Blackheath Crown Comedy Club

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

It says something about the pulling power of the UK comedy scene for stand-ups the world over that this gig – just a modest room-above-a-pub in a London suburb – can attract such an international line-up. A Swede and an Dutchman, both performing in their second language, join an Australian and a smattering of Brits, and it’s not heralded as any gimmick or big deal, just comics plying their craft.

Our Dutchman is the compere, and co-promoter of this charmingly intimate gig, Wouter Meijs – though in truth he’s not a natural MC. He has quite a stilted style, which may largely be attributable to performing in an alien tongue, and the laughs often come at how awkwardly he interacts with both the crowd and the language.

He comes across as a nice guy, but doesn’t take control of the room. And it’s only when he introduces the third and final section that he shows some real flair, with a witty piece of prepared material that’s funny in content, not just his unusual delivery. Perhaps setting up his own gig – this is only the second night here – is designed to help him loosen up in the host’s role, for that is definitely a gap in his skills.

Opening act was larger-than-life Australian Kim Hope, back on the circuit following a hiatus of a good couple of years with a set that is driven purely by the force of her slightly unhinged personality. Laughter is almost a nervous reaction to this madwoman, cackling insanely at the thought of having to cradle a baby or gurning intensely as she follows flirting advice a little too enthusiastically.

Some of her material is a little predictable, as she discusses why motherhood isn’t for her, or reacting to an elderly relative at a family wedding asking her when it’ll be her turn? She occasionally, but not too often, hints at something more personal, when she reveals she did, in fact, have a short-lived marriage – though she never fully sinks her teeth into this – or any other – topic. Instead it’s a full-on display of her performance skills, more zany than witty, but car-crash compelling.

Three newer acts in the second section start strongly with the slick Damian Kingsley contributing to the cosmopolitan feel of the night having spent many years in Japan, though that experience comprises only a small part of his brief set.

Well-evoked anecdotal material drawn from his own embarrassments and inadequacies are the mainstay, delivered with a cadence similar to that of observational wunderkind Seann Walsh. The set’s powered by punchines, large and small, ensuring it’s keeps an entertaining pace, and he makes the audience feel for him in his red-faced encounters. Audience interaction is not a strong point, but he looks like a solid comic. A year into his comedy career, Joshua Ross has the familiar newbie reticence to put much of his own personality into his stage presence, instead cowering behind a deadpan delivery.

The writing is wildly inconsistent, but he starts with a couple of impressively distinctive and unpredictable lines, giving him a cracking head start. As the routine progresses, this quietly self-deprecating comic demonstrates more such flashes of inspiration in short, sharp one-liners, although they become increasingly mixed with ideas that struggle, as he clumsily grasps at laughs that elude him – and eventually the set withers away to nothing. It’s a disappointing end, but there’s still much potential in his writing.

Amiable Scandinavian Tobias Persson completes the middle section. Announcing that he’s Swedish invites from the audience the inevitable ‘hurdy-gurdy’ noises of the Muppet’s culinary expert, which Peterson very deftly addresses.

A good chunk of his set concerns religion, as he’s a proudly secular man, but his take on the matter is not particularly inventive or insightful, commenting on the fact that burkas make the wearer look like Darth Vader or imagining Muslims and Jews fighting in a multi-faith prayer room.

His material often seems stilted beyond his second-language handicap, as his thinking jumps around a lot and isn’t so easy to follow. But stories from the IVF treatment he and his wife undertook throw up some good lines. It’s an occasion where his admirable approach to life translate into effective comedy, which doesn’t consistently happen through his set.

The same cannot be said of smart and insightful headliner Nick Doody, who is skilful and funny enough to turn even he rigmarole of air travel, the most clichéd of all hack references, into original, laugh-out-loud material.

Similarly, the main thrust of his routine is tentatively about the difference between the genders – that old chestnut – but becomes brilliantly obsessed with exposing the strange symbiosis between women and the hugely successful magazines that obsess about their appearance. This might start from a familiar liberal standpoint but soon expands into a full, quirky philosophy which should have the picture editors of Heat thinking long and hard about their career choices.

Doody can hold an audience’s attention by the often-overlooked technique of simply being interesting, which means the audience gives him the time to expound on a theory safe in the knowledge they will be rewarded at the end. Such latitude makes him unafraid to try new things, and the set subsequently includes some very weird moments, notably a dark fantasy about Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron that is more the stuff of nightmares than comedy.

Yet don’t think it’s all high-falutin stuff, he can do the ‘getting angry at silly things we all say and do’ observational material with the best of them – confessing it becomes a compulsion that extends off-stage as well. That he lives and breathes comedy is evident in this confident, intelligent and witty set.

Review date: 13 Sep 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: The Crown Blackheath

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