Friday, April 10, 2009

Another comedy round-up

There are some rubbishy things about living in London, but it has to be said that it has its positives too - and the fact that I can go to great comedy gigs all the time is pretty cool.

Last week I saw Chris Addison at the Bloomsbury, and having only seen a ten minute set from him before (and Lab Rats, which still frazzles my brain by being awful and entertaining and charming and groan-inducing all at the same time) I was really interested to see how a full show would work. The thing that's most striking about his delivery is that he never stops for breath; he's either excited or enraged about the things he discusses, and as such he goes like a train. It's exhausting for us let alone him, and makes the show go incredibly quickly - not that you want that to be the case, he's an engaging guy. It's easy to see why his work is constantly described as 'cerebral' - he does talk about big, important things - but, as Lab Rats showed all too well, he loves silliness too, and he'll often take the big issues and twist them into something much more ludicrous, even surreal at times. Yes he knows some words with more than three syllables, but on stage his physicality is as important as his intellect, and in the end, you feel he's up there because he finds it lots of fun.

Then there were a couple of Invisible Dot gigs, the first at a sold-out Union Chapel with Tom Basden, Hans Teeuwen, We Are Klang and MC Phil Nichol; the second, another night of Freeze in a Camden office. It was interesting to see Basden do a longer set on his own, and hold a big (and, thanks to Nichol, very up-for-it) crowd with that quiet demeanour of his - he's not quite the put upon character of Freeze, but he still doesn't exactly grab the audience by the scruff of its neck. That doesn't mean they weren't hanging off every word and every song, however, and it was nice to have him say he was 'willfully ignoring' the time, as he was enjoying the gig so much. Along with Nichol (whom it seemed we all wanted to do a proper set), he got the best reaction of the night.

Hans Teeuwen, meanwhile, did what Hans Teeuwen always does (and I mean that quite literally; he did precisely the same set I saw at Edinburgh's Amnesty gig last summer) and while I appreciate him as a performer, I can't love what he does - which, for the uninitiated, includes having a sock puppet eat a Mars bar as he sings Knights In White Satin, and a song about Nostradamus. Finally we came to We Are Klang. I've only seen them do little sketches on TV before, and it has to be said that they make a hell of a lot more sense live. Again, I'm not their biggest fan, but they're a lot of fun to watch, and getting the audience to hurl insults at them threw up some outrageously smutty lines - given an extra frisson by the venue, of course.

And so to Freeze (again, sorry Dean). Tim Key and Tom Basden continued to try out new material, and it seemed that they played up the odd couple dynamic even more so this time - Tim gave Tom a good kick near the start of the show, and trampled all over the punchlines in one of Tom's songs by insisting on singing along. The more they push that relationship, the better it is, in my opinion. The little film clips they show are a highlight (especially a parody of shampoo adverts), but it has to be said that a lot of the magic of these shows is generated by the intimacy of the room, and the shambolic nature of the performance. They're on a bill at Bush Hall in June with Richard Herring and Robin Ince, so it'll be interesting to see how their comedy translates to that kind of environment.


N/OutofFashion said...

I am not sure about Chris Addison, Lab Rats was awful, and every time i've seen him on TV he seems a bit arrogant.

Kate Webster said...

That caught the atmosphere of Chris Addison and Freeze perfectly, and made me wish even more I'd been at Union Chapel!

Agree Bush Hall will be interesting; I really enjoy watching Basden & Key, but it helps to be charmed by them and not sure how it'll work in a much bigger room.