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Comedy Review: The Green Room/Duke St

Angie Sammons watches Mick Miller, Duncan Norvelle and Jimmy Cricket at Ricky Tomlinson's new venue

Written by . Published on July 29th 2010.


Comedy Review: The Green Room/Duke St

MYTH of the day. Everybody in Liverpool is a comedian.

This is an idea given legs outside the city and now believed universally.

However, it's not true. Granted, you crack a fast quip in any Liverpool pub and someone will come back at you as quickly as Albererto Juantorena to a starting pistol at the 1976 Olympics.

It's not every day you come back from the bar to the sight of Duncan “Chase Me” Norvelle, skipping across a stage, to music, with one happy Herbert Howe linked in his arms

So you whack one back. They instantly slam another across the pumps. And on it goes until one of you gives up. It's funny, but it's not funny. These are the hard and very fast rules of engagement here, and, if you are sharp, you win.

Crack the same line in our nearest big city and it's a bit different. There's a seven-second delay. Think Ron Pickering reporting, via crackly satellite from Montreal (“there goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs and showing his class."). At best, your quarry at the bar will smile politely while they wait for the whole line to stop twistin' their melon. But, by the 'eck, they do get there eventually.

Fact of the day: There are lots of comedians who are from Liverpool – but that's entirely different

We don't all spend our lives in stitches. The natural Liverpool banter is too serious for that, honed by generations taking the piss out of one another. And It plays in the background. Dads stinging young lads coming in with their mates; the cruellest and most barbed jibes you could ever expect from any woman aimed at the man of her dreams.

So if the wit of unprofessional scousers washes over us 24/7, how about a professional one or two?

You have to be pretty good to make the indigenous Liverpool crowd howl with laughter, and Ricky Tomlinson appears to know which buttons to push.

His new venue, the Green Room in Duke Street, is not quite what you expect as a 21st century follow on from such venerated venues as “The She”, which must surely have been a Bobby Grant favourite.

For a start it has a huge shop front window like a tool hire showroom. They have done their best though to put on the Ritz. There are photocollages of Hollywood legends on all the walls, interspersed with mug shots of the man who made his interchangeable alter egos, Bobby Grant and Jim Royle, household names: “Holly Go-Lightly-Ratzo-Ricky. Sugar Kane-Victor Lazslo-Ricky. Etc.

Ricky and co want to bring back old fashioned cabaret. Complete with waitress service and his big contacts book.

And so welcome end-of-the-pier comic Jimmy Cricket, the most famous son of Cookstown since George Best and who probably hasn't played a late room audience like this since Jamesons claimed GB's first healthy liver.

At the height of his fame, Cricket was to be found with various stuffed creatures and a letter from his mammy on the insufferaby dreadful The Good Old Days.

Here, in 2010, the packed audience finds this helplessly funny: “I went to the optician. He said 'Have you come to have your eyes checked?' I said, 'No, I'm keeping them blue.'” And on and on and on like this for 45 mins of “Irish logic”.

I am suspicious of people who use phrases like “post modern irony” to try to explain or describe a crowd's enjoyment, in 2010, of watching acts like this. You either embrace it and get it for what it is or you go and watch a Jack Dee video.

This lot are variety, not modern stand-up: they do a song, a dance, get a puppet or a toy out, bit o' magic.

Ben Elton at the vanguard of alternative comedy did none of this, just a bit o' politics, and all those in his wake ditto. That's no bad thing. If Jimmy Carr were to try it now, it would just be another reason to want to kill him.

But back to tonight, and it's not every day you come back from the bar to the sight of Duncan “Chase Me” Norvelle, skipping across a stage, to music, with one happy Herbert Howe linked in his arms. But of course in the Green Room, life is a cabaret, old chum, and that's what the rapt audience were loving as an opener to the second set.

Now in his late 50s, still cutting a dash, Norvelle, Midlands boy who was once deemed too camp to host Blind Date, is still affecting the ultra gay persona, This is despite having been married three times and with kids. In the pub the next day, all this led one pal to wondering if pretending to be gay was the same, in political correctness terms, as blacking up. I didn't really know, as Les Dennis, as Mavis, might have offered if he'd been there, but he wasn't.

After Herbert, Norvelle calms down by sitting on butch balding men's knees and flirts with them and the waitresses for more drinks from the bar. “It's all right Ricky, just knock it off my fee....I know you will,” he minces witheringly.

Under 35s look away as Duncan, with engaging slick, launches into his stock-in trade impressions – ah, Frank Spencer and John Inman – and then the show-stopper ballad.

We were wrung out with Summertime Special memories by the time compere Ricky came back on to tell us that Norvelle was signing a selection of merchandise in the corner. We'd have gone over, but as he hadn't said “chase me” even once....

And just when we thought we should do one, on came Mick Miller. Now 60, and with his trademark bald head and long hair, Miller epitomises the polish and professionalism of old school, working- -mens-club comedy with the new. From stints on New Faces and The Comedians and acting in Alan Bleasdale's 1978 Play For Today, Scully's New Year, where he played the part of a wannabe stand up comedian, you'd have thought it would be all over for Miller long ago. Not so: He now stars in Ideal with Johnny Vegas, for god's sake, and brings the house down on the comedy stages at Glastonbury.

Miller, unlike the others, has evolved with the zeitgeist. He does cracking observational comedy that gets down with both the old bastards and the kids. When my camera does its fuzzy sensor flash thing, he immediately shouts across so everyone looks: “Police in with those bloody tasar guns already?” Smart as a whip, and no surprise, then, that he's from the Dingle.

The Green Room is filling an enormous gap in the market and given the paying £25 punters who packed the place, is bound to do well.

Indeed, for a certain type of punter, “there has been nothing like The Green Room since the Wookey closed,” I observed as we left.

“Except for swingers parties...” batted back my friend..then we both chorused: “and not everyone can live in Maghull.”

It was the sharpest of exits.

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