REVIEW: BBC NEW COMEDY AWARDS
Just because the insanity of the Fringe has come to its annual end does not mean that its sense of competition and rivalry ends. Last night saw the second Manchester heat of the BBC New Comedy Award. With previous contenders including Alan Carr, Peter Kay, Lee Mack, Julian Barratt, and David O’Doherty, the award has a noteworthy tradition and as a result, standards were hight.
Proceedings were led by Jo Enright, a Mrs. Overall figure who just about clawed her way through the evening. Along with with ten nervous comics, she was also joined by the three judges; Steve Bennett of Chortle, Executive Producer Alison Vernon-Smith and comedian Howard Read .
First up was Richard Todd. Standing at about 12ft tall with the look of a young Robert Plan, Todd dominates the stage and there are no issues with confidence. Unfortunately, by shouting his way through the five minutes, little could be made of his solid yet heavily affected material. Think aggressive Ross Noble.
Second to face the crowd is friendly Liverpudlian, Adam Rowe. It’s not hard to love the colloquial charm and friendly banter of a good scouser and jokes about a young girl’s ignorance towards the plight of Nelson Mandela fell well but left little impact.
James Spark decided to take the one-liner route, but with no charisma to speak of and a instant sense of defeat dominating his time, the best he could muster was a few forced groans.
Then came Imogen Turner whose slightly overacted but polished routine on awkward blow-jobs showed a potential for physical comedy which was intriguing to watch.
It was, however, Dave Green who stole the first half of the show with his dry, purposefully lacklustre performance which skillfully masked the fact that the routine itself was fairly traditional. His dark tinge and eery calm allowed for him to stand out amongst the chaos.
After a much needed rest form the onslaught of funnies, we returned with Johnny Pelham, a peculiar Daniel Kitson-esque figure who constructed an astute, informed and consistently funny set based around his upbringing with disabilities. Playing with idea self-deprecation led to one of the night’s properly authentic performances.
Malcolm Head made a strong impression with a character defined by manic self-laughter and a loose grip on social acceptability, reinforced with imaginative materials which included a very literal interpretation of “beat” poetry (yes, there was a bongo).
Nineteen year old student, Lauren Patterson, followed with a fairly outdated and age inappropriate set regarding dating mishaps, missing opportunities for a more youthful, relevant approach. Similarly misguided was Glen Moore, a bloody pleasant young chap who relied on his rather dashing accent more than anything.
Daniel Nicholas ended proceedings on a creepy note, quietly delivering oddball one-liners. A firm and confident style saved what could have been a fairly generic set and showed hints of something greater.
There was no shortage of ambition, but amongst this eager lot Pelham, Head and Green assured us that the future of comedy is in safe hands.
As I love a good surprise, I won’t destroy the suspense of who won. Instead, you can listen to the results on Radio 4 Extra on 22nd September.