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COMEDY REVIEW: The Best of Liverpool/Royal Court

Flexing the mirth muscles remains the city's great strength, says Mike Chapple watching stand-ups old and new

Published on May 17th 2010.


COMEDY REVIEW: The Best of Liverpool/Royal Court

It was that irritatingly self-styled Mr Ordinary presenter Tim Lovejoy on BBC's Something For The Weekend that got the craw recently.

Liverpudlians can and do make fun of themselves and their own - and find it funny. It's when that is picked up by the cynics and thrown back with a snowball of nastiness about the city and its foibles, accompanied by the traditional sneering jibe "I thought you lot had a sense of humour" that it gets to clobberin' time.

Being interviewed was John Bishop, all round affable Liverpudlian who has meteorically shot into stadium status in the past year.

Mr Ordinary couldn't resist coming up with the clichéd question that has bored us all so much - and which seems to have become a worrying obsession for some outside these borders. And that is: why do Scousers think they're so funny, when all they've got is Doddy and Tarby to fall back on as evidence?

Lenny Anderson

The Bish, with dignified patience, explained that people from Liverpool did not wear the mantle of being generally funny comfortably - it was the opinion of others that made it so.

Comic observation of everyday situations and the ability to comment on it with quick, wry wit and a uniquely boisterous expressive language may have something to do with it.

A huge dollop of self deprecation mixed in also helps. Liverpudlians can and do make fun of themselves and their own - and find it funny. It's when that is picked up by the cynics and thrown back with a snowball of nastiness about the city and its foibles, accompanied by the traditional sneering jibe "I thought you lot had a sense of humour" that it gets to clobberin' time.

If those cynics - unlikely as it would ever be - really did want to find out why the city is thought of as a breeding ground for comedy then the annual Best of Liverpool night is the place to start.

Traditionally staged at the end of the increasingly popular annual comedy festival it's a showcase for the old hands and newcomers of Mersey comedy to make their mark.

And this has to rank as one of the best in the many years that it's been staged by the veteran of the esteemed Rawhide Comedy Club, Kev Fearon.

The revamped supper club that is now the Royal Court was made for this style of review, a sort of Wheeltapper and Shunters on crystal meth.

What makes it even better is that the MC who segues it all together is often as good if not better than the other performers for machine gun fire delivery. This year it was the chrome domed Willie Miller who was simply superb Miller is especially adept in the field of the delayed punch line. You know the one that when its subtly delivered fails to make immediate impact. Then it hits home with a BANG!

Loud and sustained laughter follows.

Appropriately, given what we were talking about, Willie introduced the evening by saying what a "great springboard" the festival and the Best Of night has been for home-grown lads such as Bishop.

He immediately gleans a joke from it.

Brendan Riley

"But it's been no friggin' springboard for me," he mock snarls. "I've been doing this for five years and it's given me f*** all apart from a slot on the bill at strippers' night at the Peacock in Kirkby."

There's that self deprecation.

Miller - and his fellow veteran local radio presenters Sean Styles and Pete Price who were also on the main bill - were like exultant rampant dogs unleashed from the constraints of the airwaves. There Willie and Sean, at least, have to be Smashey and Nicey (not so Pricey) to their listeners, whose sometimes hare-brained phone calls are used for material.

It was great to witness.

Micky Finn

One of the best for non stop punchlines in the old tradition was Lennie Anderson who spends much of his time now wooing the bear pits of the Blackpool summer season. He's the sort who'd make the un-PC brigade swoon with a fit of the vapours. Strangely, he proved to be a massive hit with the ladies.

"I won't be on stage long - the wife's back home with laryngitis and I'm f***ed if I'm gonna miss that," he quipped to much hilarity from the girlies.

So, maybe not so strangely after all. Female comics have the ability to mix it with the best of the men as the Funny Women presentation earlier in the week at the Unity showed. That show's presenter, established Scottish jokester Janey Godley, wisely explained that the relative lack of women on the circuit may have more to do with a reluctance to endure the boredom of years of propping up bars with the good old boys and sleeping in Holiday Inns than a lack of talent.

Linzi Germain is a massive case in point at the Best of Liverpool. Big, brassy and intimidating, Germain's first act is to move the mic stand away from her imposing figure.

"I'll just move this so you can get to see me all the better," she squawked to much guffawing from Weight watchers in the audience.

She rounded off a rumbustious 10 minutes with what could only be described as an mini operetta which involved a Scouse Macey Gray handing out free Diet Coke on Church Street.

Brilliantly inventive as was the contribution from the school girl double act Robicia, Robyn Nevin and Alecia Brockenbrow from Bootle joint winners of the Stand Out project which encourages youngsters to take up stand-up.

"We'll be seeing them at Edinburgh in the next couple of years, mark my words," predicted Miller.

New Stand Out talent from the boys was more than adequately displayed by 17-year-old Sam Inkson of Croxteth Park, who apparently can't wait to get back on stage after his first experience of a large audience.

Steve Gribbin

Bigger audiences are nothing new to two other Best Of performers, Brendan Riley and Sam Avery, masters of the aforementioned comic observation. A typical Brendan true story related to a rather rotund gentleman in a Liverpool shop queue with his trousers straining over his large waist: "Ay mate, says this other bloke, what size chest are those kecks," observed Riley. My how we laughed. Again.

More laughs too from comic minstrel Steve Gribbin who went down a storm with his musical mickey take on the Capital of Culture.

"We're very good at building ourselves up to knock ourselves down," said astute Maghullyback Avery a few minutes later.

And so finally to another mickey, Mickey Finn the great warhorse of Liverpool stand-up whom even Doddy himself apparently bows before. Finn encapsulates all that is fine and good about the Liverpool comic heritage from observation, to mime to drop dead timing in delivery.

He brought to a fitting end what was the fastest moving and entertaining two and a half hours you could ever wish to hope for.

On this evidence, those like Lovejoy, who think that Liverpool as a comic city is old hat must be 'avin' a larf.

We certainly did.

9/10

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