Lee Mack – Hammersmith Apollo

Monday 10th May 2010

I’m a massive fan of the unscripted banter between Lee Mack and Dave Mitchell on the panel show Would I Lie To You? along with the scripted banter with Tim Vine and Miranda Hart in Not Going Out. Now I had the chance to see him perform live at the Apollo.

Simon Evans opened the show with an excellent opening performance. Pointing out that he had no eyes, the audience was fixated, although a few seemed to have noticed anyway. His calm, upper class style of comedy was a hit, even though at times he had us on a knife-edge, which was totally apparent during the English, Welsh and Pakistani joke. Complete silence, followed by sense of relief and laughter.

Lee Mack began his Going Out Tour, which was being filmed for DVD, with a magic trick. He picked out a teenager from the audience, invited him on stage, then locked him up in a magician’s chest. Instead of completing the trick, he ushered him off stage, shouting out “I did say NO kids.”

Rushing back and forth from the stage, he was evidently a different performer from the support act. Flowing with energy, Lee Mack was enjoying himself up there. Of course his style is often referred to as a modern-day Eric Morecambe. His humour is fitting for both the 1970s, as it is for 2010.

The show was full of interactions with the audience and his apparent annoyance at the hilarious responses shouted out to him. There is no doubt that is what he really wanted to hear, but seeing him fueled with anger was brilliant to see. It’s almost like we were all playing the part of David Mitchell.

There were so many highlights, but the impression of scousers sounding like dolphins was outstanding. With his disregard of Twitter and other technological advances, he was once asked “have you tried disabling cookies?” to which he responded “well, I once bit the legs off a gingerbread man.”

All in all, a must see performance. I loved every minute of it. Simon Evans was also a great choice as a support act. Lee Mack, thank you for a superb evening of comedy.

Reginald D Hunter – Arts Depot

Saturday 8th May 2010

Having only seen glimpses of Reginald D Hunter, mainly on shows like Have I Got News For You, I was intrigued to see him perform live.

Back at the Arts Depot, but this time in the larger Pentland Theatre. The night began with the support act, Steve Hughes, with his brand of intellectual humour. There were a number of gems, especially the material on Murdoch, but my favourite had to be the ‘straight men, gay men’ routine.

After a short interval, it was time for Reginald D Hunter to take to the floor. Even by his own admission, this wasn’t going to be a continuous laugh out loud stand up routine. In fact, while there were many moments where the audience were in hysterics, this felt far more like a comedy lecture. The Tiger Woods material was exceptionally good. Suffice to say Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama were not immune from his criticism.

I did feel sorry for poor Rupert, the young teenage Conservative. He was sat a couple of seats away from me, at the front of the stage. Imagine Reginald D Hunter asking who’d just voted Tory in the election, only for a dream stereotype to have the guts to put his hand up. Such an easy picking for the smart comedian and to be fair because of that he let him off lightly.

So there you have it. A comedian who swayed away from normal stand-up and towards a routine with principles presented in a humorous way. I really enjoyed it and would love to see Reginald D Hunter performing again.

Robin Ince’s School of Gifted Children May Ball – Bloomsbury Theatre

Friday 7th May 2010

Considering I’d missed an earlier School of Gifted Children 5 weeks ago, I was determined to make it to the May Ball – Module One.

It was the evening after the early hours of the General Election result. With no clear winner, most of the audience seemed exhausted after staying up through the night to watch the race unfold. The only thing that was clear, was that nothing was clear. A slightly somber Robin Ince entered the stage, sharing the pain felt by most of the audience. However, an array of ‘gifted children’ from the worlds of comedy, science and beyond were backstage waiting for their opportunity to enlighten us.

It was up to Martin White, with his karaoke-style entertainment to give us a kick up the backside and awaken us from this nightmarish dream. With random audience answers defining the lyrics and musical notes, along with a 3 syllable title, Napalm Death was the astonishingly catchy outcome.

On stage next was Andrew Collins with his attack on the red squirrel brigade and their somewhat racist goal of wiping out the grey squirrels. He also let it be known that he’d like a robin to eat from his hand, a duck to give him a kiss on the cheek and to walk hand in hand with a pigeon. I wish him well with all his ambitions.

With her self-confessed Susan Boyle appearance, Susan Vale cracked on with ‘normally I just do gags about quantum physics and end with a joke about nobs, but I can’t because Brian is here tonight.’ With her enormous collection of CD’s from the Fall and audience participation, her routine was disturbingly funny.

‘Wonders Man’, Professor Brian Cox focused on the lack of government investment in scientific research. As I’d hoped, a spectacular slide show followed, with astonishing images including the Earth as a just a pale blue dot, along with the Milky Way in all its glory. Climate change deniers were provided with a lesson on ‘known’ facts, while astrologers who continue to correspond with him were told where to go in no uncertain terms.

Surprisingly, Dr Simon Singh was introduced next for a brief talk on libel reform, covering his ordeal with the British Chiropractic Association. He in turn introduced Ben Goldacre, focusing the plight of Dr Evan Harris, having lost his seat in the General Election to a Christian fundamentalist Conservative in the early hours. Both Simon and Ben arrived as a show of support for Evan, and after the 4th attempt to sound out the ex MP in the audience, he finally made his whereabouts known and the response was an immediate standing ovation.

The science talk continued with Adam Rutherford taking on mantle covering topics like ‘if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?’ He focused on evolution and genetics, with the latest evidence on the often maligned Neanderthal. Maybe we really are closer to them than we are led to believe.

Gavin Osbourn, still fresh from playing the music to Napalm Death earlier, gave the audience a superb performance on the first time he’d seen Professor Brian Cox on HD. So yet another ‘gifted child’, focusing on the rise and rise of the ‘young’ professor.

Marcus Brigstocke was to provide the finale with a bout of comedy to send us all home with a smile on our face. He didn’t disappoint with his magic numbers routine, along with one of my favourites, the London bus ad campaigns.

So that was it. Or was it? The headmaster Robin Ince came out once again to a fully enlightened, and extremely tired audience, to announce yet another special guest. This time it was Tim Minchin. Walking barefooted onto the stage, the audience were given a rendition of The Pope Song, the first time he’d performed it live. That was the icing on the tastiest cake ever made!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahbsQho8RCA]

Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Showcase – Comedy Store

Monday 3rd May 2010

Following the resounding success of the Comedy Roadshow for both Michael McIntyre and his guest comedians, it was announced that the Comedy Store would host a series of eight Comedy Showcases.

Referred to as the FA Cup of Comedy, the show kicked off with Michael McIntyre warming up the crowd. I’d seen him the previous day, in another venue about 200 metres from the Comedy Store. Of course, by now I pretty much know the whole routine, even though he adds the odd new element here and there. I enjoy his interaction with the audience and was also looking forward to eight top comedians strutting their stuff.

I was gutted that I’d forgotten to charge the battery for the new camera. Even though there was an announcement that no photography was allowed, it didn’t stop a girl in the front row literally pointing her camera at him. After about a minute or so, a bemused Michael McIntyre realised that it was unlikely that she was taking so long to take a photo. ‘Are you recording this?, if so, why didn’t you wear all black and sit incognito further back?’ The cheeky girl immediately put her camera away, only later to give him her tickets to get signed, during the performance.

The performances on the night were really entertaining from Gary Delaney’s one liners to Andy Askins’ offbeat comedy songs. Good performances too from Rob Rouse, Charlie Baker and Lucy Porter. However, the stand-out performances came from Ian Stone, Imran Yusuf and Hal Cruttenden. All three had the audience in hysterics throughout the whole of their routines. If I had to pick one, and to be honest all 3 were exceptional on the night, I’d probably give it to Imran Yusuf. Nevertheless, I hope that all 3 make it to the Comedy Roadshow.

Superb night out, with some outstanding performances on the night. Good luck to all of the performers.

UPDATE: Imran Yusuf has been comfirmed as a guest performer on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.

Michael McIntyre – WiP – Leicester Square Theatre

Sunday 2nd May 2010

Almost 6 weeks since I’d last seen Michael McIntyre, so it’s back to Leicester Square Theatre for another work in progress gig.

In the foyer, I’d overheard Michael McIntyre ask “who’s playing in the main theatre?” As I walked past, I said that it was “Bill Bailey”, then quickly moved on, taking my seat in the basement. After our previous encounter, at one of the earlier work-in-progress shows, I didn’t fancy being in the spotlight again.

John Gordillo kicked off the proceedings again with another good performance, before paving the way for Michael McIntyre to take over. The material was similar to the eventful one in March, but with slight tweaks here and there. Rather than tweaks, it probably has more to do with the way the details are remembered and then performed. It seems he prefers to remember the topic, rather than the whole routine. This leads to a different version of the same gag every time.

Michael McIntyre asked the 50 odd audience for a show of hands if ‘Road’ formed part of their address. Then asked if anyone had any alternatives. My mate kept trying to shout out mine, but thankfully he was blanked throughout. Surprisingly, ‘Street’ was never mentioned, but loads for ‘Avenue’ and ‘Lane’. Then a lady shouted out ‘End’, which took McIntyre and the rest of us by surprise. McIntyre played on the fact that it sounded like she wanted him to ‘End’ the performance, with a witty routine.

Another enjoyable night out with Michael McIntyre once again entertaining a tiny room of people.

Comedy Nights – Lyric Theatre

Sunday 25th April 2010

Back at Hammersmith for another event, but this time it’s at the Lyric Theatre with Richard Herring hosting the comedy night.

A quick bite to eat at the Lyric Theatre, before taking our seats. Wearing a Mr Perfect t-shirt, Richard Herring entered the stage. Another indication at his refusal to grow old, simply because age suggests so. There is no doubt he won outright ‘as the person who had eaten the most amount of carrots in the day’, through a quick audience straw poll. A thoroughly entertaining set, including loads of periodic table Q&As, before introducing Dan Antopolski onto the stage.

Unfortunately for the comic, an audience member’s alcohol level had reached annoying heights, almost trying to take over the show. At one point, it was an almost a one-to-one therapy session. He tried being nice, nasty, funny and rude, but nothing was going to stop her telling everyone that her boyfriend had left her, culminating in Dan replying ‘I have no idea why he left you’. Finally, he was allowed to continue his routine, ending with an inspired 4 minute rap.

Up next was Andy Parsons, who immediately opened with the line “I dumped my girlfriend today”, which had the audience in hysterics, as the annoying heckler had been led away after Dan’s performance. Another quality performance, before a short interval. Richard Herring was back to introduce the final act, Ed Byrne, who was excellent on the night. Even so, his routine at The Big Libel Gig will always be tough to top.

Overall, quality performances all round, including Richard Herring’s great interactions with the audience, especially the Italian girl from Bergamo. Enquiring about anyone famous from there, she mentioned Donizetti. Even my Italian mate wasn’t too sure who he was. I had to google him when I got back and it turns out he’s a composer. In fact, he composed “Lucia di Lammermoor”, an opera I’d seen a couple of months earlier!

Rhod Gilbert – Hammersmith Apollo

Friday 23rd April 2010

Rhod Gilbert’s performance on Live at the Apollo is probably one of my favourite rants of all time. Clever, energetic and hilarious. Therefore, I was off to Hammersmith for The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst Tour.

The show was to filmed for DVD and to my surprise I had an enormous camera directly behind my seat. Andrew Bird, the support act, warmed up the audience with a witty and polished routine and now everyone was in the mood for the main event.

Rhod Gilbert came out all guns blazing. Asking for the audience if anyone was from anywhere exotic, he did a whole routine on Swindon, only to later find out the guy had actually said Switzerland. A new and funnier routine followed, especially as the subject matter seemed tougher to joke about.

But it seemed something wasn’t right. He was ranting as usual, but at times he appeared genuinely angry and agitated. I guess the pressure of filming the DVD was probably the cause. After 20 minutes, he decided to take a break for an early interval. A concerned cameraman behind me muttered that wasn’t happy at all, ‘oh he is going off on one backstage’. Apparently, he didn’t seem happy with the start of the show, the way the audience was fully lit up and I guess the stupid decision not to move an members from a packed audience to fill some of the empty seats in his immediate eye line.

After the break, it was apparent that a much more relaxed and happier man re-entered the stage. Rhod Ghilbert was fully into his routine, comically annoyed at hoovers and washing machines, along with hilarious material on panic and regression. The performance was explosive and the rapport with the audience was near perfection. So much so that members of the audience were requesting for his stage manager to appear on stage just to wind up the comedian, purely for the entertainment of everyone in the building.

Off he went, only to come back a minute or so later for additional material to be recorded. Noticing members of the audience had already started to make way for the exits, gave him more ammunition to rant during ‘his encore’. For those that were fortunate to have stayed the distance, Rhod Gilbert performed for another 30 minutes, covering a superbly structured montage of the old favourites including duvets and luggage.

Unbelievably, the main highlight of the show was still to come, with the hilarious slide show featuring numerous cats sent into him by ‘fans’, culminating in the final photo that captivated the name of the tour. Rhod Gilbert, after a the nervous start, was sensational and with a 3 hour set, made for a memorable evening!

Katy Brand – Arts Depot

Friday 16th April 2010

Katy Brand’s hilarious performance on Let’s Dance For Sport Relief increased her profile to new heights. Great timing especially with an impending tour just around the corner.

I managed to get tickets for the pre-tour at the Arts Depot, prior to the announcement of the full Katy Brand’s Big Ass Tour. The Studio Theatre is perfect for any artist requiring instant feedback from a small audience of up to 150 people.

A superb view, almost too close, as Katy Brand entered the stage. I was already in stitches just prior to that, as my mate for some reason or another, thought he was actually going to see Jo Brand!

Katy Brand played a number of different characters on the night, mixed in with parodies from the world of music. The parody of Lady Gaga was mildly entertaining, while the Amy Winehouse drunken wiggle put a huge smile on my face. Her Mariah Carey performance was superb, especially the vocals, while the multiple Lilly Allen impersonations was well written and performed.

The Queen and the half-Greek character were ok, with the footballer’s wife a significant improvement. I didn’t really follow the ongoing Kate Winslett parody, but the standout performances were Army Captain Rosie Fielding and drunken Caroline. These two characters were played superbly, with Captain Fielding also pulling off Beyoncé exceptional Single Ladies.

It was a really fun night out and hopefully for Katy Brand’s sake the laughs increase when she performs at larger venues. I’ve also had to rethink what Lionel Richie’s ‘Three Times A Lady’ is really about!

Infidel Film Premiere – Hammersmith Apollo

Thursday 8th April 2010

The premiere of The Infidel at the Hammersmith Apollo was next on the agenda. Judging by the comments on Twitter, many faces from the world of film and comedy were expected to support the event.

I’ve no idea why I’d expected the night to follow in the same vain as previous events at the Apollo. Basically, arrive, take your seat, watch the show, leave. The hundreds of people outside the venue, along with camera crews, photographers and the infamous red carpet meant it would be a challenge just to make it inside.

Walking towards the red carpet, any old school Grange Hill fans would have had huge smiles on their faces as Todd Carty was spotted having his photo taken. A quick glance across and the real stars of the film could be seen, director David Baddiel and lead actor Omid Djalili.

A friend from Piraeus commented on what how orderly everyone was queuing to get inside the Apollo. With no real guidance, a long bendy line was formed around the venue, whereas in Greece there would simply be a large semi-circle formation squashed outside the main door.

There was a rush to get inside now, as the tannoy kept repeating the performance was to start in 1 minute. The strange thing about that line, was that it was repeated about 7 times, every 2 minutes. Eventually he’d given up. Loud applause followed, but it wasn’t quite clear why. Then the penny dropped, as the organist slowly disappeared through the stage, meaning that something was about to finally happen.

David Baddiel than entered the stage to the relief of the audience. To be fair he was apologetic for the long wait and more so when he explained that the film scheduled to be shown at 7pm, was to begin after few stand-up routines and talks from members of the film’s production team. It was a requirement by the venue, of course to sell more alcohol during the interval. I guess only Billy Connolly can get away with having a 2 1/2 hour show without an interval at the Apollo.

Whilst the delays may have annoyed a few in the audience, I enjoyed hearing David Baddiel explain how the idea of the film came into fruition. Omid also provided a hilarious stand-up routine, as did the two winners of the Funniest Religion competition. Names were dropped as to who else was in the audience, most notably long time friend Frank Skinner and music legend Billy Ocean. Among others, Jo Brand, Jimmy Mistry and Hardeep Singh Kohli were in attendance.

There was an excellent response to comedian Imran Yusuf’s Funniest Religion video. I’d seen it before on YouTube, but nevertheless, it was fun just seeing the reaction of the audience as they seemed unsure what to make of it at first. Then there were roars of laughter from the mixed Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Atheist audience midway through the Britain’s Got Talent parody.

The film itself was based around Omid Djilili [a real life avid Chelsea fan] playing a Muslim, following Spurs, who happens to find out he was born a Jew. A superb cast, with an intriguing storyline made for a really good film. There are too many hilarious moments to mention, from the unfortunate political demonstrations to the uncomfortable family get-togethers. The film went down very well with all sections of the audience.

If there was a single disappointment, it was probably the ending, but I’ve racked my brain and realised it’s not easy to finish a film when the subject is so controversial. The same can be said for the very funny You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

Above all, the film shows that it’s ignorance that forces people apart, extremists that maintain this separation and moderates from all sides that need to close these divisions. Moreover, people have so much more in common with their ‘neighbours’ than what is either perceived or portayed. Maybe along with distributing The Infidel around the world, it would have been an idea to record the diverse audience, showing people of different nationalities, cultures and religions, sat alongside each other, laughing together, all under the same roof. A peaceful experience, in a complex world.

Mark Thomas – National Theatre

Wednesday 7th April 2010

So it’s back-to-back nights at the National Theatre, with the Mark Thomas Manifesto Election Special.

I was in two minds booking an event on April 6th and/or April 7th as it coincides with a really sad period in my life. But 4 years on, it was obvious my mother would have rather I was out having fun, rather than staying in reflecting at her loss.

The National Theatre is even more impressive when observed from high up in the amphitheatre. The direct views from the stalls are great, whilst the amphitheatre hangs over the auditorium offering a completely different experience, almost like hovering above the performance.

One year on from the work in progress shows for the People’s Manifesto, it was interesting to see how far both the serious and the more obscure ideas had developed. There were numerous ‘interesting’ ideas put forward by a variety of audiences, but the one that received the loudest applause was the ingenious ‘if it pisses down with rain on a bank holiday, it will be considered a rollover’.

Mark Thomas introduced Danny Kushlick, the founder and director of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, who will present the People’s Manifesto in the constituency of Bristol West. Notable policies included the introduction of a maximum wage, the scrapping of Trident and the introduction of a Tobin tax on all currency transactions.

A fun and rewarding night out, apart from the pathetic heckler during Danny’s speech. I had a feeling that if Mark wasn’t going to climb into the amphitheatre to thump him one, members of the audience were likely to lynch him. Eventually, the audience did verbally turn on him forcing the annoying heckler to sulk in his seat. Well done to Mark Thomas, all the audiences throughout the tour, and good luck Danny Kushlick.

UPDATE: Danny Kuchlick received 343 votes, 0.6% of the votes.