Komedia New Comedy Award 2024 | Review of the final © James Ennis

Komedia New Comedy Award 2024

Review of the final

I’d wager the judges’ scores must have been pretty tight at the final of Komedia’s New Comedy Award. I know mine were, with little separating a talented bunch, none of whom crashed and burned under the pressure of the occasion.

With big backcombed hair and bulging eyes, Harrison Thomas got the ball rolling with a gruff ‘oi-oi!’ energy and what he described as an ‘intense, manic vibe’. There are shades of the late Ian Cognito in such powerhouse spirit, though far from the same heights of scary unpredictability.

While happy to call out those who get his goat, he’s also strong on the unique mixture of love and terror that is being a new dad – a situation he found himself against all the odds – though his compelling five minutes also took such wild diversions you’d be forgiven for asking, ‘how did we get here?’

Much more chill, Archit Goenka hit many familiar topics for an Indian in Britain, from bemoaning our bland spice-free cooking to some sly quips about that small matter of colonial invasion. He admits to falling into a stereotype of his own, while wryly mocking the UK’s drinking culture in a short routine guaranteed to get a crowd on side.

The material might be light on surprises, but it’s elegantly expressed and performed, with his closing joke about experiencing racism on a train a winning dive into first-hand experience, while demonstrating an unexpectedly steely attitude behind that mild-mannered exterior.

Steph Cassin comes from steadfastly agricultural roots, and leans heavily into a rural Irish whimsy in her storytelling, but without drawing on cliché.

It’s a very effective piece of world-building as she tells witty stories of school passion plays and sexual repression that feel vividly real yet also heightened and slightly surreal. If a future sitcom was based in this semi-mythical place, I’d not be surprised.

At 6ft 6in, Andrew Fox (pictured) has to break the ice with some jokes about his height. But like Cassin, the strength of his comedy is the picture he paints of his background – in his case in a criminal-adjacent council estate. Literally, as it was next to a prison.

His gag-rich set draws on a few stereotypes, sometimes as a shortcut, and sometimes to subvert, as in his delightful description of what to do if facing an aggressive ‘chav’. With a surfeit of punchlines and a clear, authentic world view, ripe for affectionate mockery, he took the title on this close-fought night.

For all the pressures of  a contest final, the skittish Alex Mason allowed her set to be enjoyably loose, including a splendid callback to a gag compere Barry Ferns (a generous house - had done a few moments previously. But the free flowing element of her set peaks in her awkwardly intense, desperate flirting with the audience.

She’s insecure and has ADHD, so she scripts out her chat-up lines and then gets a game punter to play along. Thus the prepared script leaves space for spontaneity in which Mason creates an infectious sense of  fun. She was probably unlucky not to be placed.

James Daneielewski’s gay – and very keen to talk about it, from his coming-out story to his theory of the many ways that ‘benders are like badgers’ (he loves to reclaim that childish slur), as well as suggesting that his deep Grimsby accent doesn’t match the identity he likes to project on Grinder.

He’s a warm, playful performer who doesn’t skimp on the jokes. It would be nice to see him move on to other topics, given his sexuality’s not exactly a novelty, but there’s no denying he’s a thoroughly engaging presence, winning him one of the runner-up places.

There are notes of Linda Smith in Clair Carthy’s dry, droll commentary based largely on behind a mother. The low-key performance probably didn’t energise the audience like some of the other comics  tonight, and some segments a bit too loosely chatty, but it seems like a true account of her life.

And she can boast a few winning highlights – such as her version of receiving a dick pic back in the day that doesn’t revolve around the usual trope of having to get the photos developed.

Matthew Ali harnesses he power of camp in his set, flirtatious with the audience and cheerily describing his none-too-picky approach to dating. While there’s a lot of enjoyable froth, there is sometimes substance behind it, such as when he touches on being black on the gay dating scene, or the Uncle Ben’s-inspired joke about racist rice.

That said, he’s still probably more charm than material… but that’s quite some charm he possesses, and it was enough secured him one of he other runner-up slots.

And finally – save for a barnstorming set from 2023 winner Sam Williams – came Amelia Hamilton, whose rapping ensued that the energy never flagged, and who took another runner-up laurel.  The idea of a  well-spoken Brit taking on grimy hip-hop is not new, but Hamilton goes beyond that simple juxtaposition to ensure there’s a proper gag in every line, especially the track comprising a sequence of the mildest disses imaginable.

She mixes this with some decent stand-up, including a stick-in-the-memory routine about how contact details are saved in phones. A winning combination with her musical chops means we’re likely to be hearing more from her.

Same conclusion for everyone on the bill, come to mention it.

Komedia finalists

• The Komedia New Comedy Award 2024 is produced in association with Comic Boom comedy club and Victoria Nangle

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Review date: 16 Feb 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Komedia

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