Beat The Frog World Series Final 2022 | Review of the annual new act showcase

Beat The Frog World Series Final 2022

Review of the annual new act showcase

Whatever happens at the American midterms, it seems people just can’t be trusted with democracy. Two of the new comics at the Beat The Frog final on Monday night stood above the others for me – yet the audience who decide the title plumped for neither of them

One, Richard Spalding, won the panel prize that us industry folk decided. He’s a very useful joke writer with an assured, club-ready confidence that already feels like a safe pair of hands.

Not that self-assurance is necessarily part of his personality, as a mild-mannered beta male, dating out of his league, awkward in the bedroom and always trying to be polite. In this he shares a world view with a lot of comics of his ilk, and he may find a challenge to find areas distinction, but his talk about his girlfriend’s sexy ex and missing out on the delights of fingering is wittily explored.

The other stand-out for me was James Ellis, another skilled gag-writer with a beautifully constructed – and searingly self-deprecating – set about being overweight, which layers up on quirky punchlines

He delivers with a resigned air of reluctant acceptance of his lot, tempered with a strong silly streak that’s hugely effective. The last couple of minutes about having a posh wife tailed off a little, but he’s clearly a talented comedy craftsman.

The audience, however, voted for Dane Buckley (pictured above with club boss Jessica Toomey and MC Danny McLoughlin) a jauntily camp presence a little in the Joe Lycett vein. Hugely likeable, he has a distinctive angle in being half-Irish and half-Indian as well as ‘a gay’.

However, some of his takes on that background tend towards the simplistic, as are the double entendres he’s happy to engage in. His traditional Indian grandmother gives him a couple of the better lines, but his main strength is that his endearing personality – as his winning over of the Frog & Bucket crowd attests. Now to pair it with some decent material.…

Runner-up in the audience vote was closing act Amy Webber, a woman of many talents. Trained in opera and musical theatre, she has an amazing voice, yet starts her set without using it at all with a brief, and endearing, bit of silent clowning with the microphone.

She’s improved since her 2019 appearance in this finale as the clichéd girl-with-a-ukulele delivering a jaunty ditty about bad sex, but there are still considerable shortcomings. The cornerstore of her set tonight involved setting her CV to music, but the premise didn’t advance with unfolding jokes, instead she simply assumed the idea to be funny enough on its own to sustain two or three minutes. Her considerable performance skills were a clear hit, but again it didn’t seem like there was much of substance behind it.

Webber was the second act of the night to take to the stage with a keyboard strung around her neck like a satchel, as opening act Bennet Kavanagh did the same, using the instrument to punch up his line of corny puns and dad jokes.

His chunk about chatting women up to film soundtracks used the music more organically, though he didn’t serve up many surprises once the premise had been established. And his routine about unthreatening gangsters in musical theatre – part of his shtick as another beta male joking about his lack of edge – is derivative.

Barcelona’s Sergi Polo has a seemingly limitless supply of jokes about how much he hates his family. And for a bit of variety, some jokes about how much he hates his flatmate, too. Barbed and concise, there’s lots of good stuff here and the punchlines come at quite a clip.

Yes, it’s a bit one-note – and you wonder how he might sustain a 20-minute set on the same tack – but his inappropriate contempt is darkly appealing and his delivery is tight and efficient.

Hopefully, Katie Gill-Williams might have picked up some pointers on how to land a punchline by following him, as she has a tendency for chatty verbosity. She’s endearingly friendly and gregarious, but the writing tends towards the basic. That includes a lot of focus below the belt – while as a self-confessed new recruit to feminism, she can’t match those comics who have always had it in their blood.

Molly McGuinness could be tighter, too, but she has a very appealing and distinctive way with words and imagery that might well work in scripts, as fellow Mancunian Caroline Aherne did before her.

She holds her nerve for a ridiculously long act-out that drags the audience into the joke, but elsewhere more discipline would definitely extract the most from her appealing phrase-making.

Penultimately – before Webber – came Faizan Shah, with a nicely paced deadpan delivery of rather pedestrian material, such as likening the Royal Family to an Asian household.

He further speaks about growing up in an immigrant household, still living with his parents, to whom he might be a disappointment – though he tweaks the cliché a bit to explain that he’s not the only one. His is another set that’s underwritten, however, exemplified by the long built-up about trying to get his dumb friend to adopt the world ‘amalgamation’ not justified by the weak payoff about its misuse.

So a mixed bucket of talent for this annual showcase that, if nothing else, crowd-pleasing and critic-pleasing are two very different things.

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Review date: 9 Nov 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Manchester Frog And Bucket

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