All entries for Saturday 02 February 2008

February 02, 2008

Chortle Awards Part 2

So here is the second part of my “Who you should vote for in the Chortle awards, even though I’m not qualified to judge, I’m probably more qualified than you, and you were going to vote anyway” article.

Sketch, variety or character act: Fat Tongue, Lee Fenwick as Mick Sergeant, Pappy’s Fun Club, Ugly Kid
I don’t generally go in much for sketch comedy or character acts (except character acts that basically play weird stand-ups eg, Andrew Lawrence) but there are two sketch groups that make me laugh a lot: We Are Klang and Pappy’s Fun Club, so they get my vote by default. I saw Fat Tongue a few years back and didn’t think much of them, but honestly Pappy’s are so good I have no problem voting for them regardless.

Best full show: Tom Basden Won’t Say Anything, Stewart Lee: 41st Best Stand-Up, Psister Psycho, Terry Saunders: Missed Connection
I managed to catch all of these at Edinburgh, with the exception of Tom Basden. I mentioned the Terry Saunders show in the previous post, Psister Psycho was bizarre. In a good way. The genuine ‘comedy play’ isn’t a genre well represented at Edinburgh anymore, with most acts going for either straight stand-up, vaguely connected sketches or a ‘funny’ play that goes in the Theatre section with delusions of grandeur and greater meaning. Psister Psycho was just a fun romp with some silly songs and decent writing. It was special because these sort of things aren’t really done anymore, but it didn’t stand out as being particulary brilliant. Unlike Lee’s show. In many ways he’s written the same show three years in a row with Stand Up Comedian, 90s Comedian and 41st Best Stand Up, utilising many of the same techniques: laboured repetition, self referential commentary, etc in each show. But he does it so brilliantly. It’s not effortless. It’s clear that he’s working from a script into which he’s put an intense amout of effort into getting every word just right. And it really is nigh on perfect. Aspiring stand-ups would learn more from watching these three shows than they ever would from any comedy course. Even if you don’t want to perform in a style anything like the one he uses, everything is laid out right there for you. It’s utterly transparent, his techniques are laid out there for you to see clearly with no attempt to disguise or hide them. It’s a master class in joke wrting and set construction. But it’s still wonderfully funny. What Lee does with his stand up is the comedy equivalent of a magician doing all his tricks while showing and telling the audience exactly how they work, but still getting the applause because his technique and slight of hand is impressive enough to stand alone.

Best theatre tour: Alan Carr: Tooth Fairy, Al Murray at the London Palladium, Dara O Briain, Frank Skinner
Not living a stones throw from Warwick Arts Centre anymore, I didn’t get to check out any of the big theatre tours this year, so didn’t see any of these and so opted not to vote. I imagine Dara O Briain is still very good, I’m not sure how “Al Murray at the London Palladium” counts as a theatre tour unless he called the show that on tour, which would be a bit weird. I sort of hope Alan Carr wins this, as I saw him do stand-up about 5 years ago (the second show I ever saw at the Fringe) and he was really good, but now he’s mostly known as Justin Lee Collin’s sidekick. It’s about time he got some recognition for his stand-up, assuming it hasn’t devolved into sub-Friday-Night-Project rubbish with Gervais-esque ‘look I’m famous, here’s an annecdote about Les Dennis to prove it’ stuff recently.

Award for innovation: Arthur Smith for ArthurArt, Gently Progressive Behemoth (Edinburgh show), Laughter In Odd Places, We Need Answers (Edinburgh show)
This is a weird catagory, and possibly the toughest one of all to call. I only caught a little bit of ArthurArt when Simon Munnery took us back there after his show for the AGM section, it was sort of cool, but I never really understood gallery art anyway. Laughter In Odd Places is something I’ve never witnessed but sounds like a good idea: holding gigs in various strange places like record shops and libraries. Sort of a good idea but I’m not entirely convinced it makes anything necessarily funnier, once the novelty value wears off.
So it’s between the other two for me. We Need Answers was a great idea. A comedy quiz night hosted by Mark Watson, Tim Key and Alex Horne, each night it pitched two comedians against each other in a trivia competition. The catch? All the questions were ones that had been sent to AQA, the text messaging ‘we answer any question’ service. It wasn’t really a real quiz as most of the questions were just bizarre or impossible to answer, and so it basically became a very good live comedy panel show. But the really awesome thing was running it at midnight, therefore providing a much needed alternative to the typical late-night bear-pits of gigs you normally get at Late n Live and Spank.
On the other hand is The Gently Progressive Behemoth. A show Tom got me to go see at Edinburgh and I loved it. It was a great combination of sketch and stand-up double act – I reviewed it elsewhere and gave it 5 stars as I really couldn’t pick a fault with it. But innovative? Not so sure. It didn’t feel that new or different, infact it felt like a student revue, or the first show of a new pair of comics who weren’t entirely sure what they wanted to do, of which there are hundreds of such shows at the Fringe. The difference being it was brilliantly written and performed. But I’m not convinced being good makes something innovative. In fact the most strikely different thing about the show was it’s use of wordplay, a much under-utilised field of humour these days, especially in more sketch-style shows. But if you call wordplay innovative I think Chaucer might have something to say to you.

So it’s between the really innovative show, or the show that is better but clearly not as innovative. I’m torn. Fortunately for the sake of this piece of writing, I have a handy get out clause. We Need Answers is sponsored by and based upon the upon the use of the AQA messaging service. To pay the bills I currently work part-time for Texperts, a thier biggest competitor. Somewhere in my contract, there’s bound to be a clause where I can’t publically endorse anything closely related to AQA, and so The Gently Progressive Behemoth has to win by default.

And so that’s it, I might do a quick look back when the results are announced if there’s anything else to say.

Oh and if you want to vote in the best venue poll you can put “The Reckless Moment, Leamington Spa” under “Best venue in the Midlands and the East” as it’s the only club I’m particulary affiliated with these days.

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