Review – Another Comedy Crate/Rock the Atic Sunday Night Online – 7th March 2021

Comedy CrateThese online comedy gigs courtesy of the Comedy Crate and the Atic have proved very successful so the initial plan for four Sundays throughout February has extended into March, and I for one am delighted about that! It’s a great way to relax into your Sunday evening before preparing for another Monday of Big Business and Commercial Challenges…  sorry, I mean, staying at home and not knowing what day it is from one day to the next.

Ryan MoldOur regular host Ryan Mold welcomed us all on board with his bright, cheery presence and some great new material including an embarrassing remote conversation with people on a bus, and the joys of being colour-blind. It’s much more difficult to engage with a zoom audience than a conventional audience because there’s no hiding place in a regular club or theatre, whereas online you can pretend not to hear or indeed just switch your cam off whilst you go and cook the evening meal! But he does a great job at keeping us all involved.

Scott BennettIt was a five-act show last night – virtually Shakespearean in construct. First off the block was Scott Bennett, whom we saw a few years ago supporting Rob Brydon at the Royal and Derngate and he was brilliant. Again yesterday he has a fantastic, lively presence with great, surefooted delivery and heaps of material to share. I loved all his observations about taking kids on an aeroplane, his printer being his mortal enemy and, most of all, those unromantic evenings when you’re “trying for a baby”. The jokes were overflowing as was the laughter. A really great start.

Paul F TaylorNext up was Paul F Taylor, whom we’d also seen at a Screaming Blue Murder seven years ago. He has a terrific zany approach to his comedy with a nice balance of the surreal and the stupid. Last night he did a great routine about how one of your hands is a reliable tool all your life but the other is a hanger-on – very funny. I also liked his exploration of which professions are suffering most during lockdown. I’m not sure the zoom medium works that well for his particular comedic style; you can tell he yearns for interpersonal stage connections to make things flow for the best. But he has great material and has a very likeable stage persona.

Jenny CollierMiddle act, and a last minute change to our schedule, was Jenny Collier. New to us, I liked how she uses her Queen’s English accent to shock with the use of the C word! In fact she didn’t hold back from discussing some of the seamier sides of life, but it was all done with great timing and a very engaging personality. She had some great material about doing the NHS clap in a Welsh village, and also the very recognisable observations about life as a GP receptionist. Very enjoyable!

Jack GleadowNext came Jack Gleadow, also new to us, and clearly a naturally funny guy, with a great feel for language (I loved his malapropism for Covid) and silliness (as in his impression of David Attenborough). He was also responsible for my favourite joke of the night, concerning comments made on porn videos, and we were his brief, but very funny, participants in his Meet The Audience section. He’s definitely someone we’d like to see IRL (as the young people say) when this is all over.

Troy HawkeAnd our headline act was the marvellous Troy Hawke, Milo McCabe’s brilliant Clark Gable lookalike comic creation, and probably the only person on a zoom call who’d naturally don a smoking jacket. Again, he’s another comic who thrives on the interaction with the audience – we’ve seen him do Spank! in Edinburgh a few  times – which is a challenge on zoom but he rises to it superbly, remarking on people’s living rooms, camera angles, lighting and so on – a perfect alternative to teasing them in person. His unexpected accents – such as that of the Glaswegian audience member – are terrifically funny as they’re so at odds with Troy’s own voice and demeanour. I really enjoyed his material about impostor syndrome and nurses versus influencers. An excellent way to end the evening.

I’m already booked for next week’s show which has the promise of some terrific acts – are you?

Review – Rob Brydon, I Am Standing Up, Derngate, Northampton, 4th March 2017

Rob Brydon I Am Standing UpWe’d seen Rob Brydon before, back in 2009, when he last toured the UK – it was just before I started blogging so I can’t easily check back to see how much we enjoyed it – but I do remember thinking he was good fun and so I was perfectly happy to see him again almost 8 years later, to see how he’s getting on. Of course, his career has gone from strength to strength since then, with endless panel games, guest appearances, loads of voiceovers, and so on; when we first saw him, the third series of Gavin and Stacey was still getting its first airing on TV. Even so, he’ll still break into a rendition of Barry Islands in the Stream at the drop of a laverbread.

Scott BennettBut before considering Mr Brydon’s role in the show on Saturday night, the first twenty minutes were spent in the company of a supporting act – Scott Bennett. He’s a bright and breezy Yorkshireman who wasted absolutely no time in making the most of his introductory slot, with lots of very good material about family relationships – especially with his dad, Roy. Roy’s the kind of guy who has a structural plan about how to get the most food onto your carvery plate (start with the meat first as your base layer and work your way up). Good comedy of recognition that – because if we ourselves are not the person who tackles a buffet strategically, we all know someone who is. I also liked Mr Bennett’s observation of people out on a romantic meal date night – each on their separate phones, Facebooking the people they should have married. He was very funny and got a really good reception, despite the fact that he wasn’t Rob Brydon.

Talking of whom, Mr Brydon is essentially a very funny man, with a delightful sense of comic joy about almost everything he does. He’s so self-deprecating which is always an attractive trait – like when he’s asked if James Corden still rings him; answer, yes he does, which gives rise to a joke that’s both anti-Brydon and anti-the town in which he’s performing; but it’s very cleverly done. When something particularly funny happens or someone says a great one-liner – even if it comes from the audience – he will break off the routine and rush over to a little table and write the joke down in a notebook, saying that next week’s show will be amazing with all this new material – thereby implying that this show, and his comedy hosting skills, aren’t as good. It always gets a laugh when he returns upstage to jot it down.

Rob BrydonHe has that ability that the best comics have of being able to weave together separate strands from different members of the audience and come back to them later in the show from a new angle. Towards the end he creates songs that mention all the individuals with whom he’s spoken earlier on. Again, very cleverly done, very inventive and always very funny. In our show Mr Brydon explored comic possibilities with George and Lucy – clearly the young middle class couple – and encouraged them always to close the loo door if they want to keep romance alive; we met Cynthia, the Elvis fan who’s not as young as she said she was, and who was in for a particular treat right at the end; and we met Tim and Lisa, bravely sat in the front row; she’d stoically worked for Mr Kipling for 32 years, woman and girl, never complaining and always ‘umble, which gave rise to Mr Brydon from then on referring to her as a Dickensian Woman, doing wonderful impressions of a dowdy drudge with mock-19th century language. Totally bizarre, but it really worked.

As you might expect, he does a prolonged sequence when he’s impersonating celebrities out in the jungle, Ant and Dec style, which is very good but I think he overplays the Tom Jones impersonation. It isn’t really quite as good as he seems to think, and he makes him into a grotesque that I don’t really feel is justified (but, hey ho, that’s just me.) He did a Ronnie Corbett as a request from the audience, brilliantly conveys the essence of Ken Bruce by just mumbling with the occasional 88 to 91 thrown in, and tells very funny stories involving Steve Coogan (roar). Towards the end he gears the subject matter towards the Welsh language so that he can sing All Through the Night in the original Welsh, Ar Hyd y Nos. Where’s the comedy in that? It’s when he then gives you the Google Translate version; thus proving it’s always worth paying for a proper translator. There were reminiscences about Uncle Bryn, and dealing with how weak your wee stream is when you get to his age (I’m five years older, so I totally sympathise), and there was even a charming brief hark back to the golden days of Blockbuster. It was all very lovely.

Rob Brydon againBut, do you know what, gentle reader? I kind of wanted more. I needed something a little more challenging. It was incredibly cosy, incredibly comfortable, a veritable Black Forest Gateau of delectation; and if that’s what you’re after, you’ll get it in spades. Maybe I ask too much. You don’t expect Rob Brydon to be all caustic and cynical, and I don’t think I wanted that either. It was all just a little too easy. I’m probably way out of synch with everyone else on this, because he went down extremely well. It was just, ever so slightly, insubstantial. He’s clearly a really nice guy and extremely funny, so I feel a bit mean criticising him like that. But I have to be honest, don’t I? His tour continues throughout March all over England – and if you haven’t already booked your tickets, it’s probably sold out.

P. S. Either inflation is higher than I thought, overheads have gone up, or someone’s stock is rising; top price stalls seats for Rob Brydon in 2009 cost £19.50 each. In 2017, virtually the same seats for the same show in the same theatre cost £32.50 each including my friends’ discount. Interesting, no?