A happy welcome back to the Upfront Comedy team, bringing a little light and laughter into a Northampton Sunday evening. Hosted by the inimitable John Simmit, also known as The Artist Formerly Known as Dipsy, he told us of his grim experience of getting back from a gig in Ulverston over the weekend when there were no trains. Nasty. My sympathy stopped, however, when he said that Eurovision (which had taken place the day before) is rubbish. Minus mark to Mr Simmit – time to join the 21st century!
All the acts had the benefit of noticing a young lad in the front row seeing the show with his Mum. We ascertained that he was 16 years old, and I think his name was Anand. My guess is that he was a lot more knowledgeable about many aspects of life and language by the end of the evening.
Our first act, and someone new to us, was Sukh Ojla, a very jolly lady with a lot of very enjoyable material about living at home with your parents at the age of 38, deciding she’s now way too old for an arranged marriage, and trying to ascertain who else in the audience was hopelessly single. She has a very appealing stage persona and a warm way of communicating with the audience that made it easy for us to confide in her. A very happy start to the proceedings.
Next up, and someone whom we’ve seen at an Upfront gig before, was John Ryan, whose act is all based on promoting equality; so even though he looks like he’d be a wise-cracking London comic of the old school, he’s as right-on as right-on can be. He explores racial and ethnic stereotypes with effortless ease and you know he’s never going to put a foot wrong as far as giving offence is concerned. It’s a clever act because it fools with the audience’s preconceptions, and he has a lot of entertaining material.
Nevertheless, as we went into the interval there was a slight feeling that somehow the evening as a whole was holding back – whether the audience weren’t quite letting themselves go, or whether the acts weren’t quite tickling our funnybones, it was hard to tell. However, the second half of the show devoted a big chunk of time to the company of headliner Stephen K Amos, and he completely nailed it. He grabs an audience by the scruff of the neck and dares them not to adore everything he does. Almost all his act is simply reacting to whatever the audience offers him – so young Anand was a gift, but when he realised brother and sister Matt (47) and Claire (44) had brought their mum and dad along with them it was like all his Christmases had come at once. Biffing off hecklers with withering putdowns, always choosing le mot juste and with immaculate timing, it was an hour or so of pure comedic beauty.
Upfront Comedy will return later this year and I’ll definitely be there!