The Real Variety Show: having a giggle with a Speaker Bureau

JLA’s Laura Batey recounts the night that was The Real Variety Show 2016.

We are very serious here at JLA. We are a very serious speaker bureau, for very serious speakers. We are stern, earnest, stoney-faced people. Just take a look at how professional we all look in the ‘About Us’ section. We definitely never get the giggles, we never tell jokes, and my boss has never wordlessly emptied a packet of mini smarties onto my desk with no explanation.

But for one night of the year, we get a little silly. We get a little giggly. We invite some funny and frighteningly talented people over to brighten our sombre days with some jokes, some close harmony singing, and some really rather on point Julie Andrews impressions.

I’m talking, of course, about the Real Variety Show. The RVS is a glorious mishmash of comedy, music, and delightfully entertaining cabaret, all brought together under one roof to tickle your funny bone and warm the cockles of your heart. This year, we welcomed the dazzlingly sparkly Claudia Winkleman as our host, and our line up was just superb – every act had their own style, their own energy, their own unique way of engaging the audience. It was just wonderful.

First off, we had some truly top-notch stand up comedy. Ivo Graham was witty and self-deprecating, and Felicity Ward went down a treat, rocking the room with terrific Aussie charm and cracking anecdotes. Marcel Lucont was also a top act, coupling joie de vivre with copious amounts of red wine. I think we can all learn a lesson from Marcel Lucont. Likewise, wisecracker Jo Caulfield was just excellent, and stalwart of comedy Richard Herring opened the second half with panache.

Sons of Pitches were a real highlight of the night for me. No one can deny there’s something awesome about an a cappella group that will improvise a song about a hole punch in both reggae and country and western styles at the same time. Jess Robinson and her band will also always be a winner in my books, and not just because any musical act that features both The Lion King and impromptu instrument swapping makes me want to cry with joy and abandon the speaker bureau game in order to join that band. Her impressions are unnervingly good.

And let’s not forget – our special surprise guest for the evening was none other than the fabulous Jimmy Carr. It says something about a speaker bureau when they’re in a flap, give Jimmy a call, and he sweeps in last minute and absolutely storms it. The audience reaction when Jimmy’s name was announced was cacophonous, and with good reason. Jimmy is such a boundless presence on stage, simultaneously totally relaxed and fantastically mischievous – his balance between dry cynicism and childish glee can never fail to win an audience over. What a legend.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, over the evening our lovely audience were able to donate to the Madagascar Development Fund, the charity that we support, and we manage to raise a big chunk of our goal for the reconstruction of Fananana Primary School.

It really was a night to remember. Watch this space for next year’s show…

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