Amused Moose Laugh Off 2016 | Gig review by Paul Fleckney at The Hippodrome, London

Amused Moose Laugh Off 2016

Gig review by Paul Fleckney at The Hippodrome, London

The Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square was the venue for this year’s Amused Moose Laugh Off final – previously won by Jack Whitehall, Sarah Millican, Mike Wozniak and Rob Beckett. And while downstairs people wasted their time and money on fruitless endeavours, upstairs it was a different story. 

Jake Lambert got the evening off to a frenetic start. As his Twitter feed will attest he’s got gags to burn, and on the night he showed can weave them seamlessly into his routines. He’s also quite a palatable, mainstream proposition as a comic so the audience took to him pretty swiftly, the turning point being his brilliant take on the MasterCard ‘priceless’ strapline. 

Some of his jokes even have the whiff of old-school Tommy Cooper cheese about them, which isn’t a criticism. His reliance on joke-writing perhaps is why the subjects of his routines are quite weak, though – he’ll have to do better than: ‘I get fired for saying the wrong thing…’ if he’s to sustain a longer set with any sort of quality. He was also rattling through his material at twice the necessary pace (maybe a result of being first on); consequently some elements got lost and it wasn’t the most relaxing to listen to. Still, he’s a talent, and it’s no surprise he’s already been snapped up by kingmakers Off The Kerb.

After such a high-speed set, the brakes were applied by Radu Isac. The Romanian stand-up was in no hurry whatsoever, despite the clock ticking, and his bone-dry delivery has a real slow-burn quality to it. Now the audience had a little space and time to mull and enjoy the odd little scenarios he described. 

Despite having seemingly unpromising premises – he talks about what it’s like to be uncultured, and his suspicion of people who know too much about Romania – they were almost invariably a hit. He used his outsider licence to talk about race in an interesting and smart way, and his final routine about his grandfather’s shoes was simultaneously sweet and dark. I could’ve happily listened to a lot more of Isac. 

Perhaps this wasn’t the competition for him though –‘star quality’ is the metric deployed by Amused Moose, and he doesn’t really have that sort of appeal, but he sure knows how to locate your funnybone.

Time now to get an eccentric on, in the form of Henry Maynard, who has a single, mimed routine about the trials of commuting on public transport. The only noises that come out of him are a series of grunts and splutters as he battles against the crowds and the clock to get to work on time. He had the stage presence to get, and hold, our attention, and you felt in safe hands when he pulled out some people from the audience. By the end it did feel as if he had been on a journey, of sorts. 

A burly, bearded chap decked out in bowler hat and tartan trousers, Maynard was always going to suffer from the complete change of tone and style from the previous two stand-ups, but it was an entertaining spot nonetheless. His background is theatre, so it’s perhaps no surprise that his act was accomplished, if not very funny. You could imagine Maynard performing this on the streets of Covent Garden or as a palate-cleanser in an underground cabaret club. In the final of a comedy competition, it didn’t cut it. 

KG the Comedian arrives onstage all bluster and swagger to the dulcet tones of R Kelly, and my immediate reaction was that only comics with no substance would make such an entrance. Well, he proved me wrong as he hit the ground running with a very funny routine on how his Nigerian parents were disappointed in him for not being as successful as Barack Obama. 

It’s no surprise that KG won the People’s Award on the night as he was a burst of pure charisma that energised the room. He has a natural comic flair – with the drawback that because this is so obvious, the writing is a little careless. His routine on African churches co-opting famous songs is paced and described and set-up wonderfully well, and he had the room sitting up and begging for the punchline. Then it came, and it only half-landed. This happened twice, both for the same reason: neither of his alternative takes on the phrases ‘Bump ’n Grind’ and ‘Sex on Fire’ quite scanned properly, and he was denied big laughs right at the death. We’ll see more from him though, for sure.

KG’s energy made it difficult for the following act, and Mike Cox seemed rather more pedestrian than he probably is. He proved himself to be an assured comic, with precise wording and a steady hand. There’s a little of the Phill Jupitus about him in his phrasing (and probably the Ccockney-ish accent), but his material can let him down: talking about new parents being Facebook bores and the idiocy of the questions Ryanair ask, are clearly pitches at mainstream comedy but discussing such well-worn subjects without an original take won’t get him very far. 

His routine about going the gym, and how has no desire to be one of the ‘meatheads’ is a little better but still didn’t manage to light up the room. If he can find some more interesting things to say as a starting point, then Cox certainly has the skills to deliver a good comedy routine. That lack of incisiveness cost him in this final.

AJ Roberts didn’t manage to pick the room up afterwards, his slick style relying more on gimmicks than any comedic foundations. His opening story about Lidl was nicely constructed but felt too unreal to be funny, showing that exaggeration is no substitute for a gag or two. 

A routine about debt payment always being done in threes was an odd one that didn’t convince the audience from start to finish – after which he pulled out the big guns. Roberts has what I believe the kids call ‘flow’. Apply that to comedy and you could have something interesting. His break-neck-speed horse race commentary nearly works, but suffers from including too many comedy horse names instead of whittling it down to a few. 

That and his closing set piece detailing the shitness of London life could be described in the same way: impressive, just not very funny.

And so we come to the winner, Nigel Ng, a Malaysian comedian who’s so relaxed you almost want to remind him he’s in a competition final. He’s relaxed in the sense that he has natural funnybones and doesn’t have to fixate on getting his words and delivery right to make people laugh. 

Of course there were jokes on his surname and his ethnicity, but they were better than most, which is a good sign. His five years spent in the US seem to have rubbed off on him as his style of easy-going authority has an American feel to it, especially in his routine about being asked in restaurants how well he wants his burger done – a distinctly Seinfeldian routine. 

Of all the comics on the night he seemed to be being himself more than his rivals, that he himself was already a comic, not trying to act up as one (Radu Isac the only other you could say this about). Ng didn’t necessarily have the best gags of the night, but you just know he had plenty in the tank. For that reason he was a worthy winner.

Review date: 12 May 2016
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney
Reviewed at: Hippodrome Casino

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