James Acaster, Nish Kumar, Suzi Ruffell and John Robins | Day two of the Greenwich Comedy Festival reviewed by Steve Bennett
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James Acaster, Nish Kumar, Suzi Ruffell and John Robins

Day two of the Greenwich Comedy Festival reviewed by Steve Bennett

Day two of the Greenwich Comedy Festival and the quality keeps coming. A ‘doozy’, host John Robins calls it, insisting he doesn’t use the term lightly – and you’d be hard-pressed to disagree.

Robins himself takes a little time to get the ball rolling. There’s a fine line between ironic Alan Partridge-style banter and genuinely having the sort of conversations about the mpg achieved by a three-tonne curtainside van that would deaden any dinner party.

But he hit his stride when talking about Celebrity Mastermind, on which he appeared at the start of the year (specialist subject Queen, naturally). This was a joy not so much because his rather laboured point about fellow contender Tim Farron’s homophobia, but by reconstructing the format with a John Humphrys stand-in  recruited from the audience. 

This time the questions were about his own life, allowing some of the most embarrassing and humiliating experience from his past to be re-lived in an quickfire format. Those agonising memories are hilarious, at least for us, and the pace invigorating.

While Robins plays to his social awkwardness, Suzi Ruffell beams with supercharged confidence, exhibiting all the performance vim of Russell Brand, although she’s a different manner of comedian.

Replaying online arguments with trolls can often make for flat stand-up, all too similar to everyone’s experiences of Twitter, but Ruffell’s pointed badinage with an ‘England for the English’ bloke who’s convinced the world has a ‘lesbian agenda’ is playful and fun.

She clearly gets her no-nonsense style from her family, given the brilliant tale of how most relatives – with one notable reaction  reacted to her coming out.  And as a woman who knows what she wants, the enforced fun of hen dos is anathema. Her vivid recreation of such a hellish night is a stand-out, as is her sarcastic description of Naked Attraction, an already ridiculous show that is even more, erm, exposed by Ruffell’s scoffing deconstruction.

With matters more pressing than reality TV to sink his sharpened comedy fangs into, Nish Kumar delivered a typical powerhouse routine of righteous anger, searing insight and comic incredulity at what rising floodwaters of stupidity the planet is willingly walking into.

His passion fuels an emphatic delivery, sweeping up all in his path especially on the topics of everyday racism, of which he’s had plenty of first-hand experience, to which he hasn’t always responded with dignity.

Bold, smart and political, you could say he was Britain’s answer to John Oliver. Meanwhile, politics takes a slight back seat in a personal story that highlights the difference between drink-loving Brits and gun-loving Americans.

Forget the politics, James Acaster has concerns closer to home. Looking around the venue he muses ‘Someone’s got to pack this tent up…’ It’s a thought  that had probably struck no one else except the organisers – and typical of the way this much-garlanded comic sees angles others don’t.

His set was broadly based around the moon from his time eclipse-chasing in France, his suggested range of T-shirts depicting what wolves get up to when not howling at the moon, and how the lunar cycle is tied to the menstrual cycle, and the magic of how women can sync up… a brilliantly odd but strangely relatable mime explaining all. It’s all these male comics bang on about is bloody periods.

Obtuse but accurate observations follow in rapid succession, often wrapped in analogies that come from the strangest of tangents. His is the comedy of pointing out things we’ve never spotted before, but with an extra, peculiar twist that eludes a lot of comedic commentators.

It was another performance that reinforces his rightful place as one of the finest comedians of his generation.

• The Greenwich Comedy Festival runs until Sunday in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum.

Review date: 14 Sep 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: National Maritime Museum

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