I ventured out on Tuesday night to see Nando's presents Chris Ramsey & Friends at the Y Theatre. It felt like a very different experience to the other gigs I've been attending throughout the festival. A big theatre, corporate sponsorship, big names from the telly, an audience full of young people who you distinctly suspected didn't go to see much comedy - it was a world away from the mostly small gigs full of dedicated comedy fans in pub basements or rooms above curry houses that I have become used to frequenting of late. In the lobby, Nando's staff handed out free chicken wraps to hungry punters, the room contained row after row of Nando's staff, and at the back of the stage behind the performers hung a huge Nando's banner - tonight, we were all chicken's bitches.
|High energy - Chris Ramsey|
|Self-mocking - Chris Stokes|
Then came an interval. Well, it was more of a feeding frenzy really, during which punters guzzled down as much free chicken as they could, leaving the lobby of the Y stinking and covered in freshly stripped chicken bones and half-eaten wraps. Afterwards Ramsey re-appeared and brought the room up again, but when he began to implore the crowd to use the special Nando's hashtag when tweeting about the night, that was about my limit. I was unable to enjoy the everyday observations of headliner Josh Widdicombe, partly because it was some of the least inventive comedy I've seen during the festival, and partly because all I could think about was how the whole occasion now just felt more like a mass marketing exercise more than a comedy gig. As Widdicombe churned out standard observational schtick about iPhones and variety packs of cereal, I found myself thinking "why have all these people come here tonight?" and "why are they all enjoying it so much more than me?" And the answer was obvious - it was just like watching telly, with familiar faces performing unchallenging material, surrounded by heavy advertising. And just like that, I smiled again, filled with smugness about getting rid of my TV last year - safe in the knowledge that my comedy standards had been raised significantly by only going to see live comedy, most of which is not there solely for the purpose of delivering an audience to advertisers. If this makes me a comedy snob, then proud to be one I certainly am.
Wednesday was my one and only day off during the festival - I had planned to catch at least one show that day, but with it being my girlfriend's birthday, and me having lots of work to catch up on, I elected to stay at home and have a nice early night. I hope you saw something good that evening!
|Book-reading - Brendon Burns|
|Dark - Michael J Dolan|
So that's midweek covered. Sure, for this reviewer it wasn't the greatest few shows, but I was still optimistic about seeing some some good stuff on the final weekend of the fest. And that's what's great about his festival - you might see the odd show you don't get into, but there's almost always half a dozen ones you'll love just around the corner :)