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.

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!

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.

Stephen K Amos – Hammersmith Apollo

Friday 26th February 2010

I’ve enjoyed the comedic style of Stephen K Amos ever since he appeared as the main warm-up act for the Have I Got News For You shows. His ‘Asbestos’ routine is timeless and made me laugh every time.

I hadn’t actually planned to go to the show, but earlier in the week it was clear a friend was dying to see Stephen K Amos perform, so a couple of clicks later and tickets were booked. After a lovely meal, it was time for the show. The lighting seemed slightly different to previous shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, but then I realised that it was being filmed for DVD.

Seann Walsh, the support act, was a pleasant surprise. He had the audience in the palm of his hand, considering more than half didn’t even know there was even going to be a support act. I also overheard the staff fearing that the crowd would go mental when they realised Amos was not going to be on for another 45 minutes.

For a brief spell, Amos became a distant memory, as Walsh entertained the audience. I loved the routine on life in London and how we get pissed off with waiting just 3 minutes for the tube, especially as that happened to me on-route to the venue. That followed with a superb imitation on the only place we are allowed to stare at people is when passing them by on the escalators in the underground. Couldn’t have been closer to the truth.

Now that everyone was warmed up, it was time for Stephen K Amos to enter the stage. A normal walk-on wasn’t enough, as he burst out to dancing to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ accompanied by a host of dancers. Without doubt the best entrance to a comedy show ever. I’m sure even some from the world of music would have been envious too.

Stephen K Amos then provided us with an abundance of old and new comedic material covering the usual suspects; race, homosexuality and family. The routine with ‘Cooon’ Cheese was hilarious and mirrored the superb ‘Baboon’ act from previous tours. Even dealt with a couple of hecklers superbly.

Aside from the exceptional entrance, the emergence of Ollie will live with everyone who was at the Apollo. This poor 17-year-old kid from Watford sat at the corner of the front row and was at the receiving end of so many observations. There was a lovely moment when Stephen K Amos invite Ollie on to the stage for the finale. A memorable night that will live with Ollie forever, along with the knowledge that the next time he masturbates, he will see an image of the comedian’s face.

Another dancing extravaganza ended what was an amazing show. Of all the shows I have been to, it was the only where everybody gave a standing ovation. I felt the emotion for Amos at that point. Truly fantastic. Then I had a sense of bemusement. Everybody had sat down for a moment, whilst Amos said his goodbyes. Then before Amos has even left the stage, almost everyone was up and walking out, even though there was a band still playing the show out.

The show that Stephen K Amos delivered was outstanding. Simply the best entrance and ending to any comedy show. In case anyone is thinking that the standing ovation was merely an attempt for everyone to get up and leave whilst clapping, then that is far from the case. The sudden rush to the exits was more to do with the long wait prior to the show and during the interval due to filming for DVD. I just hope Ollie makes the DVD!

Billy Connolly – Hammersmith Apollo

Sunday 17th January 2010

The comedy tour is going great with so many acts so seen live so far, but now it’s time to witness one of the old guard. Billy Connolly is a favourite amongst his peers, so it’s my chance to see his eccentricity in full flow.

Started the night with a great meal at a local pub in Hammersmith. A friend and a waiter made a slight mess of the order and we ended up with 3 meals between the 2 of us. Then it was off to the venue. With at least 150 minutes of non-stop action, a toilet break would mean missing part of the show. So it was a chance to detox, with just a few sips of water, sit back and let the Billy Connolly take over.

As soon as Billy Connolly entered the stage and engaged with the audience, it was clear everyone was going to have a good night. There was so many moments where he went off in different tangents, at times almost forgetting the story he’d started, but it didn’t matter, as the next topic was just as hilarious.

Good luck to any critic in the audience as he destroyed them with one of his routines, along with the latest technology that’s simply passing him by. He was also pretty controversial with his choice of topics and language, especially with a couple of ‘C’ words used in a few routines.

I loved the routine on drunks’ walking. Brought back so many memories. But my favourite had to be the buffet. Why do they make you walk past the buffet to your seat, then seconds later, you have to get up and walk back to the buffet to get your food? Why can’t you just get your food on the way! Superbly crafted and expertly delivered.

It’s great to see an outstanding performer at work. Eccentric, unstructured, but above all hilarious. Billy Connolly is an exceptional comedian. In essence, he’s like a mad man who can tell funny stories. A superb night of comedy and must for all to see!

Jimmy Carr – Hammersmith Apollo

Tuesday 22nd December 2009

Hmmm… I had tickets for the Darts, but still decided to buy tickets for Jimmy Carr. Even though I couldn’t be in two places at once, I thought I’d worry about that dilemma nearer the time.

With three visits to the Darts in the last four days, I decided to give those tickets away to a friend, in return for a much-needed comedy night. It was the first visit to the Hammersmith Apollo, so it was quite exciting too. Moreover, with great seats near the stage, I was ready for a good night.

Jimmy Carr is known for his edgy comedy and immediately into his routine, you tell this wasn’t going to be a show for those easily offended. He began with a few hilarious one-liners, at comparatively normal speeds of 45rpm, considering Tim Vine blasts them out at 78rpm, whilst Stewart Francis is much more conservative at 33rpm.

Consistently on tour and with new material each year, Jimmy Carr keeps impressing his audiences, apart from the drunk girl who heckled him more times than Jimmy made a cock gag. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the type of material on a tour titled ‘Rapier Wit’, but it does take a genius to deliver it.

Working through his superb illustrations was hilarious, covering topics like The Bill, Jesus, Jordan, The Queen, Michael Jackson to name but a few. He continued on the sofa with The Jimmy Carr Story titled ‘My Autobiography aka ME, ME, ME’ written by Jimmy Carr. The book cleverly tackled Fame, Looks, Childhood, Faith, Sexual Awakening and Relationships.

Jimmy Carr provided almost too many gags for a single evening, if that is at all possible. Edgy, controversial, mind-blowing. A fantastic night out. Bought a signed DVD as the queue was massive to get the programme signed. Especially as he’d changed into some casual gear and looked like a little boy, so we couldn’t find him at first. Thanks Jimmy Carr, it was definitely worth giving those Darts tickets away!