Comedy Review: Nick Coyle

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

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Nick Coyle: Double Tribute @ Just the Tonic at the Caves

3/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 18 August 2014

 

Nick Coyle’s ex-girlfriend Jenny has died (killed by snakes). Her boyfriend Garth has also died (drowned by Russell Crowe), and something’s not quite right. Coyle has built a robot Jenny – essentially a toaster with a wig on it – to keep him company, and, after rifling through her diary, decides to put on the one-woman show Jenny planned to perform about her love for, and loss of, the aforementioned Garth. His tribute to Jenny is to enact her tribute to Garth. It’s a Double Tribute.

This, it hardly needs saying, is a weird, wheels-within-wheels type show. Coyle slinks around the stage with a camp, borderline bitchy manner, speaking conspiratorially to the audience and making droll comments about the ex he clearly hated. He’s also patently gay, and we soon start to suspect he had something to do with the deaths of the tributes. With the cave-like room plunged often into darkness, only to be flooded suddenly with eerie bluish lights, it’s an atmospheric, borderline unsettling experience.

Double Tribute is a skewed take on the kind of show produced when someone dies, and it’s pretty surreal stuff, in places very funny, in others outright – and quite deliberately – odd. Coyle himself is a gifted performer and deserves a larger crowd to appreciate his talents. He’s handsome without vanity, which means he can pull outrageous faces (his ‘sexy crying’ is a sight to behold). Any performer happy to end their show with sick and blood down their front, jiving with a robot to Mariah Carey, cannot be accused of being precious. It’s a meandering puzzle, but one worth attempting to solve if you’re in the market for something a bit more challenging at the Fringe this year.

Comedy Review: Ian Smith

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

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Ian Smith: Flappable @ Pleasance Beside

4/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 15 August 2014

 

Ian Smith has a long list of things that get right on his tits. Whether it’s people being disgusting on public transport, or having to make suspicious purchases at 2am, things have a habit of stressing him out. He’s the Flappable sort.

Smith quickly and effortlessly establishes a toasty rapport with the crowd and is able to provide top-notch responses to audience remarks. He discusses a bizarre piece of ‘fan mail’ he received, the embarrassment he feels in changing-rooms, his frustration at not owning enough kitchen utensils, his horror when soap operas change the actor playing a main character, what he wants done with his corpse, his plans for his own funeral… While some of these strike a chord, others are plainly absurd, and this blend of the familiar and weird gives zest to Smith’s set. He links his jokes, deftly weaving in strands from anecdotes told 10, 20, 50 minutes previously to create an impressive web.

His delivery can be a bit shouty. Perhaps he’s used to performing in bigger spaces (as he points out, Pleasance Courtyard’s Beside is essentially a couple of shipping containers strapped together), and his resonant Yorkshire vocals have little need of a microphone in this setting. Many will love Smith’s intensity and unstinting energy, though a few eardrums may take a battering.

Whether he’s musing on what hedgehogs eat or pondering the definition of halal meat, Smith is an extremely likeable performer, on top form from start to finish. This is an hour of controlled madness, consistently intelligent and laugh out loud funny, and no doubt Smith’s powerful voice will be filling vaster spaces in years to come.

Comedy Review: Phil Wang

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

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Phil Wang: Mellow Yellow @ Pleasance Courtyard

4/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 12 August 2014

 

Phil Wang, bespectacled in a striped cardigan, takes to the small, circular rug that is his stage in Pleasance Courtyard’s Bunker 1, and is soon casually justifying his show’s provocative title. Mellow Yellow begins as a wry and knowing assessment of Wang’s cultural status as a half-Chinese Brit (yes, his name sounds like a cock), and while this is all exceedingly funny, it’s common ground for a comedian to tread.

However, there is much more to come. From his insightful and waggish dissection of needlessly dark, gritty movie reboots (step forward Maleficent), to his unabashed pride in his sexual prowess – via some seriously fucked-up, laugh-out-loud reflections on the TeletubbiesArt Attack and Postman Pat – Wang proves himself to be a natural comic. All this is sound-tracked by the steady flow of laughter that can only be heard coming from a relaxed audience that knows it’s in the hands of a pro.

Aged just 24, Wang discusses a diverse range of topics, from the nonsense to be found on social media and the pressure to be a lad on holiday, to the gender politics of food advertising and the true definition of ‘geek’. With some of the deadpan wit of Richard Ayoade and the subversive intelligence of Stewart Lee, Wang’s pièce de résistanceis his brilliant parody of the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, which has to be seen to be fully appreciated (and includes a phrase to rival a certain iconic sketch that should not be named for fear of spoiling the surprise).

Such joyful, low-key quippery is a delight to behold, and, alongside his adroitly droll off-the-cuff responses to audience reactions, sets Wang apart as one of the most gifted young comedians to grace the Fringe this year.

Comedy Review: Backwards Anorak

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

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Backwards Anorak: Winter is Coming @ Gilded Balloon

4/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 12 August 2014

 

Every Game of Thrones fan worth their salt will have duh-duh-DUH-duh’d along to its opening credits, so Aussie comedy troupe Backwards Anorak have picked a canny way to start their show. Winter is Coming begins with the fivesome, led by Michelle Brasier and Vince Milesi, harmonising comically – and rather beautifully – to recreate the iconic tune. With the bearded Milesi dressed, ridiculously, as Daenerys Targaryen (complete with synthetic wig and sexy little bikini top), things just keep getting sillier as the ensemble knowingly confuses Game of Thrones with The Chronicles of NarniaHarry Potter and Lord of the Rings in a frenetic musical tour of Westeros.

Non-fans of the fantasy genre will find a multitude of the show’s funniest gags skimming over their heads. Winter is Coming’s best jokes and catchiest songs hinge on insider knowledge of Game of Thrones, as well as hobbits, house-elves and the like. There are a handful of references to other aspects of pop culture – a pillar-licking Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, the Eurovision Song Contest – but the rest is pure geekery.

With tremendous support from James Baker, Laura Frew and Leo Milesi, Brasier and Milesi have created a well-written, expertly timed and often hilarious comedy-musical. Brasier and Frew are vocally dominant, full of energy and zesty non-sequiturs, and Milesi has the sort of crazed look in his eyes possessed by some of the best comics. The show descends into chaos towards the end, all bellowing, blood and bare flesh, but this is fitting given its gory inspiration. George R. R. Martin would be proud.

Comedy Review: Gary Little

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

Gary Little: The Thing Is @ The Stand

 
3/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 11 August 2014
 
 
Never has a name been so ill-fitting. Gary Little looms over his audience, ten feet tall and buff as hell, skinhead gleaming, deep voice booming. Little’s served time in prison, swears like a docker (the word ‘shite’ is his constant companion), and seems to address his fellow males as either ‘wee man’ or ‘big man.’ He’s proper blokey, shouting so loud that on three occasions a woman in the front row jumps in her seat.
 

Little’s dog-walking tales are a great opener, blessed as he is with that special brand of Glasgow banter: gossipy, sharp-tongued and hilarious. He’s got the Weegie gift of the gab and tells a cracking tale. His anecdote about an ill-fated car boot sale reduces some audience members to tears.

His portrayal of women is problematic. He mentions his wee mammy, his naïve girlfriend (every time he quotes her he makes her sound daft as a brush), expresses horror at the thought of women not shaving their legs, and appears disgusted at the mere notion of his partner breaking wind in his presence. Germaine Greer he ain’t.

However, this bellowing, masculine, sweary persona is undercut by his obvious warmth, a softness that emanates from him despite the bravado. His interactions with the audience are jocular but cruelty-free. The high point of Little’s set is his description of past depression, the medication he had to endure and the dance therapy – of all things – that got him back on track. You can tell the experience, bleak as it was, blessed him with compassion, and it’s lovely to witness, funny as well as moving. Little might be a bloke, but he’s a bloody nice one.

 

Comedy Review: Chris Coltrane

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

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Chris Coltrane: There’s No Heroes Left Except All of Us @ Banshee Labyrinth

4/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 11 August 2014

 

Chris Coltrane does for socialism what Caitlin Moran does for feminism, using jaunty humour and rousing optimism to expose society’s wrongs. In There’s No Heroes Left Except All of Us, Coltrane proves that laughter is a far more powerful tool than rage, utilising his sense of the ridiculous to reveal a rat’s nest of injustices. From Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream shame and celebrity tax dodgers, to avaricious politicians and the horror of gendered Kinder Eggs, few escape his gleeful lefty swipes.

He doesn’t just talk the talk. Coltrane is an activist as much as a comedian, joining mass sit-ins, demonstrating with placards, even door-stepping the editor of the Daily Mail, and this passionate, proactive approach bleeds into his material. There’s no soapbox in sight; only a nice man chatting to a bunch of people about how we should maybe just try to share stuff and be nice to one other.

Visual aids are put to great effect, with one particular audio-visual combination reminiscent of E4’s excellent Fonejacker. Coltrane’s canny use of his Twitter feed is another nifty touch, with some very funny tweets popping up on screen even before the show starts.

Some more diehard politicos might find Coltrane’s approach lacks bite, but his message, his motivation – that we can all make a difference – is bang on the money. You’ll leave the sweaty dungeons of the Banshee Labyrinth feeling buoyant, possibly even inspired to pick up a placard, but more than anything filled with a sense of hope. Who knew the revolution could be so sweet?

Comedy Review: Luisa Omielan

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This review first appeared in The Skinny

Luisa Omielan… Am I Right Ladies?! @ The Counting House

4/5 stars
Review by Jacqueline Thompson.
Published 11 August 2014

 

Luisa Omielan makes no bones about it: she wants to be FAMOUS. With the packed-out Am I Right Ladies?! looking set to become as big a hit as her colossal 2012 Fringe show What Would Beyoncé Do?! her wish seems destined to come true. From the moment you crowd into the near-tropical heat of the Counting House’s ballroom you’re bombarded with some seriously infectious music, as well as the cheering sight of Omielan dancing on stage as if no one’s damn well watching.

She’s brilliant, her one big hoop earring winking under disco lights (another would get in the way of her mic) as she pumps her fists, encouraging her already captivated audience to join in. Addressing women as ‘bitches’ throughout the show in an empowering, I’m-reclaiming-this-word sort of way, Omielan chats to the crowd as if it’s filled with her bosom buddies, covering a kaleidoscope of topics, from Somalian lovers and being fat-shamed in Hollywood, to anti-depressants and the pleasing effects coconut water has on a woman’s intimate parts.

There’s no place for prudery here; if you don’t want to hear about the sometimes grotty realities of sex, or see – up close and personal – your comedian’s sweaty cleavage, this isn’t the show for you. But we need more comics like Omielan: bold as brass, ambitious, proud of her gorgeous, wobbly body, and, above all else, wonderfully funny. If some Hollywood agent wants her to lose twenty pounds, he can do one. Omielan knows she doesn’t need to change and, ladies and gentleman, she’s absolutely right.