Friday, January 28, 2011

Knock2Bag comedy - 19th Jan

It's a heartening comment on the thirst for comedy in the capital at the moment that a gig held in the middle of the week on a freezing January evening would find the sort of audience that its admittedly brilliant line-up deserved. Shepherd Bush's basement Bar FM was the venue for last week's Knock2Bag night, and it was pleasingly packed for MC Colin Hoult and headliner Paul Foot.

I've not seen Colin Hoult MC a club night before, but - as a committed fan of his genuinely excellent character comedy - it was great to see him compere as both the self-absorbed luvvie actress Anna Man and the Alien (and Aliens, and Predator, and Aliens v Predator...) loving ex-army man Andy Parker; giving the audience a sneak preview of his full-length show (playing at the Soho Theatre next month) across the course of the night.

First on the bill was young Norwegian comic Daniel Simonsen, who won round an originally luke-warm crowd with his increasingly revealing stories about being a quiet, easily-embarrassed guy. He starts by saying, uncontroversially, that it's annoying that flatshare adverts are always looking for 'outgoing' people, but the theme elicited more laughs as it developed and got darker, particularly a section about dwelling on cringey moments for years, and culminating in an irritating little voice in his head asking "why can't we be somebody else?"

The hugely-liked sketch duo Cardinal Burns provided a truly odd ten minutes as their eastern European mini-cab drivers, telling each other apparently filthy stories involving animals without using a word of English, before the sister act (sorry) Toby took to the stage. Comprising of siblings Sarah (overbearing) and Lizzie (downtrodden), this duo might look all sweetness and light but their act managed to cover paedophilia, murder and even bestiality in the blink of an eye. Cute they ain't. But the mix of that surprising edge and the fact that, as sisters, they're willing to be pretty rotten to each other in the pursuit of a laugh, does mean that they're very entertaining indeed.

Character comic Neil Dagley was up next, and he probably got the biggest reaction of the night for his lovely twenty minute set as German skiing champion Flange Krammer. A womanising athlete who finishes his bad jokes with the line "Eat my powder!" may not seem like ground for intelligent comedy but actually this is very clever stuff. When Flange gets two ladies from the audience up on stage for a round of Blind Date, it has the potential be quite uncomfortable, but Dagley manages to create a really warm atmosphere - corpsing little and often certainly helps. Fun stuff.

Much of Tom and Tom aka, er, Totally Tom's set was taken up with sketches featuring a thigh-slapping, mead-quaffing king and his advisor but in fact their best was the first, in which a lady tries to explain what happened during a pretty run of the mill crime in the face of a policeman obsessed with the sort of glamourised violence he's seen in Hollywood action movies. These are very assured comic actors on which eyes should be kept.

The night finished up with Paul Foot being as bizarre as ever, stomping across the stage as he delivered a really great skit about the pitfalls of "van sunglasses" (glasses which help you avoid seeing vans, of course) as if it's traditional "what's with that?" observational comedy. All in all, a high quality night among many high quality nights that Knock2Bag manages to pull together on a frighteningly regular basis.

Written for the new Live section over at British Comedy Guide.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What's the most powerful moment in film?

It's not often I plug something from work here on my blog, but thought you might be interested in a poll we're currently running on FILMCLUB, to find out what people think is the most powerful moment in film. We're not talking 'shocking' necessarily, but the moments that get you 'right there' - whether it's cathartic, weepy, joyful or anger-inducing.

For me, there are a couple that spring immediately to mind - that moment when the toys hold hands in Toy Story 3 is on the FILMCLUB shortlist (they're just suggestions, you can vote for anything) and features highly for me, and I remember balling my eyes out at the point when Alice (in Wonderland) sits down to cry because a dog has brushed away the path meaning she can't find her way home. Not a classic, I realise, but I think the fear of being lost taps into something quite primal.

The list also includes the Odessa Steps massacre from Battleship Potemkin (which I watched for the first time recently and was completely disturbed by), E.T. finally going home, Jimmy Stewart taking a stand in Mr Smith Goes To Washington and *sniff* the death of Bambi's mother; but it'd be great to know what you think. We're collecting votes from anywhere and everywhere, so feel free to leave a comment here, or email me on anna [at] filmclub [dot] org. Thanks!

Friday, January 21, 2011

10 O'Clock Live - A quick review now the dust has settled

As Stu Heritage has astutely pointed out over on The Guardian, Twitter isn't really the best platform for considered, balanced reviews. He says it's "bad" at that, but it's more that it's just not really the point - Twitter's for spur of the moment reactions: "OMG - BEST THING EVER" or "OMG - WORST THING EVER." There are exceptions of course, some clever Tweeters can shape the sum total of their complex thoughts into a single beautiful Tweet, but a lot of it is knee-jerk, as-it-happens stuff. And from a lot of people, the knee-jerk, as-it-happens reaction to Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live was not a particularly good one. "It's too bright"; "the audience are too loud", "right, you've had twenty minutes, I'm switching off."

But over the course of today, the multitude of little complaints have coalesced into just a few key gripes, really - and they were all expertly skewered by my very own mum in an email earlier...

"It needs to slow down a bit.": Totally. This is absolutely the main thing that needs to be sorted, but luckily it's an easy one to tackle. The interviews especially felt rushed; David Mitchell was just getting into his rather impressive stride when he had to wrap things up. Fewer items will make this a much, much better show.

"Why have Lauren Laverne on board and then not use her?": Well, quite. This was a blatant and bizarre error that the producers do need to work on. I've read a couple of times that she's there because she has the most experience of live broadcasting and so will be able to hold things together, but she needs to do more than a few links and one deeply cringey sketch...

"Does it need four presenters?": Probably not, actually, but - like the other regularly-raised issue that it doesn't really need to be live - this isn't something they're likely to change mid-series.

"Not sure about large studio and large audience.": Again, not something that's going to tweaked any time soon, but having the presenters wander a around what appears to be a huge Dan Flavin exhibition was admittedly a bit odd.

The Good Stuff

The two main issues are the pacing and how Laverne is being used, but other than that, anyone after an intelligent, bold and funny comic current affairs programme should surely be feeling pretty optimistic after last night's first episode. Sure they all looked nervous as hell, but it's obvious that that's purely because they really want it to be good, important even, rather than them not being up to it.

Mitchell is clearly going to be an excellent interviewer who asks the sort of things we all like to think we would put to MPs given the chance, and Charlie Brooker is in a league of his own when it comes to ripping dodgy news coverage to shreds. Laverne, given the right role, can be excellent, and while Jimmy Carr gets a lot of stick, he will provide uber-up-to-date gags every week. And he actually delivered one of the lines of the night with his reference to Alan Johnson's resignation: "We thought it was something tragic that we couldn't make jokes about - apparently it's just a man's life crumbling about him, so that's alright."

Arguably (and it's an argument I'd make), the best bits were when the four presenters just sat around and chatted for a bit. They're all naturally funny, clever people - that's the point - so just free up a bit more time for them to show it, and this could turn into something great.