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So You Think You're Funny? 2010

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Timing is the secret of comedy. Even those who know nothing else about comedy know that, even if it’s a wee bit more complicated in practice.

Seven minutes is as long as the finalists in So You Think You’re Funny? get: Long enough to make an impression, not too long to bore a audience if it doesn’t go well. However, a couple of the acts tonight seem to have their timing put off by the deadline, and none more so than opening act Rob Beckett.

The 24-year-old fair raced through his set, allowing little time for the punchlines to be appreciated, and even telling the audience off for laughing, so suppressing any future reaction. But he’d be well advised not to try to jam so many gags in, as it’s not just a matter of quantity. If he relaxed and appeared to enjoy the experience more, so, too, would the audience.

His jokes are of decent quality, too, an alluring mix of well-made observations, imaginative metaphors and a stylish take on his supposed doppelgangers. Such whip-sharp writing earned him third place, but a lower gear would probably have meant a higher ranking.

Archaeology student Chris Turner is a nifty writer, too, and of that most difficult of genres, the one-liners. He hasn’t yet found a way to deliver these distinctively – he sounds uncannily like Gary Delaney – although his device of holing on to the mic stand to indicate impending wordplay is a nice twist, getting laughs of anticipation merely for grabbing it.

His hit rate is pretty high, too. There are some real groaners in there, but I counted at least seven absolute gold-plated bankers, brilliantly inspired lines even the most experienced punslinger would be proud of. Seven might not sound that much – but it literally is laugh-a-minute, and the rest of the gags had a certain cheesy charm, too. He was robbed of a place.

Laura Carr is brimming with confidence, with a fluid, energetic delivery that instantly appeals. However, she’s let down by some very pedestrian material, squandering promising set-ups, such as her naturist mother and the book Five Reasons To Stay A Virgin, with predictable lines in routines that peter out to nothing. And ending on a section about pubic hair was the soggy icing on the cake of disappointment.

It’s a sign of the times that Liam Williams, at 22, with a Cambridge English degree behind him and infinite possibilities ahead of him can declare that comedy is the only career option open to him. ‘What else would I do?’ he ponders, unaware that two decades ago no one would ever even consider comedy a viable way to make a living.

To help land his planned job, he has an agreeable stage manner and winning delivery, though his material does little to stand out. There’s a bit about drugs based on the old adage that you can’t spell his hometown of Leeds without LSD and two Es; a nice punchline about why his neighbours are so annoying, and a literal interpretation of a Smiths lyric. It’s fine, but unexciting – although the judges clearly thought more highly of him, and awarded him the silver.

Romesh Ranganathan’s opening lines about being an Asian comic promised a lot, and while there is plenty to enjoy in his ultra-sardonic set, he also slips into a few easy routines that pale beside the lovely comments about his Sri Lankan name or the sarcasm he heaps on to Mr T’s response to Hurricane Katrina (really!)

Gags about Barack Obama’s name have been done before and better, ditto charity gifts to the Third World, and the curry routines possibly has a good idea at its core, but needs, well, spicing up a bit.

After the interval, Matt Richardson proved himself adept at boiled-down anecdotes, stripping stories down to their funny core for maximum efficiency. But while there is lots of good stuff here there is also a section about Facebook that although built around a strong original gag, is surrounded by cliché, while his questions about drugs are simply poor wordplay, again with just one stand-out line. He has an engaging, confident delivery, too – but was another of the acts who hurtled through his set too quickly, at the expense of that all-important timing. But at just 19, there’s bags of potential here.

James Kirk doesn’t have to do anything to be funny, eliciting laughs from his squat, sizeable frame before saying a word. He held the moment perfectly, demonstrating a command of the stage that judges highlighted when awarding him the title. He took the pace right down to deconstruct the trite comedy cliche ‘I know what you’re thinking…’ and is quite happy to leave the audience pondering ‘I wonder where he’s going with this?’ safe in the knowledge there’s an inspired punchline coming eventually. Patience may be its own reward, but it’s nicer when there’s a gag at the end of it.

The postmodern style is maintained through the second routine about his lack of sleep and the inspired closing section about Jay-Z’s life, free from bitch problems but bugged by 99 other concerns. Kirk is a distinctive voice all right, and a deserved winner.

Energy of both performers and audience flagged after this, in part a victim of the sweltering room. The unexceptional material Alex Clissold-Jones served up didn’t help, about the mathematical impossibility of giving 110 per cent; how ironic ‘banter’ is no excuse for racism, and a few dwarf-based puns. Nothing really to stand out, likeable though he is.

Finally Pete Dobbing, whose previous jobs as a cruise-ship entertainer and street performer explain his jolly ease on stage. But again he was let down by the slightest of material, with weak jokes that did little to engage the flagging crowd, condemning his set to pass by almost unnoticed.

None of the acts in this final have been performing on the circuit for more than a year – them’s the rules – but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. To a comic, they held the stage with confident ease, whatever the quality of the material. Almost any of them could be the stars of the future… just look at Kevin Bridges, unplaced in the 2005 final, now filling arenas.

Review date: 27 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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