Daliso Chaponda

Stand Up for Shelter

09/08/17

Underbelly, George Square

The Udderbelly is packed with eager comedy fans who’ve all turned out to support a very worthy cause. MC Suzi Ruffell tells us we’ve already raised over four grand for Shelter just by buying tickets, so we can feel good about ourselves as we laugh. In addition, showcase events like these are a great way of sampling a varied selection of comedians. Because of their brief time allocation, we’re usually left wanting more – but luckily, that’s easily fixed as most of them have their own shows at the Fringe. Ruffell is a lively MC, who communicates well with the audience and handles the inevitable late arrivals with aplomb – then, without further ado she introduces the first act.

We’ve actually seen Richard Herring’s excellent Edinburgh show, Oh Frig, I’m 50!, twice already (we took my parents to his first preview, then went again for reviewing purposes a few nights later), so we’re expecting to find this short set a little over-familiar. Luckily for us, he delivers different material here, and he’s as hilarious, irreverent and charming as ever. A great way to start the show.

We’ve heard Desiree Burch on the fabulous Guilty Feminist podcast, and it’s lovely to finally see her live. As the title of her Fringe show, Unfuckable, suggests, she’s not an act for the prudish: she’s rude and funny, with charisma-aplenty. Good stuff.

Sara Pascoe is of course, another Fringe stalwart. Here she talks mostly about Marks and Spencer knickers and the time when she had the misfortune to be wearing the same ones as her ex’s mother. Her quirky, intelligent take on the world is as evident here as always, and she’s as marvellous as you’d expect.

We’re delighted to see our friend Daliso Chaponda  doing so well since his BGT appearance earlier this year – he’s finally getting the attention he deserves. He absolutely smashes this gig, drawing actual applause from the crowd for gag after gag. He’s pretty hard-hitting, and doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter (here he focuses on recent news stories about public figures using ‘the N word’ and how context changes everything) but he’s so charming and affable that it’s hard to imagine he could ever offend. It’s a shame he’s been given such a short slot, as the audience is clearly up for a lot more. He’s embarking on a tour early next year, and it’s definitely going to be worth checking him out.

Dan Antopolski treats us to some excerpts from a 50 Shades of Grey type novel that he’s working on. As you might expect, this is salacious stuff, made ridiculous by its over-attention to detail. It’s slyly funny and makes us giggle.

James Acaster ambles out, and makes amiable chit-chat for a few minutes. The conceit here is that he hasn’t bothered preparing, and he keeps looking at his watch, giving us a running countdown until his time is up. It’s a nice idea, and works well for him, perfectly suiting his comedic persona. Even the silences and sighs are funny; he has us all on side.

It’s left to Ed Byrne to close out the show in his own inimitable style. He tells us he only found out about this gig ten minutes before he was due on stage and has run all the way here, but since he has a little longer to stretch out than the earlier acts, he connects really successfully with the audience and his stories about the trials of  fatherhood and his planned vasectomy have us all laughing our socks off. It’s a satisfying end to proceedings, though inevitably it’s overrun and we have to leg it to our next gig.

It is a real treat to see so many great comedians on one bill – and Shelter really is an important cause. Recent news stories about increasing levels of homelessness in Britain (it’s set to double by 2041 according to some reports) show that this is actually no laughing matter. You can donate here: https://england.shelter.org.uk/donate

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield & Philip Caveney

Stand Up For Sarah

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The Comedy Store, Manchester

22/07/15

Smoke machines. What are they all about? The people who run the Comedy Store, Manchester own one and they’re not afraid to use it. It spills out a smelly fug of chemicals as we take our seats for tonight’s show and, as we’ve chosen positions near the front, the effect is a bit like sitting in the midst of an army of people smoking Capstan full strength. It creates no special atmosphere whatsoever. Unless you think a dodgy smell is something to savour. Just saying.

Tonight’s show if for a special cause – Thameside nurse, Sarah Swindells has terminal cancer and the entertainers are raising money to pay for some special treatment which is not available on the National Health. All the performers have donated their talents free of charge and there’s an encouraging turnout for a midweek event.

Thankfully, the smoke machine takes a break and out strolls our MC for the evening, veteran comedian Mick Ferry. He’s been around the block and knows just how to work an audience. An Australian visitor is singled out for some choice taunts (mostly the fact that he’s wearing more layers than everyone else) and a luckless tattooed  Mancunian builder called Billy is elected to start the applause but becomes the butt of several jokes, because he keeps wandering off to replenish his drinks. If an MC’s remit is to warm up the crowd, Ferry manages it expertly and introduces the first proper act of the evening.

Justin Moorhouse has also been around the block a bit. Some of his observations about his ‘other half’ feel a little over familiar. Lines like ‘you start off riding a bucking bronco, then find yourself straddling a leathery old cow,’ are clearly not intended to endear him to the feminists in the audience, but he settles into a better groove when talking about the ever-expanding universe. His impersonation of Stephen Hawking (sounding rather more like Kermit the frog) brings the house down.

Next up, Joe Lycett takes the stage, coming on like an oafish bellowing lager lout and my heart sinks; but it’s a clever bit of misdirection. He promptly starts talking in his ‘real’ voice, explaining that’s he’s just come from a stag party and that he’s simply been exhibiting learned behaviour. His camp, bitchy tone puts me in mind of the late, great Kenneth Williams, while his scattergun approach to comedy keeps taking us in unexpected directions. If there’s a prize for the most inventive comic of the evening, he wins it hands down and a joke about the chastity belts features in Mad Max: Fury Road is filthy but hilarious.

After a short break – and another unwelcome appearance by that bloody smoke machine – the event continues. The oddly named Penella Mellor wanders on and delivers a beautifully constructed routine on a somewhat controversial topic – children and how much she hates them. And, having established that there are several primary school teachers in the audience, she goes on to explain how they are responsible for making children even more annoying. Her deadpan serious expression as she delivers gems like; ‘ a margarine tub sprayed silver is not an acceptable birthday present – especially when I checked and there was a spa day on Groupon,’ has the audience (including the aforementioned teachers) in stitches.

Our final act of the evening is Daliso Chaponda. (I have to come clean at this point and admit that Daliso is a longstanding friend and he’s probably the main reason why we’re here tonight.) He hails from Malawi and much of his humour derives from canny observations where he compares the culture of his homeland to that of the UK. With Daliso, it’s all in the delivery. His distinctive voice and his range of accompanying animated expressions really help to sell the material. One lady sitting a few seats away from me is laughing so hysterically, I start to worry that she must be struggling to breathe. Daliso’s material is also somewhat ruder than I remember, but his charming air of innocence as he delivers the more risqué lines means that he can get away with murder. All in all, it’s a fine set which brings this memorable show to its conclusion.

An entertaining evening of laughter, all in aid of a really worthwhile cause. Whats not to like? (Apart from the smoke machine.)

4 stars

Philip Caveney