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Verdict: Mrs Scrimshaw shakes hands
London - Madame JoJos - 16 December
Comedy A JoJo is a fortnightly comedy night at the Soho venue Madame JoJos. It's programmed by Rohan Acharya.
Tonight’s it's the standing-room only finale of Comedy-a-JoJo’s winter run. It's the climax to a season of comedic excellence from producers Underhand. Madame JoJo’s is decorated with streamers and fairy lights; the stage has a backdrop of ski-slope lit by a silver moon; there are white Christmas trees. Programmer Rohan Acharya aka Mother Christmas is themed in red, from top hat to robes. Technical Manager Nic Watson’s the Christmas Fairy, with fairy-lit angel wings and flashing halo. Crowd Controller Jake Wiltshire comes as Santa’s Little Helper with knitted elfin cap and ears. Underhand’s tech wizard Mike Smith arrives as reindeer (but no droppings) with antlers (and who knows what else) erect.
The audience includes Dutch Elm Conservatoire actor Jim Field Smith, Tom Meeten’s gorgeous other half Delia, Nudge writer Chris Lincé, On The Funny Side MC Matt Holt, film director Remy Lamont. From Top Man’s office party, there’s Ben Archer, Mandy, Katie, Jools. There’s an office party from K Law. There’s handsome Chortle editor Steve Bennett, Shamlet and Straight Shooters writer Andrew Doyle, eloquent stand-up Alexis Dubus, actor Lucy Middleweek, artist Holly Lucas, and stand-up legend Andy Zaltzman.
Ed 'Freddy' Wellesley-Smith (Ben Willbond) - is tonight's MC. Matinee-idol Ben Willbond's remarkable parody of an upper-class merchant banker gets funnier and more deeply characterised with each outing. He's on top form tonight, with stories of male-bonding in the gym to music from Blue, and drinking exploits with muckers Dubbsy, Ollie, Boner and Big Man. In a period of self-examination, Ed revisits his sadly short-lived trist with Fulham bicycle Livvsy BJ. Tonight Ed's getting the audience to shout You're Shit You Are. He coaches TopMan's office party at the front to riposte with You Suck Cocks. They do this worryingly well - but then Ed used to be president of Exeter University's CockSoc. The key question is - will Ed be able to get a month off his £160k job at Coopers to do three weeks in Edinburgh 04?
Clare Campbell's a lovely-looking woman, stylish in blue jeans and black top, with the gentle, matter-of-fact, calm and audible intonation of a BBC political analyst. What comes out of her mouth is however considerably beyond even the Graham Norton watershed. Tonight she covers safe and unlucky names, the exact meaning of '2 to 1 the Arse', her unconventional sex-education, unusual family correspondence, and filthy tricks with cheque-book stubs. At the last minute, Clare Campbell is asked tonight to open what for comics is one of the toughest gigs in town. She does this with graceful panache and gets big applause. Her funny, subtly dirty and superbly-written and delivered set shows Clare Campbell to be a rising star, well-worth an Edinburgh 04 show.
Johan Lippovitz (Dave Armand). Johan, Austria's premier interpretive dance artist, is a muscular man in black cap, short-sleeved shirt and black trousers. Tonight, he translates Natalie Imbruglia debut hit Torn (1998) into dance and sign-language. This isn't signing as we know it, unless all deaf people have suddenly got very dirty indeed. 'I'm cold and I am shamed / Lying naked on the floor / You're a little late / I'm already torn' sound divine from Natalie Imbruglia. Dave Armand's glorious Johan Lippovitz ensures we'll never hear her again in quite the same way.
Reginald D Hunter is a tall handsome man, tonight sporting grey sweater and hat with turned-up rim. He's from Atlanta, Georgia, America and chats genially about his Edinburgh 03 show White Woman. Suggesting the Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards (EMMA) he attended put up a category 'The Best Nigger In Britain', Reg Hunter launches into a subtly-scripted set against preconceived notions of other human beings. He covers also the misunderstanding that Americans don't get irony. They do, he explains - they simply find guns more direct. Along with the politics, Reginald D Hunter's set has a string a hugely funny anecdotes - eg his arrest for urination in Amsterdam and £50 fine - 'I could have spent £30 and pissed on a hooker'.
JoJo Dancers. Charlotte Alberry & Elly O'Brien. The gorgeous JoJo gals heat up the interval with dance to Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby.
The Baron & The Duke (Tom Meeten) In a couple of sets this evening, the glorious Tom Meeten showcases two developing characters. 'There are 2 sides to me,' goes the off-stage voice-over, 'the light side, and the dark side.' The Baron is the evil one, in black bouffant wig, black moustache, and black leather jacket. He darts around the stage, barefoot, in steel-rimmed glasses, sharing his evil nature ('I rape nuns'), but soon runs out of evil attributes and off the stage. He's replaced later by The Duke, who only says nice things, and can't wait to don the leathers and become his evil alter-ego. Tom Meeten's gifted humour depends on his appearance, body gestures, and facial expressions, all of which are remarkable and hugely funny. A real comedy one-off. He and frequent comedy partner Steve Oram have a regular comedy night starting at London's Albany club in February 04.
Sven Gali (Gareth Tunley) Sven's the new character from gifted comic Gareth Tunley - stand-up and co-member of
The Legendary Polowski -
Fringe Report Awards 03 - Best Cop Spoof. Sven's in short trench mac, a man with long hair, kipper tie, black shirt and trousers - all a bit like Jonathan Ross. His parents were Swedish and Indian, and in a trice he whisks Ben Archer out of the Top Man Office Party in the audience to perform stand-up - he's keen to cajole their Jools too. Sven's an agent - an agent of disrepute. 'Don't read the contract' Sven instructs prospective clients, urging them to remember: 'The sizzle is better than the steak. I don't know what it means.' Another fine characterisation from fine comedian Gareth Tunley, Sven is due for a one-hour show at a London venue in February 04.
The Infinite Phenomenon appears tonight in blond curly wig with a black band round it, tinsel round her neck, a short striped jacket, bottle of gin in hand, black dress, and high heels. 'Give me the smell of the crowd and the roar of the crack-pipe' urges TIP in a deep manly voice. Topics tonight include reindeer, Lap-dancing and a carol.
Tony Law from Alberta, Canada, is a tall man with haircut unseen since Herman's Hermits, beard, fashionably soiled jeans, Rolex, little dark white-trimmed bolero jacket, red shirt, silk scarf tied round his neck, bottle in hand. He wears sandals with socks. Tony Law's delivery is calmly discursive, his material's finely scripted and delivered with élan. Tonights topics include porn movies, one liners ('It's tough being a serial killer and a liberal'), dinosaur noises, and politics ('That's what being a dangerous comic is all about - preaching to a liberal middle-class audience'), dwarf-tossing, paedophile uncles, Fidel Castro, Jo Cocker, Jarvis Cocker - and that's just the first five minutes.
The JoJo Dancers - Charlotte Alberry & Elly O'Brien raise the Christmas temperature in little black skirts trimmed with tinsel, thigh-high boots and Santa hats. They're augmented by James King & Isaac Gaskin to dance to The Waitresses’s Christmas Rapper. Joining them on stage are Matt Holt, Rohan Acharya and, as a nipple- and paunch-flashing Santa Claus, the rugged James Lamont. Santa distributes gifts including crackers, Scooby Doo The Movie and Return of the King t-shirts, a Slinky, whoopee cushions, and photos of Santa with The Cheeky Girls. The night's programmer Rohan Acharya later makes a thank-you speech to audience and staff for the Comedy-a-JoJo winter season ending tonight.
Ava Vidal is a tall, beautiful and elegant woman, with long tresses of black curly hair. Tonight she's in jeans and black shirt with rolled-up sleeves. Explaining she's been in the prison service, she notes the similarities with comedy clubs. The prison service was particularly good training for dealing with hecklers, she says. Asked 'Oi Miss, do you take it up the arse?', she learned to reply 'Yes I do. And your cell-mate says you do too.' It's a well-scripted and delivered set, covering religion, rape, boarding school, bringing up children, sex in advertising, 3 in a bed, and much more. In her first major gig, Ava Vidal tonight establishes her comedy credentials as an essential performer to catch - relaxed, warm and funny.
Howard Read It's been cruelly said by fans of Little Howard that he's funnier than Howard Read. This is incorrect. Roger The Pigeon is funnier than Howard Read. However, Howard Read is very funny. Anyone confused should know that the other two are animated characters drawn and voiced by Howard Read in his startling show Big Howard Little Howard
, so he wins all round. Tonight, he's alone, and the audience is drunk and restive at the end of a long evening - it's the worst slot of the night. It's going to take all his expertise as an experienced stand-up to deal with them.
Howard Read is a tall good-looking man with brown hair, tonight in khaki trousers, black short-sleeved shirt. He's aimiable, and needs it with the audience in their present state of degeneration. There's a bad-mannered office party back right who've talked through most of the evening and who by now have abandoned interest in any of the performers. Howard Read covers squirrels, favourite roads (the A27), driving with eyes shut, grumpy trolls, wrestling with grans, the sock-wearing clitoris. The audience is with him, and slips away. He gets them back again, with a triumphant gag about mutes mistaken for trainspotters, followed by skimming stones in the toddlers's paddling pool, and a stunning sign-off.
Howard Read's finale is a tribute to a hardworking hand-working Northern sweet-shop keeper. It reveals the secrets of her back room and the reason the ambidextrous proprietor can only deal with 2 schoolboys at a time in her shop. It's the magnificent anthem Wank Me Off, Mrs Scrimshaw. It's the highlight of the evening.
Johnny Dynamite (John Oliver). Offstage, Nuclear Joe Fantoni (Howard Read), narrates the downhill slope of comic Johnny Dynamite (played by John Oliver). It's Johnny's final farewell performance, looking back to his 'Biggest Breakthrough British Tour 1972'. He's 'a true professional - he never does charity gigs'. And here he is, Mr Johnny 'Boom Boom' Dynamite. The essence of Johnny's act is that every punchline comes with a blast of dynamite and a puff of smoke. As the act proceeds, he becomes progressivelly invisible, coughing and missing punchlines. It's pure slapstick, brilliantly performed and written by John Oliver.
Cast Credits (alpha order): Dave Armand - Johan Lippovitz, Clare Campbell, Reginald D Hunter, The Infinite Phenomenon, Tony Law, Tom Meeten - The Baron, The Duke, John Oliver - Johnny Dynamite, Howard Read - himself, and Nuclear Joe Fantoni, Gareth Tunley - Sven Gali, Ava Vidal, Ben Willbond - Ed 'Freddy' Wellesley-Smith.
Credits - Dancers (alpha order): The JoJo Dancers / Choreographers - Charlotte Alberry & Elly O'Brien; tonight with Isaac Gaskin, James King.
Credits - Company: Stage Manager - Nic Watson. Technical Manager - John Charles. Jim Morrison - Decks. Crowd Control - Jake Wiltshire. Rohan Acharya, programming and promotion. Company - Underhand (alpha order: Rohan Acharya, James Galea, Matt Holt, Jim Morrison, Mike Smith, Nic Watson).
reviewed Tuesday 16 December 03 / Madame JoJos
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