Soho Comedy Club, November 11, 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

It is both the joy and the bane of stand-up – that there isn’t such a thing as a typical night in a comedy club.

On the face of it, this seemed to be a simple enough gig: an intimate crowd of 40 or so in a smart bar within a Leicester Square casino. But one ‘tired and emotional’ punter created a difficult atmosphere all round.

It started with compere and promoter David Mulholland’s preamble; the usual ‘what do you do?where do you come from?’ routine, not harvesting particularly great comedy, but the traditional way of introduction. The East Ham geezer in the front row immediately identified himself as a feisty sort, bantering laddishly with other audience members, but in good spirits.

Yet it all turned sour during opening act Matt Green, with the frequency of the interruptions becoming irritating, as the punter tired of the on-stage entertainment and increasingly demanded attention for his own commentary. When Green said something fairly innocuous in response, along the lines of ‘I’m not your dad’, the East Ender’s booze-addled mind saw an insult that wasn’t there and got even more agitated. And when, during the interval, Mulholland made a civil request for more appropriate responses, the man threatened to ‘cut’ him. Cue bouncers, and the end of the irritant.

Such drama makes it hard to review Green’s set – although from what we saw before the interruptions became unmanageable, it did seem to lack spark. He started with even more of the compere-type banter that, although now part of the orthodoxy of stand-up, rarely yields many laughs and seemed redundant after Mulholland had covered most of the room.

Throughout the rest of his routine, Green comes across as an amiable young cove. However, although the stories of being socially hapless and perhaps a little too comfortable in a long-term relationship tend to be built around amusing kernels, and are illustrated with the occasional nice line, they rarely seem punchy or unusual enough to have warranted a comedy routine.

A backpacking story involving a toilet and a language barrier is the exception, with a nice twist in its tale, but perhaps Green has got too comfortable in his relationship with comedy too, with an offering generally so mild you wonder how anyone could have got upset with it.

After the interval – and the ejection of you-know-who – the enjoyable Mark Maier produced a sterling routine about fatherhood and other aspects from his middle-aged London life. Though of a different style, he calls to mind Eddie Izzard in the way he makes inventive off-the-wall extrapolations to draw out the humour in the everyday. A fresh and funny offering from a circuit stalwart.

He was followed by Canadian visitor Christophe Davidson, with a playful routine that certainly struck a chord, particularly the material about women obsessed with artificially enhancing their looks. Not that it’s all one-sided, as he’s not embarrassed to admit to his own body issues either, with a below-the-belt segment that neatly avoids being gratuitously rude. Although he works in fairly conventional stand-up territory, Davidson puts his own idiot savant spin on things, and certainly has his fair share of good, reliable gags to keep the set bouncing along.

Finally, Benjamin Crellin, who clearly models himself in the philosopher-preacher style of stand-up. With brooding delivery of carefully deliberated ideas, there is a whiff of exaggerated posturing to his manner, while the subjects as pretty much as you’d expect from a modern political commentator. With musings on the likes of corporate power, war, Western excess and media imagery, he’s certainly a stand-up for the Occupy generation.

There’s always a danger of self-righteousness with such an approach, and this cool Kiwi doesn’t quite sidestep that. But he doesn’t neglect the comedian’s primary function, and writes robust jokes to accompany his staunch opinions. Just when you think he’s getting too moralising, he’ll undercut it with an astute one-liner or a healthy dollop of sarcasm.

Review date: 14 Nov 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Casino at The Empire

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