So You Think You're Funny? 2013 Final

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

The final of So You Think You’re Funny? has suffered a couple of fallow years. Aside from notable newcomers such as 2012 winner Aisling Bea, the quality of the acts in previous finals fell away sharply as you moved down the pecking order.

This year seemed a significantly more consistent affair. The mistake of playing things a little too safe was still in evidence, but generally these new comics – all of whom are in the first year or so of their stand-up career – proved a more intriguing lot.

Opener Nicky Wilkinson was a safe pair of hands, with a reassuring, relaxed delivery, if not too exciting in her material. From Hull, she compared her love live with the Humber Bridge and discussed dating websites, TV property shows and her fellow townsfolk’s love of a good cake. A little too obvious a little too often, she nonetheless demonstrated a effortless likeability and an excellent comic timing.

Russ Peers was a similarly warm, affable personality, and similarly fell into the trap of overfamiliarity of material. Does the comedy scene really need more relatively straightforward descriptions of the drunk, scantily clad women who swam city streets of a weekend? Yet he’s got a nice take on his annoying boss – who speaks in hashtags #whatadick – and about coming out of the closet relatively late in life, especially the extra pressure he feels from patronising liberals now he can marry.

Laura McLenaghan is 27 but looks – and, it seems, acts – a lot younger, based on her material about her struggles to come to terms with adulthood. Her writing has an instinct for the funny, and her excellent gag about putting sugar into a cappuccino found a deep significance in what seems to be a simple act. Several times she pulled great, witty turns of phrase out of her anecdotes, and although she could benefit with more confidence, she’d be one to watch. Her runner-up placement seemed to fit.

Alasdair Beckett-King got off to a cracking start, with one of the best ‘famous person I look like’ openers you’re ever likely to hear. Yet even over seven minutes the quality waned. The second gag about his veganism was reasonable, but by the time we had moved into the over-convoluted territory of Skittles in burkas, yes really, he was starting to loose people. You can’t accuse him of hackery, but the results need to be sharper.

Closing the first half, Andrew McBurney did not deserve to go home empty-handed, because his magnificently wretched stage persona gave his material an emotionally bedraggled edge. The concept of comedy as therapy is nothing new, but he appears on the verge of tears, desperately trying to hold it together, as he revealed he has just been dumped. That raw heartache defined what should have been material, giving every funny line a pathos-laden twist. We’ll see more of him.

Jenny Collier is from Wales, but says she’s not very good at the language. English, though, provides no such problems as she coins a few nice phrases here. But unfortunately she hasn’t got all that much of interest to say with it. She’s yet another singleton, making a number of self-deprecating jokes about her looks that didn’t quite stack up, and feels constantly mocked in her job in a fertility clinic, which could have offered more prospects for comedy than we got here.

Odd experiences on public transport has become a very common theme among observational stand-ups, but Essex boy Edd Hedges proves that there’s still mileage in it if the story is strong enough. His appearance – he’s a big, bearded lad who looks considerably older than his 19 years –  could be another source of hack material, but makes it work by his supremely affable style. And the story of a clumsy incident at Glastonbury earmarks him as a very promising anecdotalist of the future. Judges agreed and awarded him joint first place.

Penultimately came Tom Taylor, who spent a deliberate age setting up his keyboard on his knees... perhaps delaying the inevitable moment when we all think it’s a bit David O’Doherty-like. He opens up with a few unoriginal lines. ‘I’ve got the body of a supermodel – in bin bags’, which aren’t made any fresher by setting them to music. His last, playful, song, when the first line of each couplet sounds terrible, only to be explained in the second is a better prospect, although the gag only just about sustains the short running time.

Finally Demi Lardner, who earned her place here after winning the Raw Comedy competition in Melbourne earlier this year. Her writing’s as quirky as her look – boyish hair; buttoned-up shirt; bow tie – though can sometimes be more admirable than funny. But a tale of trying to reclaim her wallet from a police station has real zing, even if it needs a stronger ending. Odd audience interaction, cheap puns, and surreal images show a versatility, although whether it’s a good thing or bad that it’s hard to get a handle on her semi-awkward persona is a moot point. But not for the panel, who awarded her joint first place with Hedges – the first time the title has been split in 26 years.

Review date: 23 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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