Reviews: Glasgow International Comedy Festival

GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL

 

Andy Parsons

King’s Theatre

 

Daniel Sloss

King’s Theatre

 

Katherine Ryan

Blackfriars Basement

 

Simon Evans

Oran Mor

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

 

I have to tell you, dear reader, that I have spent the last week laughing continuously and grinning from ear to ear. But enough of St Mirren’s glorious League Cup victory last Sunday, what of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival?

In an extensive and star-studded programme, the name of Andy Parsons was sure to grab the attention. The Mock The Week star has a talent for topical comedy which seems made for our tempestuous times.

In his latest show – entitled I’ve Got A Shed – the topical gags come in the second half. The first section of the set (which is made up of very funny, self-deprecating anecdotes and a riff on his hatred of Kendal Mint Cake) is delightfully old school.

In the second half the political material comes thick and fast. Observing that various commentators have described Boris Johnson as “quintessentially British”, Parsons notes that the Mayor of London was, “born in America, named after a Russian, and looks like a Swedish person who’s eaten another Swedish person.”

Parsons once did a tour which was entitled Britain’s Got Idiots. The hecklers at Wednesday night’s show seemed determined to prove him right. The comedian batted away most of the mindless banter with professional aplomb. However, even he was thrown when, having unicycled on stage for his wonderfully daft finale, a bloke in the stalls insisted on continuously shouting his congratulations on Parsons’s circus skills.

It seems to be an unwritten law of comedy that the younger a comedian is, the more they have to talk about sex. If there are younger comedians than 22-year-old Scot Daniel Sloss, I’m guessing they’re not at the Comedy Festival because they’re too busy recording material for the Playboy Channel. 

   Courtesy of his youth and a series of successful TV appearances, Sloss has, as his regular support act Kai Humphries is quick to point out, developed a significant following among teenage girls (including, problematically for the Festival, kids under the age of 16). Normally I’m the kind of laissez faire, liberal parent who is routinely denounced in the pages of the Daily Mail, but by the time Humphries had completed his set of sexual vulgarisms, I felt as if I’d been transformed into a Scottish male version of the late Mary Whitehouse.

The arrival of Sloss – favourite topics, his desire to perform a violent sex act on Lorraine Kelly and a recent visit to an STD clinic – did nothing to assuage my rising sense of discomfort. If this material is suitable for 14-year-old girls, I’m the next Pope.

Sloss certainly has the cocky swagger of a young comedian with a successful career ahead of him, even if his material (from fat Americans to moving out of his parents’ house) is somewhat uninspired. Anyway, if he ever did try to have his violently wicked way with Lorraine Kelly, I suspect she would get him in a headlock and take him straight down the nearest cop shop.

While Sloss was playing two back-to-back shows at the King’s, Canadian comic Katherine Ryan (who now resides “near Tottenham”) was deserving a bigger venue down in the Blackfriars Basement. More imaginative than Sloss in her sexual material (you will have to find out elsewhere what a “moose knuckle” is), Ryan’s stage persona is a winning combination of wide-eyed, small town Canadian and streetwise North Londoner.

Canada’s icons (from bears to Mounted Police) are crashed together with hilarious effect. Bears, it transpires, eat kids, but not their training shoes or their dogs; leading to trouble for the dogs when the Mounties arrive.

Ryan made a big impression with her recent Let’s Dance For Comic Relief impersonation of Nicki Minaj. Little surprise, then, that a considerable proportion of her set is comprised of material about pop culture; including a very funny routine parodying Beyonce’s hip shaking performance at the 2013 Super Bowl.

Even at the very close proximity forced upon her at Blackfriars, Ryan works the crowd with sure-footed confidence; hardly surprising, given that the 29-year-old has more than held her own with comedy’s big boys on TV shows such as Mock The Week and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. If Daniel Sloss is this good seven years from now, he should think himself very lucky indeed.

It’s a big leap from Beyonce to Ernest Shackleton’s heroic, if ill-fated, Antarctic exploration. It’s the measure of Simon Evans’s distinctiveness that a long section of his set is comprised of tales of an abandoned expedition and a dramatic rescue in the coldest reaches of the southern hemisphere; Evans admires Shackleton for having an upper lip so stiff that he didn’t even allow himself an expletive as his ice-crushed ship sank into the South Atlantic.

Evans has the demeanour of an irascible, old-style English schoolmaster. The hilarious snobbery of his views on football (which he considers a good way of keeping the least evolved members of society away from town centres on Saturday afternoons) is reminiscent of Harry Enfield’s toffs Messrs Grayson and Cholmondley-Warner.

If the Hove resident comic’s wit is unusually learned, it is also deliciously wicked. Apropos the area of Florida which comprises Disneyworld, amidst other attractions, and is known simply as “The Parks”, Evans observes that America has done for the word “park” what Nazi Germany did for the word “camp”.

The Glasgow International Comedy Festival continues until March 31. For tickets and further information, visit: http://www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com

A slightly abridged version of this reviews column was originally published in the Sunday Herald on March 24, 2013

© Mark Brown

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