Silver Stand-Up 2016 | Gig review by Steve Bennett at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival

Silver Stand-Up 2016

Gig review by Steve Bennett at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival

Over its four previous years, the Silver Stand-Up competition at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival has tended to reward relatively established comedians who hadn’t yet broken through, with the likes of Shelley Bridgman and Marc Lucero taking home the prize.

This year’s final had more of a talent night feel, with many of the over-55s seeming like they were ‘giving it a go’ rather than looking to make a career of it. The audience took things in the same cheery spirit, geed up by the relentless optimism of Mrs Barbara Nice, whose act of being an over-friendly Stockport housewife on stage almost by accident, was a perfect fit.

The night’s winner was a housewife character too. Marguerite Grant, a 56-year-old who had previously ‘dipped her toes in performing’ in her native Missouri. Her dotty alter-ego was a self-styled inventor, repurposing an oven mitt to hide rude hand gestures, or fashioning a DIY coffin from carrier bags.

It seemed fairly amateurish to me, with any potential for delightful naivety scuppered by her in-your-face scattiness. And like every American she finds the idea of a dessert called Spotted Dick endlessly amusing. Still, the judges – from Radio Leicester, Age UK and the festival organisers the Big Difference Company – disagreed and awarded the now Cambridgeshire-based Grant the £500 top prize.

My money would have been on another character act, Fred Ferenczi, the oddball creation of 61-year old-Peter Purvis. He’s a dopey old duffer who you could imagine as one of the villagers in the Vicar of Dibley, though even more strange. He promises a ‘rollercoaster of gaiety and glee’ that his distracted absent-mindedness, nervously fiddling with tissues and bits of string, can’t hope to match. His punchlines are often fairly weak – whether that’s by design or default isn’t entirely clear – but this is very much a case of it not mattering so much what he says, as the way he says it. Ferenczi, pronounced Frenzy, could become quite the cult.

The night had been opened by Colin Harris, a chubby Brummie with a line in self-deprecation about his weight, about his grumpy teenage son, and about the vagaries of ageing. He has stage presence, and is careful to keep the gags coming, although struggles to find originality in topics hundreds of comedians have encountered before.

Next, 63-year-old Sandra Hale, with a cheery, cheeky ‘dirty grandma’ set, bemoaning the lack of a sex life – a welcome challenging of stereotypes, even if the one-track mind means the jokes have diminishing returns. Her lines are clearly carefully written, making this more of a performance piece than a fluid stand-up set, while her natural cut-glass voice and way with accents – a ‘little boy lost’ especially – evoke memories of classic radio comedies of the Light Service, even if her subject matter most definitely doesn’t.

Debra Highton was surely the least experienced of the half-dozen, with talk of the characters from her local seeming like village gossip, interspersed with a couple of Ken Dodd jokes and a poem about the death pool sweepstake that’s too straightforward. Still, she relished the creative outlet, clearly enjoying the experience, so it would be churlish to deny her that.

Finally, Brian Cowles came on as an aged hip-hop star, or Geri-rap-tric. After getting that one pun out, he oddly ignored his strange get-up for half of his set for some corny jokes. Then came what he’d dressed for: a hip-hop track for those who found Stutter Rap too edgy. It’s a strange act, stuck with an outdated ideas of youth culture from a man who’s actually only four years younger than Grandmaster Flash, yet didn’t work on the level of him being out-of-touch either. Michael Whitehall did it better:

Review date: 19 Feb 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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