Wednesday 4 November 2009

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.

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