Live Comedy – Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman

Bridget Christie’s show last year, A Bic For Her, was a double award winner and sold out at the Edinburgh Festival and the Soho Theatre (where I snagged tickets) – and this year sees her return with another show about feminism. Christie is a very funny person who makes jokes related to serious issues in order to make a point. An Ungrateful Woman is a follow-up/response to the previous show and the reaction to it, both hers and the public/media – after A Bic For Her, she was asked by a journalist what would be next for her, ‘now that she’d done feminism’, as if her writing an hour’s worth of jokes had solved 200,000 years of patriarchal dominance (as she put it).

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Recording of Chain Reaction with Graham Linehan and Adam Buxton

Chain Reaction is an interview show for Radio 4 where the interviewer chooses their subject, who then gets to choose their subject for the next show. It started off as a comedy thing, with comedians interviewing other comedians, but Stewart Lee changed that by asking to interview Alan Moore. This season, Frankie Boyle interviewed Grant Morrison, who interviewed Neil Innes, who interviewed Graham Linehan, co-creator of Father Ted, creator and writer of The IT Crowd and prolific Twitterer. Linehan chose to interview Adam Buxton, he of The Adam And Joe Show fame and more recently the wonderfully charming Adam And Joe radio show on BBC 6 Music and the Bug show. I am a big fan of both of these creators, so I was very lucky to grab two tickets to watch the recording of the radio programme.

The show was at Broadcasting House, where we haven’t been to since May 2010 for recordings for The Now Show and episodes of Clare In The Community, and there has been a lot of building work since then, which meant that I didn’t know where the entrance was, but it means that my wandering around led to me seeing Graham Linehan outside the main entrance, waiting to go in for the show. I didn’t bother him because I’m a shy, retiring chap.

The fact that two famous funny chaps were on the bill meant that the recording was a full house, with lots of people on standby tickets, which meant that people had to wait for over an hour to have it confirmed that they definitely couldn’t get in. I did feel a little sorry for them when we went through, but only a little …

The producer came out first to make some announcements and was surprisingly funny, with a dry sense of humour and delivery about the fire exits and turning off the phones. Then he got the two main men on stage, where they proceeded to talk honestly about everything for an hour – we could have listened for longer but Linehan was paying attention to time because he and Buxton were getting the same train back to Norfolk, where they both live.

Because the two gentlemen are both involved in the generation of comedic content, there was a lot of discussion about the nature of creativity and being productive and fighting procrastination and doing productive procrastination, such as watching videos about creativity. As a bit of a process nerd, I was fascinated listening to them and how they cope with self-doubt and worrying about being funny and being able to create new things, despite the fact that they have made lots of funny stuff that many people enjoy.

Buxton talked about how he is deliberately taking a step back from his regular assignments, such as Bug, to work out what he is doing and how he is doing it, instead of being reactive and commenting. There was a lot of great chat about working on your own and working with someone else – Linehan talked about working with Arthur Matthews and how, after Father Ted, they couldn’t write together after they had gone off to write other things with other people, Linehan on Black Books and Matthews on Hippies; Buxton talked about working with Joe Cornish and working on the TV show and how they did a lot on their own during the show because there was so much to do. Linehan asked him about how he feels about Cornish doing well and Buxton was very open about how he felt about certain things. He mentioned that Cornish had told Buxton that he was going to play the drug dealer in Attack The Block until Cornish used Nick Frost instead; he also talked about how surprised he was about the Star Trek 3 rumours because Buxton is a huge Star Trek fan and Cornish has poured buckets of scorn on the series. He’s happy for his friend but thought they would do stuff together in films, which hasn’t happened.

There was a lot of talk about Twitter and the internet and using it for work, with Buxton talking about interacting with a fan who had found his Edinburgh show uninteresting the night after Buxton had been particularly happy with the show and mistakenly gone on Twitter to see the praise; Buxton interacted with him on Twitter about it. There was also conversation that Linehan decided wasn’t worth broadcasting, shouting to the producer to ‘Cut all the fucking Twitter shit’ – Linehan isn’t a natural interviewer, which was part of the charm, and there were strange conversational cul-de-sacs and tangents, with both men enjoying each other’s company (they seem to have a prior connection in that Buxton’s wife used to work for a production company that Linehan used to work for back in the day), which is good when you consider they would be on the same train home together.

It was funny, charming, warm, open, interesting and insightful, and it was nice to hear the whole thing instead of the 30-minute edit that will be broadcast.

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Live Comedy – Bridget Christie: A Bic For Her

Let me say this before I start waffling: this show is funny, smart, silly and thoughtful about a serious issue that never overwhelms the fact that Bridget Christie knows she’s making jokes to make a point. It’s a very entertaining hour about feminism and the way that feminism is portrayed and trying to understand why it’s so difficult for people to grasp the idea that social, political and economic equality for women should be the norm, but still has time to mock Stirling Moss for his sexist comments about female racing drivers, which leads to Christie imagining the hilarious repercussions of his funeral in the case of his hypothetical death from falling down a lift shaft in his own house. That’s impressive.

I bought tickets for this show at the Soho Theatre in late September, and even then tickets were only available for weekday performances. Since then, the run from 5 November to 6 December has sold out and another run, for most of January, has been announced. This might not be the same as selling out a national tour of big theatres and arenas, but it still makes me happy that a comedy show about feminism has struck a chord and Christie’s talents are being rewarded financially, as well as the Foster Edinburgh Comedy Award for 2013. (And I thought she was having a good year after her very funny Radio 4 show earlier this year about feminism, Bridget Christie Minds The Gap …)

After a start where she’s warming up (she admits that she’s trying things to keep it fresh for her), she gets into the set that won her the Edinburgh comedy award with her twirling around to show that she is indeed a woman, which leads into the fact that the best woman was Wonder Woman because she needed to twirl around and the fact that Margaret Thatcher wasn’t a good woman because she refused to turn around. She then went into the extended routine about Stirling Moss, which sees Christie’s physicality come to the fore, as she throws herself around the stage – this is a comedian who did previous Edinburgh shows as an ant, a donkey and King Charles II.

Throughout the show, Christie plays with the idea of what she is doing: she is passionate about feminism and knows that she is unable to change the minds of idiots who refuse to believe in the idea but also knows that she can make jokes about sexism and misogyny that contribute to the conversation that should be constantly happening. She uses pretend heckles from male audience members to highlight this – ‘What’s that, sir? Why’s she getting so angry about women’s pens when there’s human trafficking and female genital mutilation? I’m glad you bring that up but I’m trying to keep it light …’ – after the aforementioned routine about the show’s title, where she wonders how Bic got the idea and an imagined conversation between the Bronte sisters about their writing.

She also discusses the people who have been lauded as feminist icons despite the fact that they have stated that they don’t want to be defined by it (Beyonce) or who don’t believe in it (Thatcher), and states that her feminist icon is Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to an education – although, crucially, she does this and still puts jokes in that are funny and appropriate. That’s the great balance here: the show is laugh-out-loud funny the whole way through while making her points in a passionate way, pointing out absurdities (Jay Z is now considered a feminist because he dropped the word ‘bitch’ from his raps after his daughter was born; asking that women be allowed to have feminism because ‘men already have everything else’) and the casual sexism that exists so that we don’t even notice it any more.

The only strange thing about the night was the audience: it was populated by more women than would normally be found in a comedy gig, and it seemed like the majority weren’t normally comedy gig patrons. There were islands of people, like my girlfriend and I, who were laughing hysterically at the material but there seemed to be an uneven balance, as if people weren’t sure they were supposed to be laughing, as if they were expecting a lecture or something; it was something that Christie picked up on, pointing out where certain gags worked better or worse than usual. It’s early into the run, and then there’s the extra month of shows next year, so perhaps it will be different next year – I know I’m tempted to see the show again next year because it was so funny and it was great to hear someone saying things that needed to be said but in a hilarious fashion. I thoroughly recommend this show, and urge you to see it, and I look forward to Christie’s next material – she’s writing a book and a new series of the radio show – and whatever she does next.

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Balham Comedy Festival Nights

I recently had the pleasure of two nights of comedy at the Balham Comedy Festival, and two different experiences. Jo Caulfield was performing Better The Devil You Know on Wednesday, Marcus Brigstocke was performing Je M’Accuse – I Am Marcus on Thursday, in one of the hottest weeks of the year, but Brigstocke was in the main room, packed to the rafters, while Caulfield was in the small room upstairs playing to about fifty people, which was a great shame as she was very funny (Brigstocke was funny too, but the numbers were not reflective).

For me, the difference between the two is that Caulfield is more of a writer whereas Brigstocke is more of a performer. Caulfield, in addition to her own shows at Edinburgh and her own radio shows, has worked as head writer on So Graham Norton and other shows, whereas Brigstocke has always been his own man, front and centre of things, such as Giles Wemmbley Hogg Goes Off or presenting I’ve Never Seen Star Wars on radio (as well his political bits on The Now Show) or presenting The Late Edition on BBC4 or captain on Argumental on Dave, to starring the touring version of Spamalot. Both write their own stuff that they perform, but Caulfield’s work is more about finding that funny turn of phrase, the interesting angle on theme, whereas Brigstocke is more about presenting his views about subjects, mostly political, in a funny way.

In principle, Caulfield’s show is about being married to her husband (they were together for years before getting married), but that’s just a useful Edinburgh title instead of the entirety of the material. There is material about watching various TV shows, getting a new washing machine, a complaint letter to a blinds company who in 6 months has only supplied one set of blinds that were the wrong shape and colour, and the difference in communication style between men and women – she read out dialogue between her husband and his male friends which was just exchanging facts. She does bring it round to being married, about how Cosmopolitan said that his age was where he should be having affairs (so she felt she should be encouraging him), and there’s a great routine about watching porn with her husband (‘Look at that kitchen – it’s lovely. That’s exactly how I want ours.’) and the different way of watching it. She was funny, charming, engaging with the audience in a friendly, unthreatening fashion, and she had some lovely turns of phrase to emphasise a point.

Brigstocke was doing something very different. Instead of his political material, he was telling personal anecdotes, and it was a completely different Brigstocke to normal. He was open and happy and smiling, compared to the serious (yet still funny) approach he takes when presenting his topical material (there was a reference to the appalling way the NHS is being dismantled by Tories for the benefits of their friends where you saw his demeanour revert to normal and it was a marked difference). He started with a list of anecdotes and asked the audience to choose which ones to read. He was enjoying himself so much that he didn’t get to read them all, even though I think that’s the aim for the tight 1-hour set for Edinburgh. It was all personal stuff about him: being a 25-stone Goth with an eating disorder who was, at the time, the youngest person to go into rehab for food addiction; how he lost half the weight and became a podium dancer at the Ministry and even worked on an oil rig; he talked about getting a testicular scan for an ache he’d had for 18 months, and the person doing the scan was the father of kids at his children’s school. Importantly, it was hilariously funny – he was having a great time telling these stories and revealing himself but also telling great jokes. (Fortunately, he didn’t do any funny material about having an affair with his Spamalot co-star that ended his 12-year marriage, because I don’t think there is anything humorous to mine there.)

Two evenings, two funny shows, two lovely people (both replied when I tweeted my enjoyment, with Caulfield being particularly magnanimous by hyping the Balham Comedy Festival in her reply) and one (among many) satisfied customer.

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Live Comedy – David Baddiel: Work In Progress

When I was a younger man, I was a big fan of The Mary Whitehouse Experience (on television; much to my chagrin, I never knew that comedy existed on the radio in my youth, so I never heard the radio version that ran before it in 1989–1990 and which has never been released commercially), a comedy revue starring and written by David Baddiel, Robert Newman, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis. I was at university at the time, and seeing four university-educated men of roughly the same age (all four went to Cambridge university and all but Newman were in Footlights; Punt and Dennis had met at Cambridge but were two years ahead of Newman and Baddiel, who started their partnership after university) doing jokes about things I could relate to was great and it was a touchstone in my comedy history (the phrases ‘That’s you, that is’ and ‘Milky milky’ still resonate).

I have seen Newman do live stand-up (his later, more socially conscious material) and watched Punt & Dennis do The Now Show live, but I had never seen Baddiel do live material before, due to the fact that he stopped doing stand-up after a horrible corporate gig he did in 2003 for bankers (something he references in this show). Therefore, I jumped at the chance to see him do new material in front of a relatively small audience in the intimate downstairs venue at the Soho Theatre. It is a work in progress, as he explained at the beginning, on the theme of fame and his relationship with it and how it feels to have been famous at one time (the phrase ‘Comedy is the new rock and roll’ was originally about Baddiel and Newman being the first comedy act to do the Wembley Arena; there was also the Euro ’96 song ‘Three Lions’, with Frank Skinner and Ian Brody from The Lightning Seeds) but to be less famous now.

He started out with anecdote that highlighted the drop in fame levels, the first being an incident of being recognised on Ryanair and another where someone recognised his face on the tube and then told their friend, ‘That’s him from Skinner and Garibaldi’. He went on talk about how he was a famous Jew in Britain (or ‘North Londoner’, one of the many euphemisms for Jew in the British press; he was once voted sixth sexiest Jew but felt disheartened when he discovered that the fifth was Alan Sugar) and how he had stopped doing stand-up after the corporate gig and done more writing (he has written several novels, he used to have a column in the times, he wrote the screenplay for The Infidel), but he was still famous to a degree and the effect of it on him.

There were anecdotes that involved famous people (something he knew sounded bad but it was a result of being famous and so was part of his thesis on fame) that highlighted bizarre aspects of fame. He talked about meeting Peter Gabriel, of whom he is a big fan, but feeling bad about saying the wrong thing; another Gabriel-related anecdote was about The Times wrote a diary piece accusing him of being loud and annoying at a Gabriel concert, which wasn’t true, so he tried to get them to retract it but they wouldn’t, saying they had witnesses and that they’d left the worst bits out, about how he’d told people to fuck off because he’d bought his ticket and could do what he wanted, even when security was called; they didn’t do it even when the person he went with (and who bought his ticket) wrote in to refute it – that person was Richard Curtis; in the end, he emailed Peter Gabriel to stay it wasn’t true, to which Gabriel replied that he knew it wasn’t him because Gabriel knew Baddiel was there on the Wednesday and the incident had happened on Thursday according to his roadie; the roadie then emailed to say that it had been Ian Brody (of ‘Three Lions’), who happens to look a bit like Baddiel, which was enough for The Times to print an apology (although not in a very sincere way).

Baddiel mentioned stories about not being recognised as himself – there was the time Ronan Keating thought he was Ben Elton and then looked angry when Baddiel told him he wasn’t Elton; this led into a story about Andrew Lloyd Webber, who according to urban legend had got the wrong person to write the book for his musical about football, confusing Baddiel (who was famous for loving football through the television show Fantasy Football League) for Ben Elton, and then meeting him in person and then getting into a bizarre situation with Webber’s third wife.

There were lots of stories with famous people in it, but it wasn’t just a collection of amusing celebrity anecdotes; Baddiel had a point to make about how fame is a mask that other people put on famous people that stays that way – people don’t change their minds about famous people once they’ve got the first image in place (my girlfriend has always seen Baddiel as a shouty lad type) and forget that they are real people behind them (as he illustrated with a story about seeing Henry Kelly in a pub after he had done a joke on television about him).

The show isn’t completely coherent, but then this is a work in progress. Baddiel has a good idea about examining fame and he still knows where the joke is in his stories, even he is the butt of those jokes (as demonstrated by the video he showed of Stewart Lee’s song from Lee’s television show that used Baddiel as a punchline). However, the ‘essay’ on fame (his term) doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle and end for the central conceit; it’s still a collection of good bits around a subject, with additional aspects to do with his family (he talked about and showed pictures and video of his kids). With the effort he’s putting in to make this show cohesive, it will be something funny and with some depth.

The negative doesn’t detract from the fact that I had a really enjoyable time – the 60 minutes wasn’t enough, I laughed a lot and could have listened to his stories and jokes for much longer. The audience was friendly (literally – Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian film critic, was in the audience, who co-wrote and starred with Baddiel in Baddiel’s Syndrome, a sitcom on Sky 1 from 2001), apart from one person at the back who tried to add his own joke about a Twitterer who had been trolling Baddiel; the Twitter stuff was interesting, taking in the modern approach to fame as something that’s much closer to ‘ordinary’ people these days and the mistaken bonhomie that followers think they have with the famous people they follow. There were long-time fans of Baddiel in the audience – he mentioned his catchphrase of ‘That’s you, that is’ in order to tell a story about a groupie who wanted him to say it during sex, and the mention got a big cheer from the louder comedy nerds – and they all enjoyed the show as well. It will be interesting to see if this develops into a full show and how it changes from this early draft, and this was a very interesting glimpse behind the curtain of a comedy show in the making.

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TV: Community

I absolutely love Community: it very quickly became my new favourite sitcom (because I don’t have legal access to 30 Rock at the moment), and we get double episodes of it each week on Viva – no, it’s not a channel with which I am very familiar either (it’s owned by MTV, if that helps) – so I’m very grateful to this bizarre free-to-air channel for this gift they have bestowed upon us.

Community is supposed to be about Jeff (Joel McHale), a former lawyer forced to go to Greendale Community College after the dubious nature of his law degree was discovered, and how he becomes a better person via his association with the Spanish study group he inadvertently forms when he tries to charm his way into the affections of Britta (Gillian Jacobs). However, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a real ensemble comedy. The other members of the group are: Abed (Danny Pudi), the pop culture-obsessed, borderline Asperger’s Syndrome film student; Troy (Donald Glover), the former high school quarterback; Annie (Alison Brie), the prim and proper girl who had a crush on Troy in school; Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), a recently divorced mother; and Pierce (Chevy Chase), a former tycoon who has been married seven times, who says some of the most casually racist and inappropriate comments in the show. Together they form a fantastic cast who all get laughs in their own way.

Abed gets most of the big laughs with the references to film and television, as well as the meta humour when he refers to himself as if he was a character in a television show (“That’s sort of my gimmick, but we did lean on that pretty hard last week. I can lay low for an episode”). The riffing on pop culture is a big aspect of the show, and I’ve got no problem with it, especially when the show does it so well. It’s a very difficult balance to get right, but Community seems to do it with consummate ease. The other aspect is the really sharp dialogue, delivered with exquisite precision and speed, with the characters zinging off each in perfect harmony. Even Chevy Chase is funny, as a pathetic character who is often the butt of jokes, rather than his usual approach of being cocky and falling over.

The show is laugh-out-loud funny on a regular basis (such as Troy’s advice to Jeff while preparing him to fight: ‘Then you give him the Forest Whitaker eye’, before doing that distinct askew look that Whitaker has), but it still manages to have a ‘hugging and learning’ plot line that doesn’t feel trite or annoying, at the same time as ridiculing the mechanics of television shows. That’s an amazing ability, and it’s down to the writing and the cast; the writing is just amazing, with great lines and silliness, and the cast make it work, both in the humour and caring about them. I adore this sitcom and all the characters in it, and I can’t wait for each new episode.

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Why I Never Did Stand-up Comedy

In my youth, I consumed vast amounts of stand-up comedy – I was a teenager when alternative comedy started and the comedy club boom hit the UK. The only side effect that came with watching hours of (mostly) men delivering routines, either on tape or live in clubs, was the bizarre feeling that I thought I could do comedy. I was never afraid to do readings in church, or stand in front of a crowd of people to make announcements, and I mistakenly thought I was rather funny in my salad days (I wrote some stuff that was produced in my post-graduate days). This fatal combination made me think I could find some open spots and deliver my hilarious observations to an audience who would recognise my talent. Fortunately, this never happened, but I did write down some of the material, which I now share with you in an act of honesty and embarrassment (and because I haven’t written anything else for tonight). You have been warned.

I really hate Julia Roberts. Remember in ‘Hook’ where she said that a fairy dies when you say ‘I don’t believe in fairies’? Well, I recorded that phrase onto CD, put it on auto-repeat and went to the Alps to play it for the echo to reverberate it forever, just so I could make sure that I got rid of all fairies if it meant that Julia Roberts would die. Julia bloody Roberts. One film and a career is made. A woman with a smile so wide you could mistake it for a grand piano. Fucking Pretty Woman my arse. What a shit film. Richard Gere falls in love with a prostitute. Like that’s going to happen. Most guys, myself included, are fairly insecure, and have nagging doubts about the proficiency of ones sexual technique, especially comparing oneself with the woman’s previous lovers. How is that for someone who falls in love with a prostitute? Blokes have little black books, she’s got the Yellow Pages. “How was that, honey?” “Well, you were better than the CEO but not as good as the senator.” I wouldn’t mind if she was famous for something she did, but the thing is, that scene people remember, with her naked and the long legs, IT WASN’T HER. It was a bloody body double, for fuck’s sake.
I have a theory about God. In the Old Testament, he was all blood and thunder and death and shit. In the New Testament, he is all love and peace and kingdom of heaven. What happened to all that fire and brimstone stuff? When did we last have a good plague of frogs or slaying of the first born? I think that God is undergoing post-coital bliss. He is Jesus’ father, so he must have had sex, so he must have orgasmed. I know I am very happy and tired after I have climaxed, so what’s it going to be like for the omnipotent creator of the universe? Especially with the tricky ‘god-in-man, divine human’ stuff he had to get into Jesus. He was so shattered after the whole creating the world malarkey he needed a day of rest, so he is going to be even more tired after creating a new life form that is part mortal, part god. I mean, he was so tired after the six days of creation, he didn’t even notice the serpent tempting Eve with the apple and fucking everything up. Which is why I think he fucked over women and gave them periods and piles and pregnancy and backache and varicose veins and emotions. What a dick. Anyway, after being celibate for so long, God gets his rocks off (unlike all the Greek gods who were shagging left, right and centre) and he has been out of it for the last two thousand years, which is why things have been so shit since.
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Comedy: Live Recording Of Clare In The Community

It was only when I was fact-checking for this post (yes, hard to believe, I know, but I do try …) that I discovered that Clare In The Community is now in its sixth year and sixth series – it’s an impressive achievement for a radio sitcom about a social worker who gets worked up about other people’s problems while ignoring her own. It’s a very funny show with a strong cast, and I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t on television. In fact, a pilot was filmed in 2002, before the radio show, with Julia Sawalha in the lead role, but it was never broadcast. The strangest fact I discovered was that Clare In The Community started out life (and continues to this day) as a cartoon strip in The Guardian, written by Harry Venning (who co-writes the radio scripts with David Ramsden). Isn’t the internet great?

I’ve listened to the show for a few years but I’d never got round to going to a live recording before. My lovely girlfriend snagged tickets to remedy this. As with the live recording of The Now Show, there was a large queue of people waiting long before we were allowed into the building – Clare In The Community has quite a following. This is not surprising because it is really good; however, it is very much a radio comedy – there are some jokes in the show that can only work on radio, and it is much better for it.

The best thing about the live recording, apart from the fun of being there as it happens, was putting faces to voices. I knew Clare was played to perfection by Sally Phillips (of Smack The Pony fame) and Nina Conti played her Scottish co-worked Meggan (although I didn’t realise that she also played the Eastern European nanny, which was impressive), but I could finally see the face of Brian, her long-suffering teacher boyfriend (Alex Lowe), and her work colleagues Helen (Liza Tarbuck) and Ray (Richard Lumsden). There was a new addition to the cast this year – another social worker: Libby, the Australian lesbian. I recognised her as an Australian comedienne who had done a set on Russell Howard’s Good News Extra, but my Google-Fu has failed me in locating her name. Sigh …

[Edit: Sean Prower, from The British Comedy Guide, emailed to tell me that the name of the comedian is Sarah Kendall. Thanks, Sean. Among the things he has written on the site, he wrote the entry for Clare In The Community. Go read it to thank him for me.]

We were treated to two episodes, both of which were excellent – the quality of writing was very sharp and the performances were great; it was very funny, and funny watching people trying not to laugh while performing the show, especially when they know a particularly good bit was coming up. Sally Phillips seemed to be enjoying herself even more than the others. It was impressive seeing the cast doubling up – all of them apart from Phillips and Tarbuck did at least two different voices during the night, although special credit must go to Conti for her performance in the second episode, which saw her switching between the two voices (both of which are not her own natural accent) in alternating scenes with aplomb.

The shows were very funny – there was even a joke playing on the Gordon Brown ‘Bigotgate’ incident – so much so that, of the few extra takes that were needed after the initial recording, one of the retakes was because the audience was laughing too much, ruining the rhythm of the joke and putting Phillips off the timing of the punchline. Admittedly, the crowd was full of fans – the producer offered to give people a quick introduction to the show, but the audience reaction told her she didn’t need to do it – but everyone had a very enjoyable evening, and I can’t wait until they start broadcasting the episodes on Radio 4 to relive the experience again.

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Comedy: Chris Addison at The Bloomsbury Theatre

[I interrupt my catching up on television programmes to talk about something that isn’t a television programme, but at least it’s about someone who has been in television programmes.]

Chris Addison has a slightly bigger profile than Lucy Porter, who I saw last month – he plays Ollie in The Thick Of It (and a similar character in the film In The Loop), he starred in and co-wrote a sitcom, Lab Rats (which I thought was rather rubbish, to be honest), he has had columns in The Guardian and The Evening Standard, and he hosts a radio show called 7 Day Sunday on Radio 5 Live. All this goes some way to explain why the same theatre was completely full, rather than half-full for Lucy Porter.

Addison’s approach to comedy has a lecture style, as can be heard in the radio adaptations of two of his Edinburgh shows (several of which were Perrier nominated), The Ape That Got Lucky and Civilisation. He is intelligent, cares about big ideas and is passionate about the state of the world and politics. This was his first live tour in five years, so it didn’t have a particular theme, it was just aiming to provide an entertaining show that reflected him – he didn’t have a warm-up act, and he did a two-hour show, including a short Q&A at the end. The first half was about his physicality or, rather, lack of it, as he talked about his spindly frame and the torturous experiences of sport at school and his lack of coordination now, even to the extent that he was admitting to his rubbishness at sex (he is married with a child, and deliberately didn’t do any baby material).

Having humiliated and belittled himself in the first half, Addison allowed himself to humiliate and belittle others in the second half, from a point of superiority; targets included women who wear Ugg boots, people who watch ITV news, politicians, people who report the news (particularly the use of incidental music behind news pieces; there was mocking of Channel 4 news because some of the team was in the audience, including presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy), stupid people in general and the Conservatives – the show was the night before the General Election, and Addison made a point of telling people to vote (although he knew that he was preaching to the converted because his audience is middle-class people who are aware of the issues, much like he is himself; as he joked, the audience was so middle class, he was embarrassed he hadn’t brought a bottle of wine with him), even if they might disagree with his politics.

Addison was blisteringly funny – sharp, hilarious, well thought out, clear and with a point, running around the stage in his student garb of a colourful shirt, jeans and pumps, even though he is 38 years old (he’s only a couple of years younger than me, so perhaps we have a lot in common, with a lot of the same cultural touchstones in life). He was confident on stage, although he did have some odd tics, like scratching under his right arm and behind his ear (not sure if that was the mike equipment), tending to stand slightly sideways to the audience on occasion, not really looking towards the left side of the auditorium, and a disconcerting tic of looking away from the audience when he’d delivered a particularly good line. But that’s just me being all critique-y – he gave a terrific performance of really funny, intelligent material that I would heartily recommend people see. If you can’t get to see him live, you can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mrchrisaddison, where some of his tweets ended up in the show.

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Comedy: Lucy Porter: Fool’s Gold

Lucy Porter is a comedian who has been on the comedy scene for quite a while now, but I hadn’t seen one of her full shows, even though she has been making appearances on television in the likes of Annually Retentive and Mock The Week. I enjoy comedians who put some thought into doing full shows with a theme, so I was looking forward to seeing Porter when she brought her show, Fool’s Gold, to the Bloomsbury Theatre.

I felt sorry when we got into the theatre for the performance because it was only about half full – I’m not sure if this is an indictment of Porter or because it was a university theatre in the Easter holidays. My sympathy levels were increased immediately. She came on to the stage first, which confused me because I thought she had a support act; it turned out she did have a support act whom she was introducing, but she used the time to set the scene for herself and the show and do some audience interaction. I was worried when she started talking to people in the crowd because I really don’t care for comedians who ridicule their audience instead in lieu of actual material. However, this was not the case – it was a genuine case of talking to people, making them part of the show, no mocking at all. A good start.

The support act then came onto the stage but I can’t recall his name because he didn’t seem to be ready for prime time – he did about 20 minutes of ordinary material; he didn’t die on his arse but he didn’t tell any great jokes or linger long in the memory, hence why I can’t remember his name.

After a break, it was time for the main show: Lucy Porter doing a revised version of her Edinburgh show, Fool’s Gold – it had originally been about how she didn’t like gold because she of its connection to commitment, something she was averse to and never thought she would never get married. However, she completely ruined that by getting married and wearing a white gold ring on her finger (in her words). Therefore, the show was perhaps a slightly different version.

The show covered a variety of topics to do with gold, such as alchemists and chemistry (including a poem about chemical elements where we had to guess how many had been mentioned), as well as Porter’s personal interaction with gold, based on a piece of jewellery given to her by her staunch Catholic grandmother, what it had meant to her and her relationship with her family and growing up in Croydon and religion, as well as her new relationship with gold and her husband. There were jokes as well – there is much discussion about the difference between male and female comedians and their material; this was story telling with humorous asides, rather than feedline/punchline big jokes, something I enjoy when it’s done well. Porter had good stories to tell, with a good sense of humour and a great delivery – it’s a soft-spoken delivery but sharp and confident, completely at home in the theatre and no sense of any problems with performing to a smaller audience. It wasn’t the greatest comedy show I’ve ever seen, but it was very enjoyable and I laughed, which is what you want; I only wish she hadn’t been in such a rush to get to the end and out by 10pm.

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