COMEDY CLUB CHISWICK
Watts sees Rob Brydon of "Marion and Geoff" give a talk on "Making
and Geoff is that pocket-sized BBC 2 series where Rob Brydon, in the character
of a cruelly cuckolded minicab driver Keith Barrett, talks to camera about his
failed marriage. Mr Brydon has reworked this character into a starting-soon West
End Show (as Simon-the-MC explained, and he should know), and last Friday he visited
a packed Headliners club, presumably to give his material an extra pre-theatre
Marion and Geoff is as good as an example as you could wish for of a programme
that is funny in theory but dangerously poignant in practice. There's real loneliness
when Keith ratchets on the handbrake and turns to the lens to explain his latest
self-inflicted disaster. It's sufficiently excruciating that I would watch it
from behind the sofa with my fingers in my ears, were it not that I spend too
much time doing this already to cope with the differently tormenting The Office.
Could a live act, with no retreat possible, be bearable?
the event - absolutely! Brilliant! Hilarious! The Keith Barrett character came
on with a clumsily-handled clipboard and explained that he wasn't performing an
act but giving a talk; a talk called 'Making Divorce Work'. There were many good
touches. Example: he inverted the conventions of audience control. When a woman's
mobile phone went off, he shushed everybody else and, voice filled with solicitous
concern, encouraged the guilty party to proceed: 'No, go on, take it. You wouldn't
want to miss it. It might be an important call.'
effect of the character was much lighter than on the telly. The pathos evaporated
in gales of audience laughter. 'Of course, now that I don't live at home, I've
got to know the M4 like the back of my hand. It's 160 miles down the M4 to see
the kids.' Pause. 'That's a 320 mile round trip.' Pause. 'Or 640 miles if you
remember something you've left behind just as you get back.' Why's that funny?
Perhaps it isn't without Mr Brydon's delivery.
big lump on Rob Brydon, but I have less to say about the other acts. In two cases,
because I don't feel qualified to comment on their specialities. (Reader's voice:
Just what were you qualifications again?) For example Paul Zerdin is a
ventriloquist. He seems a very good one: in that 1) his throat muscles - never
mind the lips - hardly move, 2) one is absolutely convinced that one is listening
to a dialogue, 3) his dummy is a large droll spongy creature built like a sort
of Muppet, and not one of those sinister grinning creatures that were always turning
up on Roald Dahl's Tales of the Rather As We Predicted, discovered locked in suitcases
with human blood on their hands and 4) his stuff was Consumer Association tested
ISO 9001 RAC recommended funny. What more can one ask of a vent?
Hurst looks like Sid James with the wrinkles half ironed away but when he
opens his mouth, instead of a dirty chuckle, out comes the voice of a northern
club circuit pro. Mr Hurst's jokes consistently got laughs, but it seemed to me
that the laughs came from that section of the audience that doesn't really understand
comedy but can recognise a pause in the comic's spiel and feels an overwhelming
urge to act on this recognition by filling the gap. Delivery competent, material
Paul Zenon, the second 'PZ' of the evening, is a conjurer who builds his
act on the firm foundation of not being David Copperfield. Hearts sank throughout
the audience when he produced a pair of those metal rings that magicians love
to entangle and release, but then lifted again when he 'broke' one pulling them
apart. He came partially unstuck, through no fault of his own, when a punter whose
jacket had been borrowed refused to come up on stage to take part in his Great
Wall of China sketch, but a substitute volunteered himself and it all ended happily.
note: sadly, I must report that The Man Who Talks To His Girlfriend All Through
The Evening has discovered Headliners. Although not as big a pest as his dreaded
musical cousin The Man Who Sings All The Lyrics To His Wife, he is an annoyance
we could do without, and he should be strongly encouraged to leave Chiswick and
return to his natural breeding ground. Which is, of course, Ronnie Scott's.
Monkhouse, Dave Fulton and Simon Fox at Headliners
Laugh - Opening Night at Headliners
Comedy Night at the Park Club
Legend Frank Carson to perform at the Park Club
4 , 2002
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