Jeremy Lee Associates’ annual comedy jamboree started with a minor hitch with host Russell Kane’s mic suffering from a case of the gremlins. However, it wasn’t long before the self-conscious, self-referential comic – not an act synonymous with corporates for those of us generally on the outside of this circuit – got proceedings back on track.
Riffing on the nuanced differences between the sexes on, for example, actively choosing singledom (men, he contends, are kidding themselves that they can pull this off), Kane drew an additional, regional, distinction by using his Mancunian girlfriend as a reference point.
From mapping out our sexual and regional foibles Kane proceeded to plan out our evening and brought on the first act, comedian and singer Charlie Baker whose screen credits include Dr Who and The IT Crowd. West Country boy Baker showcased his singing talents by giving Devonian renditions of Sammy Davis Junior and Frank Sinatra, and put together three dance moves that, he said, covered all musical theatre songs.
Amazonian Ellie Taylor, presenter on BBC3’s Snog, Marry, Avoid, kicked off her set with some height gags, for example how a person of impressive stature deals with people of restricted height, before mining her Essex background for some tried and tested quips.
Hip hop magic act, Magical Bones changed the page with his dextrous dancing and lively approach to card tricks. Richard Essien, who has worked with Madonna and the Black Eyed Peas, moved like a kind of animated mannequin, moonwalking and card sharking at the same time.
Sean Collins, a Canadian resident in the UK for ten years now, struck the most corporate-friendly note of the evening. He was suited and booted in his sartorial choice and had a gentle lyrical delivery which wrapped itself around domestic tussles from demanding toddlers to the importance of golf over your wife’s fashion choices.
Like the host, sketch outfit Four Screws Loose also suffered from a technical hitch, one that threatened to arrest any momentum. However, their pastiche of boy bands, from the Backstreet Boys to Take That and their abridged version of Titanic – a mimed soundscape using refrains from pop songs including Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Rod Stewart’s Sailing – made sure that they ended the first half on the crest of a wave.
Mitch Winehouse (father of Amy) and his band started the second half with a salvo of lounge hits including Something’s Gotta Give, Frank Sinatra’s Learning The Blues, and After You’ve Gone. All the money that Winehouse earns from his corporate gigs goes to the charity he set up in his daughter’s name.
Fresh from his nomination for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award newcomer, Romesh Ranganathan gave a tight performance tonight. His experiences as a maths teacher provided a loose backdrop to his set. One of his conceits is that he gave up teaching so as not to have to deal with other people’s kids, but as a parent this problem returns. Fortunately for Ranganathan he has a nonchalant cheek more than capable to cope with such minor irritants.
Tom Rosenthal, a past winner of the Best Breakthrough Act at the British Comedy Awards and a star of Friday Night Dinner and Plebs, did not have the easiest of nights. The young comic started by cheekily inverting a line from Ranganathan, but lost focus almost immediately after. Rosenthal didn’t have the segues to move his material along and the choices of routines just didn’t gel with the demographic of his audience – an extended riff on computer game Football Manager a case in point.
Musical duo Johnny & The Baptists had the honour of closing the night and did so with gusto and charm. Two of their comedy songs stuck out: Scotland Don’t Leave Me, an R’n’B style ballad that portrayed England and Scotland’s Union as a flawed marriage that was still worth working at. You Are Not A Pub lamented the passing of old man’s drinking holes in favour of gastropubs, with pickled eggs ousted by hummus.
This battle between pita and bitter ended the night, leaving the assembled enough time to visit their own preferred hostelries and reflect on the flow of comedy talent they had just drunk in.
EXPERT CHOICE: Sean Collins, as chosen by Monique Farez, Capgemeni UK plc