Review: Simon Evans – In The Money

[First published on Quays News 18/02/16]

SIMON EVANS brought his latest stand up show ‘In The Money’ to the Lowry’s Quays Theatre last night.

Evans in his new tour attempts to conjure up humour from the conundrum that is economics. His aim, in addition to creating laughter, is to give the mature audience he seems to attract advice in what he declares to be a subject that no one entirely understands.

Prior to the interval however, Evans, besides explaining that even the experts don’t understand the economy, leaves his chosen theme largely untouched. He arrows off from the economy to talk about how it seems that we all get ripped off these days. In his disdained tone he then despairs at his poor old father’s past attempts at gardening along with the argument that organic veg is superior in taste. His material is then derived from his dog and his son, plus the phrase ‘polish a turd’ is had fun with, all in what turned out to be the lighter, more easily digestible part of the show.

His delivery during these more orthodox comedy subjects has a distinct and enjoyable rhythm. Evans raises a distaste for something, and then undercuts it with a one liner that’s always witty and edgy. It’s his middle-class condescending persona that really makes the jokes work, cracking his audience up repeatedly.

Striding out after the interval, Evans begins the second half of the show by chatting to his front row. Asking for names and occupations, Evans doesn’t really push the boat out in his chat but always manages to get a titter with his off the cuff responses. Evans admits himself that he’s not a social being, recognising that talking to the front row is not a strength of his, nevertheless, the two way conversation breaks the show up well.

After the knock about joking with individual audience members, Evans makes a start to his financial advice, the buzzword – investment. Property is first up on Evans’ agenda, as he takes us through his personal housing history. Do’s and don’ts, along with references to property shows are knitted together in what feels like a lecture rather than a stand-up routine. The odd clever remark earns a laugh, particularly when dealing with the economic crash of 2008, but looking round, I wouldn’t have been surprised if pens and paper sprung out to furiously note down Evans’ insights.

Evans mentions more investment wrong turns before going onto the two things, in his view, that are fool proof investments, them being cigarettes and alcohol. Acting almost like a salesman, he puts forward an argument that’s hard to turn down. It’s this alcohol routine that creates the most laughter of the night. Due to its relatability, it’s a subject that’s flogged by comedians in a range of ways, but in this show Evans manages to find a different angle. It ensures he finishes his show strongly.

Evans has a distinctive style to his performance. Condescending with his wit, but never so much to degrade his audience. In this show he deals with a wealth of dense material that only a reader of the Financial Times could follow in its entirety. Despite this, In The Money creates hearty laughter in bursts, with Evans revelling in a subject he knows well.

3

Review: Craig Campbell – Don’t Look Down

[First published on Quays News 28/05/16]

CRAIG CAMPBELL performed his show ‘Don’t Look Down’ at the Lowry in Salford last night. It’s the Canadian comic’s third tour and I went along…

Campbell, seemingly fresh from the Canadian wilderness sporting wild shoulder length hair and a grizzly beard, hit the Quays theatre, the 47-year-old as energetic as ever.

He starts the show from backstage by singing Jonny Cash, funny at first, but as the audience members exchanged glances, it was obvious it had gone on for too long. Campbell with his unique and, at times, bizarre delivery, struggled to warm up the Salford audience. Even his odd dress sense, complete with shoes displaying individual toes, couldn’t lift the room which contained a smattering of empty seats.

Momentum begins to build however, particularly with Campbell’s instantly relatable routine on his fondness of tea which received hearty laughter. Coffee is next on the menu, his anger at the closing time of British coffee shops is palpable. Next up is the pub where he shares his first experience of a boozer in Britain, an anecdote that highlights British characteristics.

His material isn’t ground breaking, but the simple observations and relatively ordinary anecdotes are brought to life by Campbell’s enthusiastic performance and some well-placed swear words. His routines are extremely physical, as he extravagantly acts out scenes from his stories. Facial expressions also add to the humour, his bearded jaw appearing detachable at times.

Throughout the show Campbell compares different cultures. An internationally renowned comedian, he’s met vastly contrasting people. Australians, Americans, Norwegians, Brits, Canadians and Russians all get their fair share of ridicule from Campbell, and at one point he concedes that he’s just a cultural bully.

Campbell also exercises his singing voice at various points throughout the show. A rendition of the gentle country swing of George Strait’s ‘All My Ex’s Live in Texas’ followed later in the show by Nazareth’s heavy rock song ‘Flight at Night’ are both given a whole hearted attempt, the latter bemusing the audience somewhat.

Campbell then breaks down the lyrics making several jokes which were well received by the audience after the crazed singing. A cheesy Canadian song by Tom Connors received the biggest laughs of the evening, the catchy tune probably playing as the soundtrack to the audience’s dreams that night, unable to get it out of their heads.

Campbell struggled interacting with the Salford audience for the majority of the show. Asking questions on numerous occasions, the crowd were reluctant to answer, acting cagey and digging in their heels. Perhaps this was due to Campbell’s scary lumberjack appearance, but it was more likely to be the lack of energy in the room which was a struggle to maintain, the laughter and interaction only coming in bursts.

The show is anything but slick, compromising of bits of material and improvisation dragged together. Little is mentioned of the title and there appears to be no flowing narrative. However, this is precisely Campbell’s character; order and structure wouldn’t sit comfortably in his act. His strength is outlandish performance, and he delivers this in spades.

3

Review: Mark Steel – Who Do I Think I Am?

[First published on Quays News 27/05/16]

MARK STEEL performed his latest comedy show ‘Who Do I Think I Am?’ at the Lowry last night. A rare stand up tour for the politically minded comedian, I was sure not to miss out…

‘Who Do I Think I Am?’ delves into questions of identity as Have I Got News For You star Mark Steel takes the audience on a quest through his family history to work out which is more significant, nature or nurture.

Steel was adopted as a baby. In the first half of the show he shares his endearment to his adoptive family. Steel always knew he was adopted, and says how he never really gave it a second thought until later in life. A picture of Mark as a baby, that he clearly holds dear, was displayed on a screen behind him. It was simply a cute photo, but later in the second half of the show it takes on greater significance.

Mark Steel at The Lowry, SalfordStories of his adoptive parents stick out as high points in the first half as he tells stories of his upbringing in south London. His character impressions and anecdotes about his dad are instantly relatable for the audience, so too his stories about his mum, referring to her as a ‘proper mum’.

The first half of the show also contains the political stand up that Mark is so well versed in. A former member of The Socialist Workers Party, a passionate rant about David Cameron is to be expected. Nothing is left behind in these rants, sometimes coming off as politically induced breakdowns. Steel also talks about the middle ground in politics shifting as previous revolutionary ideas become mainstream, and cites the acceptance of gay marriage as an example.

Steel took particular care in choosing the music during the interval, playing songs with a similar title to that of his show, including tracks by The Who, ACDC and Beenie Man among others. After proudly pointing this out, Steel slips into another cascading rant, starting with the difficulty of constructing this playlist on iTunes then reeling off his hatred of technology. Probably getting the biggest laughs of the night, this routine struck a chord with the audience.

The story of Steels biological family then follows on in the second half, however, politics is sometimes dragged back, not necessarily fitting with the theme. His political material is tried and tested, guaranteed to get laughs, but it muddies the water of the sincere, sad, and sometimes astonishing narrative that flows through the show.

Despite this, Steel’s journey into finding his family history is as enthralling as it is funny. At some points hard to believe, Steel is blessed with material to the guaranteed envy of other comics. His biological mother’s side of the story is quite sweet, but also littered with sadness as the reasons for why Steel was given away arise.

The life story of Steels father, revealed as an Egyptian Jew, is in total contrast. It’s here where Steel plays around with ideas of nature against nurture with revelations about his father matching up to Steel’s character. Laughs come with ease, but nothing hysterical.

As the story ends Steel concludes that he still doesn’t really know who he is, and the question of nature or nurture is left for the audience to ponder. There is a feeling of admiration from his audience, perhaps sharing in such detail allows Steel to appear relatable and genuine.

A rousing round of applause with a cheeky smile from Steel signifies an encore. A little light hearted to and fro with the audience, along with an anecdote about a ludicrous story from a local newspaper wraps up the show, but doesn’t necessarily leave the audience giggling in the car journey home. Nevertheless, Steel’s show is a fascinating insight into his extraordinary family with plenty of laughs along the way.

4

Where are Britain’s Got Talent’s former comedy stars now?

Britain’s Got Talent has come to an end, and not soon enough, the talent this year dipped well below par. However, I’m not interested in the latest series, instead I want to take a look at the comedy acts from previous years that, despite not winning, have had a degree of success after their fledgling appearance in the spotlight.

 

Philip Green

In his audition back in 2013 comedy impressionist Philip Green was a bundle of nerves, but this seemed to bring out the funny in him. He was hilarious just when talking to the judges and was instantly likable. His impressions were also spot on and saw him through to the semi-finals, but that’s where the road ended for Green unfortunately.

He’s since taken to YouTube producing regular videos which have attracted 64,000 subscribers. Impressions are still the beating heart of his content, and he incudes them in parodies of music videos, mock film auditions as well as ‘how to’ videos for his most popular characters.

 

Jack Carroll

It was 2013 when a 14-year-old Jack Carroll appeared on Britain’s Got Talent with his stand up, and just missed out on winning the show, finishing as the runner-up. His cerebral palsy was a subject for a lot of his comedy on the show, but since then he’s expanded his material.

He’s been hugely successful performing at the Palladium and on Jason Manford’s It’s a Funny Old Week which aired last year. Carroll has also popped up in the popular sitcoms Trollied and Big School. His rapid assentation to the comedy sphere probably makes him the most successful comic act to appear on BGT.

 

Lorraine Bowen

David’s golden buzzer last year, Lorraine Bowen impressed with her catchy crumble song. She’d played in bands in her early career, then turned solo, to write and perform comedy songs for live audiences. Her hilarious performance on BGT shunted her into public consciousness. Since the show, she has continued to perform, written new songs and produced slightly differing versions of her big hit, the crumble song.

 

The Brett Domino Trio

Back to 2009 now, and the then three piece keyboard band The Brett Domino Trio had a successful first audition, but failed to reach the semi-finals. Host of Britain’s Got More Talent, Stephen Mulhern, did however take a liking to the Yorkshire threesome, drafting them in as the house band on his show on ITV2.

Since then The Brett Domino Trio have been busy but only as a duo, despite hilariously playing under the same name. They had a brief appearance in the charts with a song about Gillian McKeith’s appearance on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, but the majority of their success has been on YouTube. They specialise in awkward humour, their music videos and video blogs proving popular with 173,000 subscribers.

They’ve recently run a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce an album which I pledged seven quid towards so it better be good! Brett Domino, the creator of the band, has also played a melange of musical characters spanning several genres. He also wrote and starred in a sitcom about the his dubstep alter ego Cbomb ripping up the Sheffield music scene, however it only managed to get a pilot on BBC3 not being commissioned for a full series.

 

Allan turner-ward

With Allan Turner-ward you get more cheese than a bag jumbo of Wotsits. 2014 was the series in which the DJ appeared on BGT, getting through to the semi finals. He doesn’t have many original songs, but what he has produced is pure gold. His audition featured a song called Model Pose, and in the semi he performed an old song of his, Shake The Knees , which did quite well around Europe back in the day, but bombed on the show.

As well as being a local DJ on radio Wimbourne, he’s also produced a couple of new songs – Twistin’, Feeling Glad All Over and Over The Top This Christmas. He isn’t strictly a comedian, but his songs make me laugh whenever they’re on so I’m allowing his presence on this blog. He’s not everyone’s flavour, but I’m for an orange pack of Doritos any day.

 

Gatis Kandis

Are you well?
No I’m not a well I’m a person

This, the best joke of the 2012 series, was told by Latvian comedian Gatis Kandis. He made it to the semi finals that year and actually returned for the 2016 series, but with little success. His deadpan delivery of utter stupid gags somehow get audiences laughing, but at the same time strip him of his dignity, coming across as a real odd ball. As well as performing live comedy every now and then, he has taken to YouTube, producing what I presume are comedy videos, but they’re even stranger than his stand up.

 

Feel free to comment below if you think I’ve missed a comedy act that’s found success after their appearance on the show, and as always, remember to share and subscribe, you always seem to forget.

Jeremy Corbyn to guest on The Last Leg

Jeremy Corbyn is to appear on the first show of a new series of Channel 4’s The Last Leg on June 10.

The topical comedy show returns for its eight series and will again be hosted by comedian Adam Hills alongside Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe.

The show is filmed live and contains topical discussions, sketches and interaction with the TV audience through Twitter.

Guests appear part way through the show and are usually comedians or actors, rarely does a politician appear on the show.

However, Nick Clegg accepted an invite to the show prior to last year’s general election.

 

For a show that regularly ridicules and questions politicians, it is a risk for Corbyn to appear on the live show.

Despite this, The Last Leg does lean to the left in the views expressed, therefore in line with the Labour leader’s politics.