Rudi Lickwood’s Five Minutes To Shine | New act final review by Steve Bennett

Rudi Lickwood’s Five Minutes To Shine

New act final review by Steve Bennett

New act finals can be stressful enough for the inexperienced comedian at the best of time, but Rudi Lickwood’s Five Minutes To Shine added an extra – entirely unexpected – obstacle, as opening act Darran Griffiths was to discover.

For four minutes into his routine, and at a crucial point in the set-up of a gag, the onstage DJ cut in: ‘Darren, you have one minute’, entirely ruining his flow and that particular joke. The comic won kudos for dealing with it deftly and explaining with good humour what a fatal interruption it was, but he basically took a bullet for his fellow finalists in tackling it.

Not that the DJ stopped giving his updates for subsequent competitors, but he did seem to get better at timing his interjections as the night went on. But there’s a reason comics are normally given an unobtrusive light...

Before he was so rudely interrupted, Griffiths had been delivering a well-put-together set delivered with charm and confidence. He didn’t push the boat out too far with creativity - the idiotic utterances of homophobic older relatives seems an especially well-worn angle — but he has a clear persona and a likeable manner. 

As a black guy in a predominantly white London dormitory town, he had a good take on white ‘banter’, while giving a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of his partner as a gangsta, when she’s not.

He was probably unlucky not to be placed. With a different place on the running order, especially given thecircumstances, who knows?

John D Foley was given an extra challenge of his own, too, being called to the stage about an hour before his scheduled slot – so you could maybe forgive some of the stiltedness in his delivery. However, he does have a tendency to over-use the rising inflexion in any case, giving a slightly unnatural tone.

Looking like the V For Vendetta mask, he had some decent lines but struggled to make them land with this audience. A couple were down to his fumbling the set-ups, but generally it seemed to be a difficulty getting them on to the same, slightly peculiar, wavelength as him. 

In contrast, the crowd loved the rambunctious energy of Double D. But then a large number of them were her friends... However, the truth is that once you get beyond the energetic sass, her material is little more than gushing about how much she loves sex, with wild mimes illustrating the fact in place of punchlines. Talking dirty can make good comedy, but it needs more honesty, twists or nuance than just saying ‘dick’ a lot.

Despite this being very basic stuff, she gets to this point by taking the audience through a true story about a sexual assault case, which gives the set a needlessly uncomfortable undertone. But she is something of a force of nature; she just needs to learn how to harness that.

She looked like she would be a hard act for Henry Michael to follow, especially as he’s a more bookish, repressed performer, delivering dry lines with little flourish. Indeed, the crowd were initially unsure, but he gradually won them over thanks to his sardonically funny jokes, mostly based around his day job as an NHS doctor. 

Quips about underfunding combined well with his self-deprecating shtick, with plenty of cunning misdirections in the understated writing to wrongfoot listeners. From a cool start, he gradually built up steam to end up a contender, and eventually snaffled the runner-up slot.

James Power – who might be able to scoop some work as a Ricky Gervais lookalike – brings a winning ‘geezer’ energy to his performance, but didn’t have the consistency in his gags that would enable him to capitalise on that fully. Slagging off your own kids is always a good position for a comic, and so it proved here, and he turned the now-expected ‘one-minute’ call on its head.

But talking about his appearances on the reality show Save Money Lose Weight never really amounted to much, and a laudable attempt to be to-the-minute topical with an Extinction Rebellion gag floundered for want of a strong punchline. 

One icky punchline split the room – no bad thing, and the howls of disgust from some quarters was funny in itself – but the material ultimately proved too patchy to get him a place.

Austrian-American-Slovak comedian Philip Kostelecky bombed hard, and knew it. One tongue-in-cheek provocative remark got a rise from the audience, but the rest of his set was greeted with largely stoney silence. 

The material is largely to blame, much of it making sarcastic, but not especially sharp comments based on quotidian observations about the likes of supermarket luxury own brands. And when the punchlines didn’t land, his cold, aloof delivery left him nowhere to turn,

Being from Russia gave Vitaly Filipskiy, pictured, plenty of fodder for wry, knowing comments about what sneaky misdeeds his nation might be up to, which he fully exploited. Yet while initial references to suspicious poisonings and the like are largely as expected, the way he approaches them catches the audience unaware, and the punchlines are followed by smart tags for and extra flourish. Nor is his nationality the only string to his bow, and he can claim the title for the most gloriously convoluted and unexpected pun of the night.

It may be his quirky and measured East European accent – half the audience probably thought ‘meerkat’ at least once – but he also holds the attention with his measured pace, drawing the listener into his savvy, offbeat world. All this secured him the No1 slot on the night.

Continuing the international flavour was Irishman Jack Hester, a comic with strong storytelling skills who draws out the wry absurdities in his tales, from seeing the positive side of a mugging to discussing Britain’s worst killers. 

He performs by bending his wiry body unnaturally forward, as if conspiratorially beckoning us into his confidential world, which adds to the sense he’s on a slightly different plane from the rest of us. 

Hester third place, and his prize of a short course with the Comedy School will hopefully build on that strong sense of outsider self with even more offbeat gags.

Emmanuel Paul has a slow, understated delivery that requires classy material to match. After a bit too much preamble he finally got off to a promising start with a gag about his relationship with his mum, but that was the peak – and as jokes faltered, the dry approach started to look more nervous.

There was little logical flow to the content, which jumped between imagining a Jamaican at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – a bit that was little more than an accent – to a throwaway observation about his job working at a sexual health clinic that wasn’t worth its meandering approach, to an extended routine about rugby that laboured the obvious notion that ‘All Blacks’ could be heard as referring to all black people. 

Though likeable, he’s not focussed enough in terms of what he’s presenting, nor finding new jokes within it.

Finally came Maz, who also failed to find punchlines in a loose, jumbled set. She tends to just tell us things without much comic spin or thought to where the laughs might lie. 

She screams inexperience in several areas from poor mic technique to rehearsed second-hand banter with the audience (‘Are you having a good time? Well, tell your face’) without much care for context. She may yet bring things around, but on this performance it’s just too early to tell.

Review date: 9 Oct 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Fest Camden

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