Amused Moose Soho review | Gig review by Steve Bennett

Amused Moose Soho review

Note: This review is from 2015

Gig review by Steve Bennett

In a new(ish) home at the swanky Sanctum Hotel behind London's Regent Street, the Amused Moose offers the sort of line-up a telly panel show would be happy to assemble. The plush setting – and the £6.19 a bottle beer prices – also deters the lairier elements of a Friday night crowd.

It is affably compered the relaxed-but-enthusiastic Alex Zane, who has an easy to-and-fro with the audience, including setting up a running joke with the reticent Raoul in the front row. He, and the venue, sets an atmosphere is both intimate and unfailingly professional - there is no place for struggling open-micers here.

Before the familiar names, though, a relative newcomer in the shape of Max Davis. Not that you would ever know about his status, since he has an ease on stage built on a justifiable confidence in his expert timing and pacing. Yet there is a flip-side to this slick professionalism, and it’s that there’s too little personality here… he’s another middle-class 35-year-old white man who gets a bit nervy around the gobby kids on his street.

The feeling that we’ve heard all this before is exacerbated by a tendency to reach for pre-existing punchlines. If you’ve seen a lot of comedy, you might find yourself completing gags about estate agents calling his neighbourhood ‘vibrant’, about the ‘two kids, three and seven’, about treating his girlfriend ‘like a princess’ and his literal interpretation of the ‘we’re all mad here’ workplace mentality.

Other lines are more original, and the efficiency with which he delivers them is admirable, but the thinking behind them tends towards the generic, which is why he steps on the toes of a lot of previous comics. We don’t get too much feeling of what makes Davis different, even if he does get the job done.

Greg Burns is probably the sort of act Davis is aiming for. He too, starts with easily-identifiable tropes, such as relationship tensions and the Brits’ propensity for drinking… indeed his observation about the two-drink minimum in American comedy clubs is pretty obvious. But he builds on this with a series of credible, well-constructed anecdotes, about such topics as peculiar gym exercises or a corporate job he did for the police.

He has a very strong line in relatable, observational comedy – with his exasperation at ineffectual hotel toasters the perfect vocalisation of a minor frustration we’ve all noticed, a routine which is made even more powerful by putting it in the context of an already tense holiday. There’s a slight touch of the plastic bonhomie of the gameshow host in his delivery – the day job as a Capital Radio DJ might have something to do with that – but there’s no denying the efficacy of his anecdotes.

Stand-up is usually built on a the premise of the comic being an outsider, a loser. So an attractive TV host telling tales from her time as a model doesn't sound immediately promising. But a dressed-down Ellie Taylor immediately assumes low status by telling us what a drawback being a freakishly tall child was, while she stood out more figuratively in the world if fashion for occasionally liking to take in some nutrition – also known as 'having lunch' - and because her career was more Matalan than Milan.

It's a very effective mix of self-deprecation, amusing anecdotes, and teasing the likes of shorter women or hen parties obsessed with novelty penises. This segues into slightly more surreal territory, with a compelling, borderline-unhinged routine that puts her solid performance skills to excellent use. Far funnier than you have any right to expect from anyone who otherwise occupies herself hosting BBC Three’s Snog, Marry, Avoid.

Headliner Romesh Ranganathan is a self-confessed grump, an ex-teacher whose irritation at the stupidity of the word knows no bounds. Not even his own child, who he fears may be growing up dumb. His short-tempered description of trying to teach the little 'un how to read is a delight. But he's playful behind the the grumpy facade and never more so than with post-racist routines that puckishly play with the notion that he is in any way representative of all brown people, or his parents' confused attempts at helping him integrate. There's a bit of a message, too, in his material about Sea World - and how it took a movie to state the obvious animal welfare issues.

With his Edinburgh award-nominated show condensed into a club-sized routine, Ranganathan reaffirms his reputation for smart, pointed comedy with plenty of entertainingly grouchy attitude.

Review date: 25 Jan 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Moonlighting

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