Saturday, 12 April 2008

Steve Hughes, Chris Lynam, Mark Nelson, Isma Almas, compere Bruce Devlin - The Stand, Edinburgh, 04/04/2008

Some nights... just turn out to be a little bit bizarre. I probably should have realised that this was going to be one of them when we spotted the chap sitting in the front row wearing cricket pads and gloves and drinking Magners cider from the bottle through a straw that was actually a bat grip filled with ice. As can be imagined, it didn’t take MC Bruce Devlin more than, oh, about two thousandths of a second to spot and home in on him like a sniper with a laser sight.

As it turns out this is only one of three stag and hen parties in the room on this particular night, which gives Devlin plenty of material to exercise his trademark bitchy camp humour on. As circumstances had forced us into the front row, I was glad of this as it meant that I escaped, at this juncture at least, relatively lightly.

But anyway, the evening started off okay, indeed rather well. Opening act Mark Nelson won Scottish Comedian of the Year two years ago, and he showed why with an excellent performance which combined a very dry wit and some caustic one-liners with a great deal of warmer self-deprecating humour. A regular fixture on the Scottish stand-up circuit, on this performance I can’t imagine it will be long before he enjoys success on a more national scale. A good opener, and a mental image of Heather Mills that will stay with me a long time.

Things started to turn weird, however, when Isma Almas took to the stage clad head to foot in traditional Islamic jilbab and burkha, and proceeded to have a lot of fun with the sheer ridiculous nature of trying to do comedy with nothing showing, at one point setting off a set of Christmas fairy lights so that her costume flashed a variety of colours. She had some good moments, both before and after she removed the strange attire, but overall I felt she telegraphed her jokes a little too much, and maybe needs a bit more stage time to become the finished article.

And then there was Chris Lynam. What to say about this act? Clearly influenced by the likes of Freddie Starr and Max Wall, with maybe a little of Rick and Ade thrown in, Lynam’s act does not contain, to the best of my recollection, a single line of dialogue that could be described as a joke. Rather he simply acts bizarrely for twenty minutes before exiting the stage. Entering it with a babble of nonsense, during his routine he throws ice cubes at people’s heads, dresses in a sparkly evening dress and smears melted chocolate over himself, and at one point, steals my shoe, throws it around the room and then attempts to auction it to the audience. Overall it is comedy of discomfort, and the laughter that eventually arrives is more to do with a general build up of absurdness than through any part of the performance that is individually funny.

So finally on to Steve Hughes, and it is only a few months since I last reviewed his headline act, but in the meantime he seems to have been busy adding new material to his act, as around half the set was new to me despite having seen him several times before. As usual with Hughes, it’s mostly a mixture of politics, satire and paranoia, lengthy ramblings on how every aspect of our lives are controlled by the commercial interests of the super-rich military-industrial complex cabals, but with a few knob gags thrown in just to lighten the load.

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