Category Archives: comedy

Reviewlets: Stewart Lee and Boffoonery

A quick comedy catch up: saw Stewart Lee a couple of weeks back, on his “If you prefer a milder comedian please ask for one” tour. Opener Henning Wehn, the German Comedy Ambassador to the UK, was pretty good, and Lee himself was fantastic. Covering the heinous crime of coffee shop loyalty card stamp faking, the joy of moving to the country or indeed another country for the quality of life (particularly with respect to prawns) and his admiration and respect for the Top Gear team, the high point was the finale, a brilliantly crafted, slowly building epic, beginning in a doctor’s surgery before moving into pear cider, the magpie culture of advertisers and the internet, and finishing with a song. Yup, a song.

Last night was Boffoonery at the Bloomsbury Theatre, a comedy benefit for Bletchley Park. Both informative, with Simon Singh doing a bit on the bible “code” before giving a live demonstration of an Enigma machine in action, and entertaining, with stand up from Robin Ince, Dave Gorman and Richard Herring and skits, spoofs and humorous vignettes from Punt & Dennis, Laurence & Gus, John Finnemore, Margaret Cabourn-Smith and the voice of Stephen Fry. All most excellent, but particularly most excellent was Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party, a Bletchley-themed panel game chaired by Robert Llewelyn featuring Maggie Philbin and Richard Herring against Johnny Ball and Robin Ince. Ince deployed fearsome, if ultimately futile, lateral thinking that put even Ted Rogers on 3-2-1 to shame, Herring dropped in deft asides, Maggie Philbin, having read up on the subject, actually knew the answers to the questions in great detail, and Johnny Ball is a legend. At the age of 71 he’s as full of passion and enthusiasm as ever, with that vital hint of lunacy, as several questions fortuitously allowed him to launch into a whistle stop tour of binary and Egyptian multiplication, Euler and the seven bridges of Koenigsberg and finding square roots with Euclidean geometry, demonstrated with a string of beads that have hopefully given Richard Herring another half hour of material.

Reviewlet: TMWRNJ Reunion

Last night I headed for the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith with PJ and the only other 548 people in the world who’d ever heard of This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Or 547, one person did shout out when Richard Herring asked if there was anyone who’d never seen the programme. Maybe 546, someone we overheard on the stairs during the interval didn’t seem very sure who Stewart Lee was, though it could’ve been the same person who shouted earlier. Anyway. It was a late 90s comedy series, and several of the participants were back together at one of Richard Herring’s comedy nights at the Lyric.

The evening started with Trevor Lock, he of Trevor and Natalie, they of being easy on the eye, who never spoke on the programme but fortunately didn’t reprise that role, instead delivering an odd set, a bit like a downbeat early-era Harry Hill, barely pausing, chucking weird images out and rapidly morphing them in even weirder directions. Few jokes as such, but a constant stream of quite-funny-ness.

Stewart Lee was up next, a total contrast in style, masterful, calculated pacing, timing and delivery even with a creeping flesh disease. An absolute great.

After the interval, host Richard Herring took the t-shirt slogan “Give Me Head ‘Til I’m Dead” to it’s logical conclusion, then a long way past, in luridly Herring-esque detail, before demonstrating his superpower (as he pointed out, easily enough to earn him a place in the third series of Heroes) of having small hands, and outlining how he’d use such a power for good. They are small hands too, you have to wonder if it hampers his Guitar Hero playing.

Speaking of guitars, following Herring was TV’s Emma Kennedy with her band, performing funked-up kids TV themes with dance accompaniment from a red-lycra clad gimp/ninja, concluding with a contractually obliged spot-on rendition of the TMWRNJ theme tune leading into what much of the audience had been waiting for, a brief Lee and Herring reunion.

Maybe it was driven by a wave of misplaced nostalgia, but even after seeing the original routines, and the Tedstock versions on YouTube, the two of them are brilliant together, and just as things seemed to have reached a moon on a stick-based peak, Paul Putner’s Curious Orange emerged, resplendent in full Davros regalia, for a truly magnificent finish.

The only minor disappointment was the lack of The Actor Kevin Eldon, he of Simon Quinlank, Rod Hull and Pause for Thought for the Day, and it would’ve been lovely to see everyone on stage together, maybe doing Sunday Heroes (ahhh!), but that’s being terribly churlish, it was always made clear everyone would be doing their own material. A fantastic night, roll on the next ten years, apart from the inevitable and massively depressing ageing it brings…

(Addendum: Richard Herring’s write-up is, weirdly, much better, almost like it was written by someone who was actually involved.)

Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Another quick post, this time to highlight Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, for which the marketing machine seems to be building up a head of steam, the first trailer having been released recently.

The blurb:

During the WGA strike Joss Whedon started writing a three part musical series for the internet. Each of the three episodes will be approximately ten minutes each.

Co-writers for the internet feature are Joss’ brothers Zack and Jed and Jed’s Fiancé Maurissa Tancharoen. The writing and shooting have been completed and the series is now in post-production.

“It’s the story of a low-rent super-villain, the hero who keeps beating him up, and the cute girl from the laundromat he’s too shy to talk to.” says Whedon.

“Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” will star Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, Felicia Day as Penny and a cast of dozens.

Neil Patrick Harris looks most excellent as Dr Horrible, and you can only expect great things from any collaboration involving Nathan Fillion, Joss Whedon and Felicia Day.

Kiasa approved, be sure to check it out.

Humph in a Glasshouse

I like to listen to the radio while wandering around doing housework, or exercising, or grinding level 20 mobs at level 46 thanks to someone deciding that when you learn armour crafting (level 40 at the earliest) you’ll have to make innumerable pieces of light and medium armour, and the rough leather you need for them won’t drop from level 40+ mobs, oh no, despite decimating the wolf, lynx, wolverine, marmot, wombat and shrew population of the Fields of the Dead apparently their combined pelts are barely sufficient for a single glove (and a fingerless glove at that), you’ll need to go back to the lower level zones and speed-slaughter your way through the wildlife there…

… sorry, slight digression there. Anyway, dull-but-necessary tasks can be enlivened by a good radio programme, and the joy of modern technology means you’re not restricted to what’s broadcasting at that moment (which is handy if you’re doing the dishes when The Archers is on). A mobile internet thingy, the BBC’s “Listen Again” service, which streams programmes from the last week whenever you want, and you’re set. Last night I was listening to Chairman Humph, a tribute to the magnificent trumpet-blower and panel show host Humphrey Lyttleton.

I love Radiohead’s post-OK Computer albums, especially Amnesiac, and one of my absolute favourite songs is Life In A Glasshouse with its mournful New Orleans sound; I was just Audiosurfing it the other day. I hadn’t the faintest idea that it was Humphrey Lyttleton and his band playing on it, until it was mentioned during Chairman Humph (with Stephen Fry helpfully informing Radio 4 listeners that Radiohead are a “modern indie band”).

In this age of digital music and streaming media, I can’t remember the last time I looked at an album’s liner notes; maybe a quick flick-through while waiting for an MP3 ripper to work through a CD then back on the shelf to gather dust, and not even that since digital downloads became prevalent. Still, you catch up in the end.

Reviewlet: Russell Howard

I went to see Russell Howard, sometimes known as “the young blonde one off Mock the Week”, the other night. Didn’t quite catch the name of his support act, Mark someone, but he wasn’t bad; bonus geek points for the first mention of a Slingbox I’ve seen in stand up comedy.

Russell himself has an amazing energy, a quick “any questions?” to get things going leads into a gangsta-aunty-on-facebook riff and then he’s freewheeling away, no obvious structure, no stopping to think, barely a pause over the next hour and a half. He never loses the audience, though, sweeping us along with him. If there’s any theme to his material it’s of hopefulness and optimism, child-like wonder, of things being great and magical. Great performer, very funny.