Loaded Laftas new act final 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Lads’ mags love their comedy, and, following in the footsteps of FHM, Loaded have added a ‘rising star’ element to their Lafta awards – the paparazzi-friendly awards honouring the more showbizzy end of the business. The new act final, though, was noticeably free of glamour models and TOWIE stars: just a friendly crowd and nine top up-and-comers on board the Tattershall Castle, the paddle-steamer venue permanently moored on the Thames.

First up was Scott Gibson, apparently living up to every stereotype of the shouty Glaswegian, proud of his city’s earthy reputation. After almost deafening the audience with his introductory hollers, he broke the ice with some self-deprecatory comments about his sex appeal, or lack thereof, then sauntered into some observations about the complacency of long-term relationships. Originality isn’t his strong suit – as evidenced by the fact that the bulk of his set comprises a story about visiting a sex show on stag weekend to Amsterdam, the epitome of Loaded behaviour and a old stand-up fallback – but he’s got oomph, energy and a rough-hewn likeability. Because of that, he’s an ideal opener, easily securing the room’s attention – but he could do more once he has it.

A self-confessed ‘sweaty fat lazy bastard’ from South Wales, Matt Rees’s stage presence was decidedly more muted and awkward. But his writing was a stand-out, with inventive new takes on his failings with women and gluttony for fast food. Apparently casual asides spin out into fresh routines in a set packed with sharp and unexpected turns – more than enough to win him the crown in a very close-fought contest.

Next, Lara A King, who calls herself both a ‘confrontational hard-drinking lesbian’ and, rather contradictorily, a ‘people-pleaser’. The result is something akin to a smiley Jo Brand, with a grumpy and patronising approach sweetened with charming delivery. The jokes, though, are often ancient. A quick Google attributes her ‘Drink Canada Dry’ line to Brendan Behan, who died in 1964, while a routine about trying to get a petrol pump to end on a round number – only to blow it by buying goodies in the shop – has been done before, too.

Self-conscious weirdo Pete Beckley, taking part in his second new act final in a week, was more challenging to warm to, thanks to the distance his croaky voice and deliberate delivery puts between him and the audience. The oddball one-liners suit his persona, but are of distinctly variable quality. Many of those from his day job in IT support seem clunky, but he has stand-out gags on subjects such as internet dating profiles and predictive text, much-covered topics where finding new angles is difficult. A real mixed bag.

Dapper Tom Toal has the witty affectation of referring to Tom Toal in the third person, with a few nifty variants, all of which add to his confident, cheeky charm. The delivery is assured, yet loose enough to drop in a few ‘of-the-moment’ gags about both the unusual floating venue, and the competition’s sponsors. His writing is similarly sure-footed, slick but quirky and eliciting good laughs throughout – and securing a shared second place on the podium for this precision-engineered TT racer.

After the interval, music from Harry Garrison – but of a type that seems very familiar. There are some chuckles to be had from the juxtaposition of his whimsical guitar strumming and the harshness of the subject matter, but in essence this poor man’s Boothby Graffoe is just serving up the sort of passé gags about mail-order brides, Aids and psychotic behaviour that are already prevalent on the circuit. Nice backing track, though.

A much stronger set followed from Mark Cooper-Jones, cutting a surprisingly haughty figure for a geography graduate. He doesn’t make a great first impression, obsessed as he is with the correct spelling of his first name with a K rather than a C... but as the set goes on, it’s clear this has its place. For this is a meticulously structured and scripted few minutes, which more than makes up for the restricted spontaneity with some fabulous lines and the delicious attitude of an emotionally stiff Englishman, feeling frustrated and let down by everything from his home county to the exploits of his as-yet-unconceived daughter. Plenty of reasons why he, too, deserved to share the silver.

Next up, Nat Tapley in the guise of a googly-eyed, vein-poppingly rabid Tory MP that owes more than a nod to the cynical extravagance of Alan B’stard. But if there was time to reboot this caricature it is surely now, given the great divide between millionaire bankers and Cabinet members and the likes of the Occupy camp. Indeed, Tapley got some good swipes on the issues, even if other points were less elegantly made. There’s an issue of consistency, too – sometimes he takes a direct pop at those, such as Michael Gove and his dodgy expenses, with whom the right-wing character should really be aligned, and so make the gag through parody rather than so directly. But a solid act, worth seeing for the fantastic gag about his ‘handicapped son’ alone.

Finally the laid-back charisma of Kwame Asante, quietly winning over the audience with his endearingly self-effacing humour and tales of being the only black kid at school. The tone is often silly, but delivered with unhurried control, as if he were making important points when really he’s just talking about vampires and burka-clad superheroes. The writing probably needs a bit of punching up, but there are enough good lines to reward the attention. Taking the bronze was exactly the right spot for him on the night.

Review date: 7 Dec 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Tattershall Castle

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