Not full reviews as such, but some reflections on the comedy shows I booked for the Old Joint Stock Theatre last week.
The first show in the series was a result of our wish to support local acts by giving them an opportunity to preview their Edinburgh shows. Disappointingly only one Birmingham act – Andy White – is doing Edinburgh this year, so to get a full bill I also gave a berth to another upcoming act Dan Willis, a sold club comic working hard to move his career and his comedy on by playing the festival circuit. Unfortunately, the number of pre-sales were so low that we had to pull the gig. So much for the current strength of the local comedy scene!
Next Glenn Wool and Carey Marx are two comics Ive rated for years and who have been threatening to push onto something big for a while. Glenn is now a very respected figure on the circuit (cited by a number of new comics as an influence) and becoming interesting enough to the press to have gained interviews in both the Post and the Metro as previously reported.
Glenn is a really strong performer now – he’s always had a wonderfully firm and steady delivery which is now matched by a largeness of gesture and action that gives his material a real punch. His “rock and roll comic” lifestyle gives him plenty of raw material and he’s strong on religion and not at all afraid to be quite silly. Carey was once apparently a bit reticent about what was appropriate to say onstage (he started as a very good magician before gravitating to comedy) but since then has grown a reputation for being a “nasty comic” – that is, someone who will say anything that is potentially offensive, so long as its funny. He is often challenged by audience members who’s boundaries he has breached and this show is in response to that – a critical breakdown of exactly what people feel you can and cannot say. Its fascinating stuff, tho clearly still a work in progress and did come across a little bit like a lecture at times.
Next up were Scott Capurro and Zoe Lyons. Scott has been a headline act since before I first become involved in comedy in 1997 and is wonderfully acerbic performer, and Zoe Lyons an exciting relative newcomer. I wasnt able to attend this one, as we had to post the Project X Presents funding application off the next day and Ant and I were up to four in the morning working on it.
In the final show Reginald D Hunter was up first. He is a past master of the Edinburgh show now having been going up for a few years, nominated for lots of awards (winning one of them – for writing) and this year he is playing to a big five or six hundred seater room. He gets booked for lots of previews and uses them wisely – working through his current material and using the direct feedback of an audience response to judge and shape it into a show. At this stage in his preview run it was still a little disjointed, but there’s some brilliant material there and I havent seem him look so relaxed on stage for a while. Even the few ums ahs and giggles to himself as he consulted his “book of truth” as to what to say next seemed like perfect notes in a beautiful piece of music.
Reg had to shoot off to another show elsewhere, so Jason Cook ended up wrapping up the series. His last years show “True Confessions” was a series of brutally honest admissions of notable moments in his life, leading up two a heart wrenching 15 mins or so at the end dealing with his Father which was tremendously moving but always handled with a lightness of touch that kept the comedic element alive. This time – like the author character in the superb movie Stranger than Fiction he has taken on the task of trying something more upbeat. Hence his latest show “Joy” which although it deals with some very dark subject matter (including the death of his Father) does a very good job of finding the joy in life with an enjoyably silly finale which definitely saw us leaving the theatre in a good mood.
The Old Joint Stock is a lovely little theatre space – ideal for the little bit of festival/theatre style comedy Im trying to bring regularly to Birmingham. We take a break now for a few months until we are back with some great shows as part of the Birmingham Comedy Festival including Hattie Hayridge, Norman Lovett and Jim Jeffries. Hope to see you then!