Saturday, 28 February 2009

UK Comedy Observations pt.5

For many years I lived on an island; a community where all knew all, and I remember that whenever any musician, artist or performer was reviewed in the local paper it was always in the most glowing terms. This bask in the rays of praise may have given some comfort to the reviewee and have helped to foster some saccharine sense of community but it gave little objective information. Similarly,as a comedian, it is a professionally dubious tactic to roll out aspersive reviews of your fellow comedians and that is why I am so comfortable in writing this.

Firstly, almost a month has passed since these shows so recollections are only in the vaguest sense. There will be no pedantic point picking here. Secondly, I was truly impressed by both acts that weekend so an honest review will float on praise rather than sink under criticism.

Kent Valentine was an unknown commodity to me. An Aussie turned UK resident I believe. A casual, lean and bearded soul, who, like Tom Stade, had a relaxed demeanor that belied the level of craftsmanship behind his comedy. Unassuming in manner, but direct and communicative with the crowd, Kent worked with a range of ideas, some staples, some unique. The humour was clever but very accessible, with some bite and with occasional welcome tinkerings with abstraction. An opening act with all the strength and consistancy of a headline act. I hope I have the good fortune to work with him in the future.

Tom Stade, as was mentioned in an earlier volume of this blog, is a friend of many years standing; an immutable entity who could giggle his way through his own kidnapping. In a show many years ago I clearly remember him being throughly amused because the crowd didn't like him. "This is great, I came here to make you people happy and you fuckin' hate me... right on"
The spark he had led to brighter lights in Toronto, then L.A. and eventually, the UK where he has been very successful. It is a pleasure to see him after so many years, both on and off the stage. His performance has become so comfortable and controlled. With sweetness and savagery, razors and roses, he keeps the level of laughter high throughout his set. He is a true comedian, which means he would be helpless in a world where he had to actually work.

Tom is also the one who warned me the point of frustrating repetition that I should not expect too much, too quickly on my UK trip. "These people are really good over here. Don't do what all these other people do and jump right into a showcase at the Comedy Store or Jongleurs, it'll blow your chances here." So it was particularly rewarding when after the first show he said " That was excellent man, you have to go the Comedy Store, they'll love you."

It did go well. But why? What is it that British crowds really go for that North Americans seem to shower with indifference? Why can some successful comedians play both sides of the Atlantic with ease while other equally talented and accomplished people know better than to even attempt it? After such a limited survey I would be foolish to think I have all the answers but in part 6 I'll take a bit of a run at it - wish me luck.

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