The C Word: John Noel Management showcase

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

If it wasn’t for John Noel, we wouldn’t have Russell Brand. In the days when the comic’s drug problems rendered him unbookable, Noel, his agent, packed him off to rehab, saving his career, and very possibly his life.

That faith has surely been repaid in financial terms, with Noel representing Brand to this day. But his agency has up-and-coming comedy acts on its books, too, which is what this night, above a pub in London’s hip Camden Town, aimed to showcase.

Having Ross Lee, the hidden-camera practical joker from BBC Three’s The Prankster, as compere was probably not the ideal way to achieve this, however, as his niggling, aggressive manner doesn’t set the most welcoming tone.

He prowls into the audience, coming right into punters’ faces to sneer lines line: ‘Oi, you, your hair’s a mess,’ without much charm or playfulness – while his ‘material’ involves joke-book gags like ‘What does a zombie have for breakfast?’ or inviting his embarrassed girlfriend onstage while he talks about sexual positions. Any act would be a reprieve from this irritant, so he does at least fulfill the tongue-in-cheek definition of the MC’s role: to make the other comedians look good, but that’s about all.

Dan Schreiber would measure up well against most comedians, though. Although a newcomer to the stand-up game, he’s got form in comedy as a QI ‘elf’ and co-creator of the Radio 4 panel show The Museum Of Everything. No surprise, then, that he’s smart on stage, too, with a penchant for quirky true stories, such as the feeble attempts to explain away Kung Fu star David Carradine’s death by auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Born in Hong Kong, and with an international American twang to his voice, Schreiber can count the subject of language as a pet topic, as he highlights a few oddities from a knowing, but obtuse, angle. Elsewhere, he can be a more formulaic in his approaches in his worthy aim to pack in the punchlines. But he has funny bones, and an engagingly upbeat delivery in which to package his borderline nerdy concerns.

Emile Gavroche is a handsome, arrogant, French ski instructor turned stand-up, so plenty for an audience to take exception to there. Plus his material was definitely nursery slopes rather than black diamond. He runs over tired national stereotypes in declaring people from various nations have sex like they ski, before making jokes about how the Tube is always delayed. More obvious archetypes are rattled out in his dull, muddled bit about how Jesus must have been French – after all he was a cook who could do wonders with fishes and loaves.

Though never mentioned, Gavroche is actually a character, the creation of Harry Lloyd, son of QI and Blackadder producer John. But there’s little invention in this short set; Alexis Dubus does the haughty, philosophical, sex-obsessed, wine-swigging Gaul so much better with his Marcel Lucont alter ego.

Finally in the first half, ‘Big’ Tom Davis, all 6ft 8in of engaging self-deprecation. The audience – presumably largely invited by the management company – treated him like a comedy god, reacting to every utterance with gales of mirth, which seemed entirely disproportionate to lines like: ‘People seem to think I have a big dick [laugh]. I don’t [enormous laugh].’ He’s an affable cove, though, and his low status of being the loser who ends up living back with his parents at 32 is an endearing one. But the workmanlike writing isn’t yet up to scratch.

After the interval, Eddie Kadi, the comic who has previously hit the headlines for playing London’s O2, despite having little mainstream profile. But pub gigs like this are where comedians learn their craft, and Kadi is willing to serve his time here.

He’s developing into a useful act, too, and although he’s not averse to using a few old tricks, such as mimicking his intimidating African mother; talking about how white guys have no rhythm, or aping no-nonsense Nigerian traffic wardens, he also adds some of his own ingredients to the mix. Even the apparently standard routine of encountering a feckless youth on the bus is given a different twist.

He’s from Congo, so certainly has some tales to tell from that war-ravaged hell-hole, although he’s just as happy, if not happier, reporting back from the front line of British nightclub. And happy is the word, his set is infused with infectious, upbeat, enthusiasm. He could be accused of over-egging his set-ups, insisting minor observations are heavy with a significance they don’t have, but you can’t fault his zeal.

There’s no envelope-pushing here, and sometimes that tips over to cliche, but he’s a more-than serviceable club act who could yet break out of that sometimes limiting world.

Review date: 3 Oct 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Black Heart Pub

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