Monday 7 November 2011

E14 Stand-Up Round-Up

Peter Kay: The Tour That Didn’t Tour
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray
Review by Rob Wade

He's back! One of Britain's best loved comedians finally brings his record breaking “Tour That Doesn't Tour Tour” to DVD. With his first live tour in 7 years, playing to over one million people, this hilarious new show, sees Peter back on nights, doing what he does best, live stand-up comedy.

Peter Kay is one of those comedians who is frequently dismissed by some, largely due to what is perceived to be a heavy amount of material recycling as well as being one of the quintessential TV comedians, covering what are viewed to be “hack” subjects. With material covering TV, supermarket shopping and relatives, it’s not hard to see where people get that idea. However, to write him off, as with many comedians of that type, is to miss out on a man who is arguably at the top of his game.

Yes, he covers the subject of TV, with a piece on Sky+ and the wealth of TV available. However, I’ve seen many “alternative” and “edgy” comedians who couldn’t make me laugh at all, let alone on the subject of TV (and one of them was trying to do a BA in Stand-Up Comedy – I hope he failed, he deserved to) whereas I had some full-blown laughing fits during Kay’s piece on “Come Dine with Me”, which would have made those “alternative” types turn their noses up.

Ultimately, the measure of a stand-up comedian is simple: are they funny, and do they make people laugh? There’s no complex formula to it. If someone enjoys it, then the comedian’s doing something right. Peter Kay is a talented guy, although sometimes the victim of his own “gimmick”, for lack of a better word. What do I mean? For instance, he decries HD and Blu-Ray as a rip-off, but the show’s being released on Blu-Ray. Also, any entrance involving things like pyrotechnics and fancy entrances seems lost on a comedian like Kay, who has all the hallmarks of that loveable friend down at the pub who tells great stories.

Kay’s observational style is deceptive, too, in that it’s considerably darker than first impressions would illustrate. Watching him tell a story of his teacher who took the class to a field trip to the graveyard makes you laugh, but at the same time makes you afraid for their mental state (and impressed by Kay’s memory as well). Yes, the show deals with stuff you probably do every day at times, which some define as the aforementioned “Hack” stuff in that it’s been done plenty of times by comedians, but what do they expect? It’s stuff people do every day, and we as humans find humour in those mundane activities. It takes, however, someone with the skill of Kay to illustrate it in new ways. There are comedians who’ll take it on a completely surreal turn (à la Izzard), but for those who just want to enjoy things at a less complex cerebral level, there are those who interpret these things differently. If you like your humour accessible, Kay’s your man by far.

And his encore is absolutely excellent, calling back to a gag from earlier while at the same time engaging the audience in a massive 15000-strong sing-along. It’s immensely heartwarming to watch, and I almost found myself getting teary-eyed. Seriously, by the end I was shaking my head in disbelief in the best possible way.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Material on “Embarrassing Bodies”, which goes into quite graphic detail.
Swearing: Plenty of it. Quite keen on the word “prick”. Aren’t we all, though?
Summary: A really enjoyable comedy set, and hopefully an eye-opener for some that no matter what the subject matter, any subject can be made funny by the right guy. 7/10

Russell Kane: Smokescreens and Castles
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

The 2010 Edinburgh Comedy Award winning show Smokescreens & Castles explores self, family and the consequences of Russell’s dad buying his own council house. Sociological silliness and high energy contortions guaranteed on this brand new live show.

One of the trends sweeping comedy at the moment is some of these younger-looking comedians (he’s 31, to give some perspective) who wear tight jeans and talk in a very post-modern style, with frequent “4th wall” references to come off as hyper-intelligent. Russell Kane for me, at first appearance, comes off as exactly one of those. After checking out this show, it has to be said that my opinion hasn’t been drastically changed.

The show is on the subject of his life growing up as one of the few kids on a council estate whose parents were able to purchase their council house, and a working-class life in Essex is the entire subject of the show. Now, I never grew up in a council estate in Essex, and therein lies the first issue with the show for me. Much like last year, where Kevin Bridges’ show lost points with me because it was too heavily steeped in Glaswegian references, this show does the same thing for me here.

It’s difficult to get into as a show, mainly because of Kane’s performance. Moving around on stage more like a failed actor than a comedian, Kane is overly energetic, another style I’m finding it hard to come to terms with when it comes to the new wave of comedy. A lot of these comedians come off like art school dropouts, and for me that breeds a disconnect from material about how hard it was growing up.

That’s not to say that the show isn’t funny at all. Indeed, there are plenty of lines which gave me a chuckle, and some routines which I could see the appeal of, even if it’s not my cup of tea. Ultimately, though, Russell Kane does little to differentiate himself from the current wave of comedians, and so this DVD should only really be purchased for fans or people who enjoy acts of a similar type.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: A piece on sex education and teenage pregnancy. It’s not bad.
Swearing: Absolutely tons of it, including a lengthy segment on the word “cunt”.
Summary: Not much here, apart from for the enthusiasts. 6/10

Channel 4 Comedy Gala 2011
Universal Pictures UK

Review by Rob Wade

Channel 4’s Comedy Gala showcases over a dozen of the country’s most popular stand-up comedians, along with messages from famous figures in the comedy world. In fact, considering that the show is nearly 3 hours long, and there are over a dozen comedians on the bill (in fact, the show mentions 21), it’s probably quicker to tell you who made me laugh and who didn’t.

First off was…N-Dubz. I’ll be honest, I skipped them. Two reasons. I think the first reason is that although they’re laughable, they don’t belong opening a comedy gig. Second of all, I hate them and everything they stand for. They’re interrupted by Alan Carr dressed as a fireman, which could not have come soon enough (and I’m sure pleased some men!) From there, the line-up reads as follows: Dara Ó Briain comes on and delivers a solid performance; Mark Watson follows and does a really good set. Alan Carr MCs for this portion, and although I’m not generally a fan of his style, he’s pretty funny. Next comes Jo Brand, and this is the first one where I just lose interest. Jo Brand has a style that works well for a certain demographic (no prizes for guessing which one), but it just doesn’t do it for me.

Next comes that woman from Glee, who does a short message in character which is pretty funny in a Gervais-style overconfident way. Next comes Lee Evans. Although his set was really funny, I only heard six or so gags in about 15 minutes that I’d never heard before. Perhaps a symptom of his success, but generally a good performance. The MC for the second portion is Jonathan Ross, who tells a funny story which is pretty good. Next comes Jason Byrne. I couldn’t get on with it. He was overly energetic, and simply not funny. Sarah Millican was next, and I found myself pleasantly surprised. Her performance was pretty funny, and I’m not usually a fan. Next came Sean Lock, one of my personal favourites, and unsurprisingly I pissed myself laughing.

Next came a random appearance from Chris Moyles, and without going into too much detail, it seems like he just wanted to be involved and didn’t really care what he did. 2 minutes later, he’s done with, and out comes Kevin Bridges, who also serves as the next MC. He does a pretty good job of both pieces, and makes me think that he did his fair share of MC duties when he was on his way up. He introduces Jon Richardson, who performs one of the funniest performances of the night. Next, there’s a pretty good sketch involving James Corden and Patrick Stewart. Next comes Michael McIntyre, and he’s pretty much what you’d expect, a safe pair of comedic hands who’ll give you some chuckles; he also does a really good impression of his kids.

Russell Brand comes onto the video screen and delivers a message to the crowd. It’s his usual rambling style, take it or leave it. Next is Rich Hall, who performs a comedy song which is pretty amusing. Rob Brydon does a little video sketch, which is pretty good, Jack Dee comes out and does a pretty funny set. Rhod Gilbert’s next, and he just doesn’t do it for me. Micky Flanagan comes out next, and while he’s amusing, I can’t imagine watching him for an hour. Next is Andi Osho, and although she’s funny, she doesn’t really get enough time to do much. Next comes the ultimate in “Don’t get the appeal” stand-up, Jack Whitehall. To give you an idea of my feelings on him, I almost typed in Shitehall without thinking twice about it.

Next is Shappi Korsandi, remember her? She was all over the chat shows at one point for a good six months, and then nothing. She does a few bits about being a single mum, and they’re entertaining enough. Next is a sketch with Whoopi Goldberg, followed by one with Miranda and her mate from the show. Whoopi’s is better. To finish off, it’s Jason Manford followed by John Bishop. Both are pretty funny, John Bishop being a guy I wasn’t familiar with before this show.

So, to sum up, the show lasts for just under three hours, and features a cast of comedians with about a 66% success rate of funny versus missable. In my mind, that’s a pretty good deal, particularly considering that the DVD is in a good cause. There’s also a video of the commercial break on the DVD as well. All in all, there are far worse things you can get which are 3 hours long.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Many mentions of it, the funniest being from Jonathan Ross about dogs.
Swearing: There is absolutely tons of it, but rarely does it seem forced.
Summary: A great value show, and now thanks to this review you know which ones to skip. 8/10

You don't have to be barking to enjoy this DVD - but it certainly helps!

In 1998, in a town not far from you, the up and coming comedians of the day got together and wrote an hilarious sketch show for Channel 4. The result was Barking.

These comedians further developed these characters and ideas and are now big stars, writing and starring in their own shows and regularly touring nationally.

But it all started here for Mackenzie Crook, David Walliams, Omid Djalili, Peter Kay, Dave Lamb, Rhys Thomas, Catherine Tate, Marcus Brigstocke, Matt Lucas and many more.

Thanks to our friends at Acorn Media, we've got two copies of Barking on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Monday 21st November, making sure to put "Barking" as the subject. The first two entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome DVD!

Don't forget to put "Barking" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Barking is available now, courtesy of Acorn Media.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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