Saturday, 9 February 2013

FESTIVAL DIARY DAY 2 - the morning after the night before...

It's ON.
The festival has begun with an explosion of colour, laughter and large animals. It all began with the VIP launch party at Chutney Ivy, which has been transformed once again into Dave's Curry House by Reach Marketing - and a fine job they've done, with red carpet and other luxury trimmings, full-size knight in armour, several large animals dotted around the place and photos of past performers adorning the walls. Outside we could see Captain Comedy wandering the streets along with a posse of Nando's promoters led by a giant chicken - which immediately led everyone to wonder whether we'd see Peter Griffin turn up at some point to fight it. Sadly not... yet.

Ian #1 - Mcmillan
The official launch saw speeches from City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, festival Director Geoff Rowe, General Manager of the Dave channel Steve North and the new Chair of the festival Martyn Allison. There was also a special poem about Leicester's newest official resident Richard III, read, ironically, by Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan. The speeches were followed by some very tasty curry and plenty of mingling between performers, Council members, promoters and media, before everyone drifted off to go and see their chosen shows.

Ian #2 - D Montfort
First on the bill for this reviewer was comedy psychic Ian D Montfort at Firebug, the comic creation of character man Tom Binns (who also appears as hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury in a different show). His psychic act is genuinely impressive in many ways. Firstly it lampoons with great precision the tricks of the cold-reader, opening a new segment of the show with phrases like "I'm looking for a Michael or Dave or John or Stuart..." to blatantly cover as many bases as possible, and being gently condescending to specific audience members when they don't come up with the answers he was expecting, to make it seem like it's their fault. Also impressive is the fact that he does actually come up with facts about the audience members he talks to, that he would reasonably have no way of knowing, which adds to the comedy a genuine feeling of "how the hell does he do that?". When this question was vocalised by one of the audience, his response was along the lines of "I'm psychic, that's what the show is. Didn't you read the description before you came?". For the most part his audience interaction was smooth, apart from one new trick using tarot cards, in which he found himself admitting that he needs to write new material to cover certain unexpected outcomes and fill awkward silences in the show. The jokes, though not coming thick and fast, were of a high standard, many of them with a very dark edge, just like with his other character Ivan. His most successful gags tended to came off the back of an apparently failed attempt at cold-reading - but it's the stuff he gets right that makes this possible. He wows you, then when you're expecting to be wowed again, he confounds your expectations with a cleverly built-up joke, and it works very well.

Ian #3 - Stone
Then along came our third Ian of the night at Firebug - topical man and occasional Mock The Week-er Ian Stone. Seeing two shows in the same venue on the same night but with a different audience allows you to easily contrast the two, and the audience didn't seem nearly as engaged with Stone as they had with his psychic predecessor. Maybe because it was later and people had drunk more, but there was plenty of chatting and general fidgeting, and the obligatory group of lads at the back who felt they had the right to respond out loud to anything the comic said. Or maybe it was that the material was not heavily engaging them - people didn't seem largely enthused by the political stuff, and the 'I'm a Jewish stereotype' jokes only got him so far. He did make a good point about the audience though, when he questioned their priorities after his holocaust jokes got big laughs whereas a Jade Goody joke drew offended grumbles from the crowd. There is a lack of good substantial political comedy in this country right now (surprising considering how unpopular the government is), and Stone's set seemed to encapsulate why this is. There were some very smart jokes in there, but his biggest laughs seemed to come from the use of rude words or broadly drawn stereotypes. Can we conclude then, that audiences in general just aren't politically engaged enough to really appreciate the smarter political jokes? Or maybe just this audience. I guess having an 'As Seen on Mock the Week' label attached to you makes most people expect very light topical material which is only mildly political and not too cerebral. Anyway, enough audience-bashing. Stone is intelligent, politically-minded and presents his material well, I just wish he didn't have to resort to stereotypes and football crowd-style bad language to appeal to the audience's interests.

So there we have it - day 1 out of the way, 16 more to go. Two shows seen, three Ians witnessed and I'm still feeling fresh! I'll be back with another installment of the festival diary tomorrow, and there'll be plenty to talk about, as my schedule for today involves an early morning seminar with a panel of industry experts, Alfie Brown at Just the Tonic in the afternoon, then  Norman Lovett at the Looking Glass, Antony King at Kayal and Benny Boot at the Belmont! Something tells me I'm going to be rather tired by the end of that lot...See you tomorrow :)

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