Monday, 21 November 2011

E14 Stand-Up Round-Up

Jimmy Carr: Being Funny
Channel 4 DVD
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Star of hit TV shows 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O'Clock Live, Jimmy is well known for his slick one-liners and non-stop gags, but his acerbic wit and fast-paced comedy style are at their brilliant best when he has the stage to himself.

As a comedian, Jimmy Carr is one of the safest pairs of hands in the business. Whether you’re watching him on a panel show, doing stand-up or on an interview show, his style doesn’t change drastically, so if you’re a fan of his style in one aspect you’ll find yourself pretty content with any of his appearances. It’s with the most complete lack of surprise that I, and hopefully yourselves too, can say that the newest release by Jimmy Carr ticks all the boxes for fans, and is one of his best releases to date.

Where the existing fans are concerned, they’ll be pleased to know that some features that have previously been seen in older releases make a much appreciated return. With this release, Carr goes for a series of crudely drawn images to accompany some of his racier one-liners. He also makes the attempt to get audiences laughing despite thinking “I’m a terrible human being” which has featured at previous live shows. For new fans, Carr introduces a new concept: his “pilot” episode of a Parkinson-style interview show, using a random audience member with an interesting job as his “guest”. This section is a particular highlight, as Carr inadvertently chooses a guy with a particularly hilarious set of life circumstances.

The most impressive thing about Carr, which will particularly impress those who have perhaps never seen any of his stuff except for his panel show work, is that he is lightning quick when it comes to improvisation. Granted, some might argue that since he sometimes delivers one-liners in place of other material, it’s more about recall, but from experience I can tell you that often the lines between improvisation and recall blur quite substantially.

Now, of course, if you’re not a fan of his stuff generally, there’s going to be little to entice you in this scenario, but I would still say that it’s worth a watch, as some of the gags will have you creasing up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Frequent strong references.
Swearing: Frequent, some strong. All funny.
Summary: The undisputed current king of one-liners delivers another sterling show. 9/10

Stephen Merchant: Hello, Ladies
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Review by Rob Wade

Stephen Merchant, the Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe award winning co-creator of The Office and Extras in his first ever live stand-up comedy tour. Stepping into the limelight, Stephen Merchant is in search of a wife, discussing the problems of being 6ft7 in life, but also when it comes to the ladies, watching porn on VHS and re-enacting the first play he ever wrote.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last ten years appreciating the works of Gervais and Merchant (and Pilkington in recent years, though “work” may be the wrong word in that scenario). If you’re even more like me, you’ve actually found yourself wishing that Stephen Merchant did more in the spotlight, as for my money Merchant is more enjoyable than Gervais for the most part. It’s pleasing, therefore, that enough people seem to have mentioned that idea to him, because here he is!

Except that for the first five minutes or so, I felt like I was just watching Ricky Gervais’ right-hand man. While funny, the opening segment contains the same mock elitist tone that Gervais employs to great effect. Thankfully, he seems to evolve his style gradually as he goes along, probably hearkening back to his days as a stand-up on the circuit. His style, unlike Gervais, is quite animated and involves a lot of dancing (which I can confirm as a guy of the same height is pretty impressive to be able to do at all). However, also worth mentioning is that if you’re a fan of Merchant’s appearances on the infamous podcast series that sent all the stars’ popularity into the stratosphere, you’ll find that you will hear some stuff that you’ve heard before, albeit delivered with a completely different style that works equally as well if not better.

As a show overall, “Hello Ladies” is absolutely worth the price of admission, with a section on Merchant’s bedroom manner while not wearing glasses giving me fits of laughter, if only for his facial expressions. It certainly proves that despite changing media considerably over the years, from TV to podcasts to recent appearances in movies, Merchant has not lost any of his skill as a stand-up. Definitely worth checking out.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks a bit about porn and masturbation.
Swearing: He swears a few times, but generally doesn’t pepper his sets with it like some other acts.
Summary: A strong performance, and a demonstration that Merchant is a very capable stand-up indeed. Hope he does more soon! 8/10

Chris Addison: Live
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Following a sell-out UK spring tour Chris Addison, star of BAFTA-winning comedy The Thick of It, makes his critically acclaimed stand-up available on DVD for the first time. Recorded live at London's Bloomsbury Theatre, Chris Addison covers material from the personal to the more broad in his own unique style.

Recently, my only experience with Chris Addison has been watching the movie In The Loop, which was great, and watching him on the Direct Line adverts where scriptwriters have basically raped the careers of some of the finest comedians in the country by making them say violently unfunny shit. I actually cry sometimes at the plight of Alexander Armstrong, and I shouldn’t have to.

Thankfully, when left to his own devices, Addison is a fucking funny guy. While his style is extremely animated, and will probably inspire trepidation in those with an innate fear of drama students, what lies beneath the wild gesticulation and (at times) wild non-sequitors is a comedian of phenomenal quality and observational stature.

While the subject matter has been covered many times in the field of comedy (supermarkets, the Internet, Daily Mail), Addison has a delightful sense of humour on these mundane subjects which makes them feel fresh. What’s more, Addison has the simultaneous ability to be a young-looking guy who looks gawky and awkward using “text speak” and manages to sound like an old man when complaining about Amazon Recommends, and my goodness does the man sweat!

Where the show works really well is in the spaces where Chris Addison goes off on a rant on a subject. While these sections will flare up the aforementioned Drama Student sense, as his style involves a fair bit of arm-waving when he goes off on one, it’s absolutely worth persevering, as his ire manages to be simultaneously irate and middle-class. It’s comedy for the new generation, although he takes shots at the entitled generation as well as “drama queens” in Britain. It’s a show of considerable talent, and long may he continue in this vein.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks about sex a fair bit.
Swearing: Some “fuck” and “shit” uses, as well as the C-word.
Summary: A very funny guy indeed, and a show very much worth looking at. 9/10

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