Sean Lock etc at the Greenwich Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The Greenwich Comedy Festival seems to get bigger each year – and not just metaphorically. The week-long event kicked off on Friday and has already featured comedians of the calibre of Milton Jones, Mark Watson and Stephen K Amos – but the size of the marquee needed to accommodate the audience for such a stellar line-up is vast. Any bigger and it might envelop the historic Old Royal Naval College in whose grounds it sits.

Last night’s headliner was the always-impressive Sean Lock, living up to his persistent persona of the bloke down the pub talking bollocks. ‘I’m a bit of a character,’ he explains… and we all know what that means.

He kicked off with some topical material about the ‘Lympics’, using the G4S shambles as a springboard into a preposterously silly routine which vividly evoked cartoon-like images of him negotiating security with nothing to declare. Yet he seems so normal – not so obviously ‘wacky’ like some of his stand-up contemporaries – which makes the oddness all the more potent.

That was most evident in his routine about ballet, which he recreated by clomping around the stage with the grace and fluidity of an asthmatic warthog. And not just for a moment, he extends the scene well beyond the point when the original gag ceased to be funny – but repeat something for long enough and it gets the laughs again.

In more conventional conversational segments, he proved why he’s no fit person to be a parent, a politician, or an anger management counsellor in one original, offbeat routine after another. It was a sterling, eccentric performance which proved why Lock is the Lidl sat-nav of comedy: always taking you in unexpected directions.

Opening the night was Danny Bhoy, with a much more conventional approach to observational stand-up, giving voice to sort of concerns we’ve all noticed: Why is printer ink so ridiculously expensive? Haven’t irresponsible banks got a cheek charging us for going a bit overdrawn? What ARE the seven signs of ageing?

Compared to the virtuoso frustrated rants of the righteously indignant Rhod Gilbert on similar matters of consumer marketing claptrap, Bhoy is more restrained – and the gags more obvious. Nonetheless he strikes a chord with the audience, bolstered by his powerful yet easy charm and acute sense of comic timing.

His device of framing his grumbles as letters of complaint to the corporations, like so many Henry Root-style books, gives the routine a distinctive cadence, and allows his smartarse comments to drop more gently, but with more effect. At times, he’s rather old-fashioned – coyly describing an argument without actually using the swear words involved, for example – but then he has always been the sort of broadly accessible act your granny could enjoy.

Compere was Ed Gamble, full of boyish cheekiness to tease the City bankers in the front section without vilification, and deal with the simplest, if not the quietest, of heckles – ‘Your haircut isn’t very good’ – from the laddier parts at the back.

But star of the night was surely Tony Law, who stormed the shortish middle section with his self-conscious surrealism and booming insanity. Fresh from Latitude – if anyone can be ‘fresh’ from that festival – he mocked the canvas-walled venue before teasing himself for turning up with such rocky, ill-thought-through ideas as his elephant-based pub joke.

The running commentary and desperate struggles to find a way out of the holes he digs for himself exposes the artifice of more traditional stand-up sets and stirs up the complacency of the genre. The joke’s always on him, whether on the poor pre-gig planning he professes to have done, or the less-than believable claims to be a ‘Danger Dog’, ignoring The Man when it comes to such constricting rules as putting a lid on your coffee.

And should he end up down a comedy cul-de-sac, randomly inserted non-sequiturs such as the inexplicable mimicking of a tug-boat horn always give him a way out.


Review date: 18 Jul 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Old Royal Naval College

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