Review: Eaves Charity – Stand-Up for Women Featuring Michael McIntyre
It was already a sold out charity show at the Bloomsbury Theatre featuring my all time favourite stand-up, Michael McIntyre. I was so lucky to get a ticket. I had begged for a ticket from anyone that I knew, in any and every charity that could help get me a ticket. Eventually, I heard there were a few standing room only tickets…boom! I was in like Flynn. We had to stand but it was worth it.
You could say I was a comedy fan if not a comedy stalker. I go to different comedy clubs every week and the chance to see so many stand-ups that were on my “go see” list couldn’t be resisted.
Overall, the show (in aid of EAVES Charity for women who have suffered domestic abuse) was a fantastic show. We (me and the mate who went with me) had one major bugbear – that was the lack of a bar for most of the night. I had looked forward to a couple of intervals for a few sherbets but the bar closed incredibly early, which may have accounted for the very quiet and reticent audience. It may also have been that there were 14 acts on the bill – not something you see often on professional comedy nights and something akin more to open mic/newbie gigs in the back of pubs, but no doubt the organisers were trying to squeeze as much talent in as possible.
This is not always a good strategy though. Some of the acts could have done with a little more time and, as a result, each act tended to blur into the next, with acts only standing out based on how good their cheer was at the end of their section. I was pretty much cream-crackered by the time the McIntyre came on…overall there were just too many acts. What was interesting for me was that the acts who stood out the most were club comics. Comics I had seen at Jongleurs, Highlight or other comedy clubs and who know how to work a cold room.
First up was compere, James Mullinger. James bounced across the stage, declaring himself to be a feminist and generally getting the audience in the mood nicely. Everyone instantly warmed to him and he was witty, inventive and very funny, setting the tone for the rest of the night and never straying too much into what we call “Me-Ceeing”. There is nothing worse when you are a member of a comedy audience to have an unfunny MC, who really wishes they were the main act. In my view, “warm us up, then get the acts on”. James did this perfectly and was tonight, the perfect MC.
In what can be the tricky opening spot was Abi Roberts. I had not seen her before, but I am pretty sure we will be hearing a great deal more about her. She was a quite simply a superb opening act and is destined for bigger things. She was raucous but charming, high energy but thoughtful and just very, very funny. She performed some killer jokes on TV cookery, Liam Neeson and deodorants at gay clubs and had the evening’s first rounds of applause after a bit on applying CIA logic to British Gas. And I will never ever watch the Lion King in the same way again! Roberts also displays a great deal of inventiveness in the use of her talent for voices and I suspect she also has a talent for singing, given her brief vocal interludes that peppered her act. If you get the chance, go see her. She will be big and she will be famous, so do it now before you are paying £25 for the privilege. More of her please!
Next up was Hal Cruttenden. Hal is a veteran of the club circuit and is, I suspect, just on the verge of breaking onto TV in a huge way. This is not surprising. I have been telling anyone that would listen for years that this camp, but not gay, but still kinda gay sounding act, was going to be big. His opening gambit was a hilarious bit about one of his kids asking if he was gay. Honestly, if I had had a drink to spill, the lady in front of me would have found her barnet soaked, I laughed that hard.
Joel Dommett was the next stand-up who stood out for me and not in a good way. Dommett epitomises for me, the good looking, skinny-jeaned male comedian with a haircut appearing too often these days in comedy clubs, whose material just doesn’t cut it, for me or clearly for most of the audience. In fact, he epitomises everything that is wrong about stand-up – too rehearsed, too TV friendly, not organic or “in the moment’ AT ALL. I once heard a stand-up at a bar describe a comic saying “he phoned it in”. I think Dommett barely bothered to phone and sent a text message instead. I found myself becoming irritated and thinking, why couldn’t we have had more Hal C??!!
The break was welcome but as I say, the bar closed early, so no chance of a couple of refresher trips later in the night. Dying for a wee, I nearly missed the opening of the second half.
Opening the second half of the show was Luisa Omielan. I had seen her show about Beyonce at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and enjoyed it, even if it was a tad derivative and a bit too cabaret. However, I was really, really disappointed at the quality of her stand-up. She too stood out for all the wrong reasons. Her attitude seemed to write cheques that her stand-up writing couldn’t match. She began with a very old and weak visual joke about wearing a sparkly top with a high viz jacket and proceeded to strongly plug her new show twice telling us all how it had “sold out in two weeks, just sayin” (never a good thing to do on a charity night really). After a few moments she began to grate and then began to actually annoy, which is never good for a comic. Her first five minutes dragged on without laughs…talking about Beyonce in street lingo/Jafaikan that left some audience members, including myself, non-plussed. I actually thought at one point that she was doing a character act. Seven minutes in and still no laughs and before I knew it I was willing for the bringing on of the next act. It was only when she went back to doing improv at the end that things picked up and she received some laughs for a joke about accents and animals.
I would describe her as a comedy improviser who is good at improv and this is, of course, what she does in her hour show. Sadly, she is not a stand-up and you have to question why, as an improviser, she was on a stand-up night at all.
Circuit veteran Gary Colman relieved the palpable awkwardness by coming on next and thoroughly smashing the room to bits with very funny anecdotes, especially about kids, his time in the army and living in Hackney. He played the room to perfection and, as a club comic, the ability to work the room was the telling difference. He marched off to massive applause.
Carly Smallman was next up. She is loud, rude and her songs are way better than her spoken jokes. Her material was a bit verbose and wobbly, covering some subjects that have been done to death by female comics, such as internet dating, but she really got into her own when she sang her song. She too went off to raucous applause.
Canadian Phil Nichol then delivered what can only be described as a blistering series of set pieces, taking the temperature up a notch again, including one of my faves about the way Londoners speak and a dial he has invented to measure Londoner’s accents. Again, I couldn’t help thinking that some of the abler acts on the night like Nichol should have had longer.
The penultimate act, Noise Next Door were simply marvellous. Again, not strictly stand-ups, more musical improvisers, they playfully set about setting the room on fire, with improvised songs about lovemaking and odes to boy bands and delivered what was a piece de resistance and audience participation sketch that was superbly worked. They were so good, I feared for Michael McIntyre having to follow that.
Follow it he did though and boy, the room stepped up a gear! He looked a little shell-shocked as he came on to rapturous applause and then spotted someone in the second row reading a newspaper. Like all good stand-ups should, he laid into the person reading and then demanded everyone text The EAVES helpline, which was incredibly funny – I can’t explain why it was. It just WAS, especially as he liberally sprayed the F word around..something we are not used to Michael saying. He did old favourites – hotel biscuits and shower caps, as well as new material about getting older, moving to the country and joining a golf club. My favourite bit was about opticians (I have just been myself for new specs, so particularly resonant for me), “should we be guessing the letters? It’s not a panel show. We don’t get the glasses as a prize…” All honed to perfection. He was billed to do 20 minutes but ended up doing nearly 45 and he was clearly enjoying himself. The audience loved him. Say what you like Stewart Lee, this guy is a master of his craft.
All in all, a great night. McIntyre was superb and in a league of his own. But by the looks of it, he has some challengers coming up on the inside in the shape of the Noise Next Door, Hal Cruttenden, Gary Colman and Abi Roberts.
The next stand-up event for EAVES Charity is on 4 June at The Bloomsbury Theatre. Details can be found at www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/1787