afraid to try a few ad-libs, being the first act of the night to reference the on-stage darkness. And for all the talk of being a TV face, he’s an affable presence at home in front of a crowd – which will stand him in good stead once he starts evolving into a genuine comedian, rather than an actor trying his hand at it.

The dry and offbeat Sara Pascoe served up a lot of what had previously been lacking: creative ideas. Her success rate was wildly inconsistent, but the quirky routine was always intriguing, and when a gag did hit home, it was all the more impressive for its originality. Her persona of a mildly spaced-out naïf lets her explore borderline surreal material, yet make it still sound convincing, while heightening the impact of the smartly-written jokes when they arrive.

Even so, the star of the show was undoubtedly headliner Jarred Christmas, a big, playful lug of a comedian who’s the closes thing stand-up has to a human teddy-bear. Although he forces his dopey persona on to the audience with quite some force, he’s so affable and unthreatening, he sweeps everyone up in his good-natured mischief, even a room that’s as sluggish as this one.

The opening quips are, inevitably, about his unusual surname, though he avoids being too predictable, then proudly announced a section of miscellaneous jokes he can’t fit together any other way. With this refreshing abandoning of any contrived conversational premise, he knocks in the silly punchlines until the audience has unshakable belief in his abilities.

That means that when he moves on to longer routines, some of which admittedly don’t hit the high-water mark he’s already established, we’re just happy to go along in his spirit of devil-may-care good humour. And, of course, he’s enough of a pro to have a bankably strong section to finish on, even if he announces that’s exactly what he’s going to do. For all the appearances of just messing about, Christmas is a real pro.

Review date: 18 Jun 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: House Of Wolf

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