James Dowdeswell's Perfect Pub | Review by Paul Fleckney
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James Dowdeswell's Perfect Pub

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Paul Fleckney

The siren call of the format show is a seductive one. Get a strong hook for a show and it sells itself – and James Dowdeswell’s idea for a comedy show based around building your perfect pub seems like such a thing. It’s certainly got punters through the doors at the Three Sisters on a Saturday afternoon, as it’s a full house.

The show I saw though was more a warm, flat pint than a fizzing one. It’s an interactive show with Dowdeswell asking the crowd members for suggestions as to what they would want in their dream pub, he then riffs a little on the subject (optional), and it goes to a vote. So there’s quite a lot riding on the audience buying into the fun and having a little imagination. When the first suggestion comes in as "beer", you know you’re in for a long hour.

There are two pretty major flaws in the idea that make it hard to get off the ground: first there’s not enough to say on the subject, and second, most people agree on most things. This is not fecund comedy soil. Asking the crowd whether or not you should have wine in the pub is hardly going to cause a riot. On the occasions when there is disagreement, such as whether the pub should have a dog (of course it fucking should, btw), it stalls. Are we supposed to actually debate this across the darkened room with a stranger? It’s hard to tell. That’s not what people are used to doing in comedy shows so if that’s the intention, we need some cajoling from Dowdeswell.

He’s a likeable enough host, whose work I've enjoyed before, and this is a test of his MCing skills as much as anything. He does pretty well in moving things along enthusiastically and getting people talking, but comedy-wise he really is up against it. He’s pulling on the pump, but the barrel is empty.

Some of the audience suggestions allow him to spin off into some prepared material and a few nice lines, though that doesn’t include his Wurzels song or yet another middle-class rap. Some of the suggestions pass with barely any material being added, which is surely a missed trick – things like pub grub and a dartboard are bound to be mentioned, so why not stock up in advance with some meaty jokes on such things? Or as much as one can when you're talking about crisps.

In short, this isn’t a boring show, but it’s not a funny one.


Review date: 11 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

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