Amused Moose New Comedy Award finalists 2019 | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Old Deer Park, Richmond

Amused Moose New Comedy Award finalists 2019

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Old Deer Park, Richmond

Ahead of their day in the sun at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 19, the finalists in this year’s Amused Moose New Comedy Award got a chance to run through their sets in the ‘little top’ at Richmond’s Big Funny Fest this weekend.

After ever-agreeable MC Mark Dolan gently warmed the small but attentive audience, it was down to Russell Arathoon to break the ice. He does make a good connection, being a bit camp and a bit bitchy – especially when it comes to the hen parties invading the gay village in his native Manchester. And sometimes a bit corny,  admittedly, both in gags and in references, from avocados as shorthand for middle-class to talking about his back, sack and crack waxing. But his prickly, snide manner makes him the ‘guilty pleasure’ sort of good company.

Babatunde Aleshe displays a commanding presence and control of his delivery. The material’s is a well-balanced mix of interesting and relatable, from the origins of his first name and his Nigerian family background to the ups and downs of married life. And in performance he has the confidence, charisma and performance skills to feel like the real deal, making for a solid set.

Daniel Jones displays a pithy intolerance for all manner of irritants, from vapers to his Brexit mum – who becomes a fully realised character in this short set, overshadowed only by his malaprop-prone boss. He’s snarky and funny – as best proved by his response to passive-aggressive Post-It notes that he sees sprouting around his shared house.

Ruby Carr is ‘insufferably delightful’ - not my words, but those of her appraisal at work, apparently. She plays up the kookiness on stage, too, although the persona’s not fully-formed and the delivery can seem over-practised, with physically that’s a little too deliberate. Her underlining personality is winning, though, and works best when that’s allowed to shine as she talks about her ditziness, rather than over-egging borderline hack topics such as the mystery middle aisle of Lidl.

Patrick Spicer is slightly redolent of Ed Gamble, with his cheekiness, silliness and slight air of possibly tongue-in-cheek self-satisfaction in the jokes. The part of his set that rang true revolved around moving back in with his doctor father as he struggles to make ends meet two years into his stand-up career, but he’s also happy in to be silly, as in his wilful misremembering of the FAST adverts telling you how to spot a stroke.

Basking in an assured stage presence, Michael Akadiri has a bit of social edge, from topics of race to the woke homeless guy he’s encountered. But his main talent is a storyteller, with a good sense of timing and anticipation, knowing how to spin a simple notion into an engaging anecdote. Another skilled finalist

Stuart McPherson already feels fully-formed, too, completely at home in his own skin and with an witty ability not to take things at face value. Unlike Spicer, for him going back to live with his parents is a delight – while being called ‘cherubic’ is an insult. Such an off-kilter way of looking at things and some skilful phrase-making makes for a robust five minutes

Finally, Basil Jamm, pictured, is as distinctive as his name suggests, in his bleached Gandalf-length hair, spangliest of jackets and a sound board which contains an arsenal of audio punchlines. Away from the gimmicks the gags are patchy, though he sells them with cheesy showmanship. The soundscapes are the key, though, offering a quirky and different approach that could make his name – with the right writing behind them.

• The Amused Moose New Comedy Award finalists will also be performing at the SohoKarma  Sanctum Hotel on July 1.

Review date: 18 Jun 2019
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