Dylan Moran etc at the Greenwich Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

It would normally be thought quite the risk to end your prestigious high-profile comedy festival with a stand-up doing work in progress. But not so much when that stand-up is Dylan Moran.

Although he confessed that most of the things he was saying on stage at the last sold-out night of the Greenwich Comedy Festival was ‘new rubbish’, Moran’s languidly pungent mutterings about his latest litany of frustration were as potent as ever.

Moran instinctively understands the power of persona in comedy. What could be just another middle-aged man grumbling about crushed hope and the patently ridiculous adornments to modern life is magically transformed into something rather special though his distinctive irritability and the charismatically shambolic way he transports himself.

From the rousing ovation he received on his entrance, it’s clear there were a lot of die-hard fans in the tent for this relatively rare London date. In truth he probably rode that goodwill for a few minutes with some to-be-expected musings on the Olympics before properly hitting his stride.

But once he did, those cascading waves of impatience, occasionally breaking into those perfectly-phrased gripe that serves as his punchlines, were as lyrically funny as ever, Even making up a word – for example of the breed of dog he couldn’t be bothered to learn – fits perfectly within his attitude of the lacksadasical genius.

This was certainly enough to earn him an encore, to the apparent surprise of compere Chris Ramsay, who wasn’t entirely sure of what was going on. This finale was a fully road-tested routine from his Yeah, Yeah tour about his daughters and other pointless distractions designed to stop him enjoying a quiet life – so was understandably well put-together – and the applause at the end of his impressive set was a notch up even on how he started.

The night had been opened by Alun Cochrane, who has a similar outlook in many ways. But his comedy celebrates his lack of ambition, rather than becoming grumpy at the things that stop him enjoying it. Signing a 25-year mortgage was preying on his mind especially, committing him to be funny enough to support his family for the next quarter-century.

He might come across as a demotivational speaker, but he explicitly states he doesn’t want to suck the fun out of life. He finds joy – or at least quiet pride – in such modest achievements as a well-made corned beef hash, and if that’s enough for him, shouldn’t it be for us?

In truth, Cochrane didn’t quite hit the big laughs tonight, although his mild-mannered shtick certainly resonated with the audience, meaning he remained steadfastly enjoyable as he observed the gentler pleasures in life. His ‘Darth Vader at the hairdresser’ ending, though, seemed out of whack with the rest of his very grounded set.

Middle act Tim Key proved more of a marquee-splitter with his disquieting lack of focus poems designed to trip up the audience – all on purpose, of course. But there’s a lot of invention packed into those brief verses, and he’s created an admirably unique persona for himself, tapping into the tropes of ‘anti-comedy’ with his apparent ill-preparedness and lazily underplayed performance, but the writing is resourcefully witty.

In a subtle satire, his character offers a mix of that awkward middle-class attempts at police bonhomie, such as trailing a poem as being about ‘the old feminism…’ but his rhythms are just slightly offbeat, creating a perfectly odd ambiance for his pithily offbeat couplets.

Binding this all together was compere Ramsay, all unaffected puppydog enthusiasm – especially when he found some fellow North Easterners in the front rows with whom to share some regional observations.

He’s an inquisitive fella, is Ramsay, and he seemed genuinely interested in engaging with the crowd. What material he had mightn’t especially stand out compared to Moran, but he was clearly happy to be there, and so, in turn, were we.

Review date: 23 Jul 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Old Royal Naval College

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