Show Me The Funny tour

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

They always insisted it wasn't the X Factor for comics, and in the end the ratings proved that. Show Me The Funny, the ITV series that sought people who could combine the talents of stand-up comedy and finding people called Michelle in a Liverpool street, struggled with audiences around the 2million mark.

Such figures could spell problems for the contractually obligated follow-up tour and DVD, recorded last night at the Bloomsbury Theatre, where a noticeable number of the 535 seats remained unsold.

Welshman Dan Mitchell, who came third in the competition, opened the show. He used to work at an undertaker’s, and maintains the funereal delivery to this day. The slow pacing is a mixed blessing – when he has something quirky and offbeat to say, the gaps add an air of expectation. When his material  is more mundane, which it unfortunately often is, it adds only frustration.

The hope must be that his success in the competition will give him confidence in his writing, for as the 20-minute set progressed, he found distinctive laughs in explaining how he gets so lonely he picks fights with cereal boxes, and in giving us an introductory lesson to some of the stranger vocabulary in the Welsh language.

But he struggles to get everybody on board with these ideas, which might explain his broader, unoriginal '...and that was just my dad!' style material earlier on – but even that button-pressing didn’t quite engage, as he’s not one of comedy’s warmest characters. There is some good stuff here, but whether it will win out remains to be seen.

The intense scrutiny of the talent show seems to have had a positive effect second-placed Stevenson, who had the best gig of the night. While her lack of invention means she is unlikely to make a seismic impact on the art of comedy, she has consolidated her broad-appeal material into a brisk, efficient club set with plenty of laughs.

She can, at times, seem like a breathing version of Heat magazine - bitching about bad fashion choices and physical imperfections. But since she puts herself first in the firing line for such jibes, she can be forgiven.

Topics include the 'yummy mummies' of the North London enclave she calls home, her own suggestions of what Olay's first sign of ageing might be, and a shaggy dog (or should that be rat) story about a rodent infestation in her kitchen, UB40-style. It’s jaunty enough, although she often sounds like any number of other comedians since there are no great leaps of observation or imagination.

Punchlines come frequently, though, and there’s likely to be one to tickle you before too long. Describing herself as being ‘like a fine wine’ comes with as many tags as a school photo on Facebook, some rather witty. The set is sporadically spiced up with near-the-knuckle lines that elicit a gasp as well as a laugh – though you wouldn’t really describe her a ‘shock comic’, it’s just one item on the smorgasbord of styles she offers.

TV winner Patrick Monahan has a reputation for two things: hugging almost everyone in his audience and overrunning dreadfully. The constraints of filming meant he couldn’t do the former, although you could sense him itching to escape the confines of the stage, and yes, he did go on far, far too long.

It meant approximately 90-minute set felt rather dull, and so padded frequently elicited only minor titters from the audience. There’s no denying what a warm, engaging man he is – but good company does not make to for a comedy routine you’ll want preserved on DVD for repeat viewing, even after the editors have worked their magic.

He tries to embrace the audience verbally, if he can’t do it physically, forever urging us to ‘look at this guy!’ as he projects personalities onto punters. His enthusiasm is childlike, and sometimes his comedy is, too, for example when he describes pretending to be shot when the starter’s pistol went off at school sports day. It’s hardly comedy gold, though, and much of his other routines suffer the same fate, of being charming but not hilarious - from being offered knock-off DVDs to eating at Greggs. And please, please can we have a moratorium on routines when comics encounter young people on buses and are surprised by the way they walk and talk?

His routine about Arab Spring uprisings is more interesting, especially given his own Iranian family roots, but Monahan’s never going to be a political comic, but rather a seeker of the silly in media coverage. Likewise, the taunts he suffered at school in the Eighties when Iran was always in the news, and always for the wrong reasons, is only skirted around.

After a largely lacklustre 75 minutes or so of all this, the set finally springs into life, as ‘Mon-and-on-ahan’ starts dragging people out of their seats to illustrate one of his ideas, how men should behave in a nightclub. This demonstrates his undeniable allure as a people person, as he bounces off them in celebration, rather than mockery. It’s a full-on, Generation Game spirit, reminiscent of Michael Barrymore when he hid only his sexuality, not skeletons, in his closet.

You might feel that somewhere there’s a Club 18-30 night missing its tour rep, but Monahan really kicks his otherwise moribund routine into action for the finale. Whether this is comedy is debatable, but it showcases his potential as a gregarious host in search of a prime-time, shiny-floor show where he can really work his magic.

Review date: 26 Sep 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Bloomsbury Theatre

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