Scottish Comedian Of The Year final 2018 | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Rotunda, Glasgow

Scottish Comedian Of The Year final 2018

Note: This review is from 2018

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Rotunda, Glasgow

In its day, the Scottish Comedian of the Year final has filled Glasgow’s  Barrowlands Ballroom, the Old Fruitmarket and O2 Academy with a real sense of occasion. But this year’s event is decidedly lower on prestige, only half-filling the Rotunda comedy club, a fact not lost on compere Scott Agnew, who constantly references the subdued atmosphere in his constant, valiant battle to overturn it. 

It would be a shame if this event were to wither, as it’s long proved a valuable showcase for Scottish stand-up talent, capable of drawing the big crowds, if not tonight. And the quality this year, though mixed, proved there’s still a well of talent to draw on.

Things got off to a shaky start, though, with Raheil Ahmed, who speaks about having no self-esteem – and it shows. His set of cheesy puns and ‘dad jokes’ was delivered nervously when they needed a hard sell, while an interaction with a couple of brothers in the front row was stilted, with the comic failing to adapt what he wanted to say based on what they were telling him. A couple of lines amuse, but it’s generally underpowered.

Natalie Sweeney Potter has a lot more life, but rather laboured some ideas. Her day job is encouraging donors to set up direct debits to a charity, which makes her a ‘regular giving officer’ – a phrase she thought was dirtier than most of the audience did. Again the gags seemed forced, such as a ’69' being ordered at Wagamama and obvious drug puns on the words ‘heroine’ or ’speed’. And the trope of mum being on Tinder didn’t go anywhere new. Her gregarious personality engages but the material’s wanting.

‘That’s the diversity section done with,’ Agnew drolly noted, pointing out that the rest of the line-up comprised seven straight white men, kicking off with Ross Leslie

He had a robustly put-together set, largely speaking about his vasectomy, with a nice variety of gags and pleasing turns of phrase illustrating the often embarrassing core story. Callbacks to Sweeney Potter’s material as well as his own show both structure and fluidity in an entertaining set that won him third prize – a much-mocked quarter-bottle of Bell’s whisky.

Stephen Buchanan has already taken the BBC New Comedy Award this year, and his routine here showed why: winningly self-deprecating gags about his diminutive frame break the ice before yielding to stories about sharing a home with a Vietnamese refugee that finds wit in the incidental details. The house guest is also a prism for exposing bizarre British behaviour that we all take for granted and is the sort of consistently amusing observational comedy which meant he took home the SCOTY trophy to add to his increasingly crowded mantelpiece.

Donald Alexander revels in his weirdo outsider status, with a dry, offbeat sense of humour unexpectedly matched with a spiky, angular physicality. The excesses of this style quickly fall away, though, into something a little more conversational as he talks about being a primary school teacher who’d verbally slam his pint-sized charges. The set lost momentum as it went on, and ended in scatological territory, but there was enough distinctive about him to secure second place on the podium  – which meant the top three comics had appeared back-to-back.

Marc Jennings has some strong comic ideas, but tends to overplay his hand, mining each concept to exhaustion. He makes much of Glaswegian slang and has hit-and-miss material about sex, from the formulaic premise of ‘what  if men had to take the morning-after pill’ to an hilarious confession of an intimate misunderstanding. An animated delivery gives his material an extra kick, and he might count himself unlucky not to have been placed.

Allan Park alienated the audience from the get-go with his creaky old-school humour; the first gag being about a bloke offering to hold his cock in the toilets, the second about him swapping his partner’s birth control pills for sweets. It felt terribly dated, and certainly didn’t connect with the room – a fact he was painfully aware of. He bailed within a minute, putting himself, and us, out of our misery.

Playing up the sad-sack loser, George Costanza lookalike Paul McDaniel has an appealing attitude, but the set lacked focus, with the few good punchlines lost in a fug of unnecessary information. He also bleeds ideas dry, not least the overused device of deploying boastful street slang that ill-suits his modest middle-aged demeanour, and the shtick soon becomes tiresome.

Finally, Liam Farrelly, the second act in a row from Paisley, with a routine that’s rough around the edges, but shows many flickers of promise, not least in his self-referential asides and personal material about his disabled mum. His delivery could be warmer and less tense, and the material tightened, but there’s a funny and interesting spark here. Hopefully, we’ll see it ignite at a  future SCOTY final… 

Review date: 26 Nov 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Glasgow Rotunda

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