Amused Moose Comedy National New Comics Finalists Showcase | Review by Steve Bennett at the Sanctum Soho Hotel

Amused Moose Comedy National New Comics Finalists Showcase

Note: This review is from 2018

Review by Steve Bennett at the Sanctum Soho Hotel

It’s like a new act final without the pressure of competition. London’s Amused Moose club crowed the winners of its new act competition in Edinburgh last month – but now the Fringe dust has settled, it’s staging a  showcase gig with the same acts, but with the winners already decided.

Host for the night Ali Woods – who has a great joke to help you remember his name – is a posh-sounding white bloke, and capitalises well on all the authority and confidence society has come to associate with that demographic. He makes a few rookie errors, not least in failing to repeat the answers to his questions so those at the back of the room are up to speed, but nothing to substantially undermine the impression that he’s a safe pair of hands with a cool and welcoming style.

Rosie Holt takes a diametrically different approach, coming across as scatty and over-fretful about things. ‘Are you good?’ she asks the audience repeatedly, with far more intensity than the usual conversational nicety. She defines her comedy niche as ‘woman,’ and while that might seem apologetic about earning her place on the bill, it’s typical of the cheery irony that permeates her set. 

Metaphors abound – sometimes a bit heavy-handed as in when she likens Brexit to getting out of a relationship – but she manages to call out misogyny without preaching thanks to another analogy about a harmful practice she allegedly likes to indulge. Her delivery is all over the place, by design but also by her skittish nature, which is simultaneously endearing and distracting. The material is similarly erratic, but with some enjoyable phrase-making en route.

Joe Hobbs won the audience choice award in Edinburgh, which he says makes him objectively funny. There can, of course, be no such thing but the cornerstone of his set – when he speaks about a date who left a review of him online – is persuasive evidence of his talents, with him setting up each of her comments for maximum comic effect, and with a perfect payoff. 

Elsewhere he jokes about the reaction to his 6ft 9in frame, and shares an anecdote about his unexpected fluency in Korean… which might primarily be an excuse to show off that talent, but he makes it quirky and enjoyable.

Hull’s  Louise Atkinson invites comparisons to Victoria Wood with her everyday down-to-earth anecdotes, heavy on characterisations. Key among them is her glamorous best mate who tries her best to get the nerdy Atkinson out of her casual, practical clothes and into high heels for a night on the pull. 

She evokes some vivid images on this most familiar of situations – possibly too familiar, truth be told – and can certainly breathe live into her story, with a keen eye for detail. But her self-deprecating set would benefit from some clearer jokes to buttress the engaging and witty presentation.

Stephen Trumble wins on personality, too: a small hairy man with eyes of darting madness, he imposes energy in the room with his triumphant cries of ‘yes!’ as he takes to the stage. But like Holt, he’s something of a flibbertigibbet when it comes to material, making it hard to get a handle on him. 

He plays up the loser shtick a  little, confessing sadness to when his condoms expire, and also offering a little insight to his mental state, not he’s off the antidepressants. The segment about his niece struggles a bit, not least getting tied up in the Sleeping Beauty/Maleficent mythology without a strong enough payoff. Yet his material about skulls is deliciously silly and delivered with a winning, animated performance.

The second giant performer of the night was Jack Harris, offering some amusingly self-effacing lines on his out-of-range body shape. But the bulk of his set, delivered in quite a formally deliberate way, was dedicated to his job as a teacher, a subject he milked relentlessly despite the audience not entirely climbing on board with his obsessions with confiscating stationery from the pupils or expressing mild contempt for his charges.  Yet he was neither mean enough nor playful enough to translate his daily frustrations into routines that consistently appeal to a wider audience.

If you’re looking for commercial bankability, Josh Baulf has a lot going for him, coming across as a cross between Micky Flanagan and Russell Howard. He has the former’s non-nonsense, geezerish London charm, especially when talking about his love of a Groupon and his girlfriend’s drunken behaviour, obsessed with chicken nuggets. And he has flicks of Howard’s upbeat, whimsically absurd storytelling, not least of when he imagines a forerunner of moped muggers, bag-snatching on their penny-farthings. With a sparky energy, he feels club-ready already.

Barney Iley is the polar opposite, wilfully awkward and difficult, appearing to hold the audience in diffident contempt. His influences are more Paul Foot, with whom he shares some vocal cadences, and Stewart Lee, from whom he’s taken some arrogance, if not entirely earned.

Sometimes this pays off, such as when he delivers the usually positive ’give us a cheer if you’re from London’ with a tone of grinding futility. But sometimes he doesn’t have the clarity to push through the confronting material. For does he he hate living in London or outside it? We’re not sure, even though he tried to make a distinction.  Truth is he’s probably such a misanthrope everywhere will vex him.

Hopefully, he can make this grumpiness work better for him – and he wasn’t helped on the night when an audience-led digression forced him to abandon one routine – but at the moment his attitude is more curious than hilarious.

Finally, Maisie Adam, who won the Moose title in Edinburgh, got the biggest laugh of the show with a this-night-only comment about the taller blokes who had been on before her, stealing a bit of her thunder about being a taller woman. Otherwise she starts modestly with a few pat observations about moving from Yorkshire to the achingly right-on Brighton – cue the obligatory vegan joke.

But her strength is her epilepsy. Perhaps only in comedy does that sentence make sense, since her condition has offered her some unique experiences, which she shares with an accomplished air of mateyness– from her eye-rolling firs seizures being mistaken for teenage insouciance to an attack while on the road, flirting with the boys in the car behind. She seems at home on stage, engaging without trying too hard to endear, projecting a naturalness which will stand her in good stead for what’s likely to be a long comedy career.

Review date: 6 Sep 2018
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