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Student comedy awards 2006

Heat 6: Glasgow

Does this say something about Glasgow? Of nine student comics slated to appear in the Scottish leg of Chortle’s contest, four failed to show up, all without explanation.

But then perhaps absentees Rob Westwood, Austin Low, Jackie Fairweather and John Barker simply shied away in the face of tough competition, because those who did show up to the final heat made it one of the strongest of the run.

Even Rhys Smith, performing his first ever gig, put in a sterling performance - his lack of experience barely noticeable in an assured, animated delivery. Sure, some of the material about his single life and cats versus dogs mightn’t be all that distinctive, but it was told in style. And enjoyable  routines about blow-job robots and Hallmark cards for divorced couples showed a flair that indicates better things ahead.

Strathclyde Uni’s own Andy Vaughan is clearly a man who knows what he’s doing, commanding the room with his undeniable presence, then capitalising on it with sharp local references to bring everyone on side. His delivery is impressive, and he’s got the material to match with a set rich with short, sharp jokes. Were he not in this competition, you’d think him a pro… and although only second on the bill, he would clearly be the man to beat.

Thom Walker began with a fair amount of material suggesting his being ginger is a form of social disability. Even in Scotland? It’s been done by Catherine Tate, and countless more before her, and wasn’t the strongest of starts. A shame, because his routine then went  down much more interesting routes, with an astute pop at Nuts-reading lads and a quirky little anecdote about an embarrassing incident on an Edinburgh bus. Nice stuff.

By now the audience was getting more lively – no surprise with booze at 99p a pint – but soft-spoken Irishman Donnchadh O’Conaill still grabbed their undivided attention with the strength of his well-written gags alone.  Full of unexpected twists, this set revolved around sex, and his uncomfortable attitude to it. Socially awkward  but fiercely intelligent – he even insists on using ‘graffito’ as the correct singular form – O’Conaill cut an impressive comic figure – which ultimately proved enough to beat Vaughan to the  night’s crown.

Roddy MacInnes based much of his set about the shabby student life, forever skint and living on a diet of Kraft cheese slices, which unsurprisingly struck a cord with the audience.  His is a solid act, a bit flabby in places but with a decent strike rate of good lines, delivered with an easy confidence and sparing, but very effective, use of dramatic stage techniques to get his point across. He, too,  might have been in the running on a less strong night. But not tonight.

Steve Bennett
March 1, 2006

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