When it comes to stand-up comedy, you know you’re in trouble when you turn up to the venue to discover the show’s being held up on your account. Cursing the queue at Viet that delayed our arrival, we take the full brunt of regular Laughing Cows compere Maureen Younger’s playfully aggressive questioning, but there’s plenty of other grist to her mill sat around us, not least a professional film extra called Brian with a most extraordinary quiff who tries to give as good as he gets.
First up is Rosie Wilby, who started out as a musician and fell into comedy when she realised her between-song banter was getting a better response than the songs themselves. There are some clever moments in her set – not least the bit about her fear of being out collecting one parcel when Royal Mail try to deliver another, thus ending up in a weird kind of postal groundhog day – and her self-deprecating humour is largely well received, but it’s a shame the sometime MC for Glastonbury’s Leftfield Stage hurries some of her darker thoughts as if reluctant to let them sink into and fester in the minds of the audience.
Liz Bentley also ended up in comedy via a circuitous route, having tried her hand at novel-writing and then discovering that her short stories elicited more than just a few laughs when read aloud at open mic nights. In fact, the confident sit-down stand-up opens up by denying she’s a comedian at all, describing herself as a poet instead – albeit a poet who performed in a swimming pool at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. A keyboard-led ditty about a tenants’ association meeting is probably the highlight, though later Younger’s right in noting that we probably hadn’t come out expecting to join in a sprightly singalong about breastfeeding.
The pick of tonight’s bunch, though, is Holly Walsh, by some way (I’d guess) the youngest. Dressed in a blue anorak and looking, in her own words, like “a gardener”, she has a nicely unstudied style (or at least a style so studied it’s been made to look unstudied). Not only does she cope swiftly, easily and wittily with being picked up on geographical distinctions in East London – “It’s like being heckled by a sat nav” – she also comes out with the evening’s most memorable and repeatable punchline: “That’s midwifery!” (I leave you to speculate as to the joke it belonged to). Little wonder, then, that she was named 2008’s Best Newcomer by Chortle, and we’re left wanting more than her allotted fifteen minutes.
Like Liz Bentley, Juliet Meyers is fresh from Edinburgh, where one night she performed her show ‘Strange Ears’ to just three people, one of whom happened to be a Chortle reviewer. Thankfully there are too many of us tonight for her to feel she needs to know everyone’s name, though she does hark back to her Edinburgh experience by recalling what happened when she told the (very Scottish) mother of a young boy who’d come to her show that it contained use of the ‘C’ word – the woman looked down at her son and said, “David, you know ‘cunt’, don’t you?” Whereas Rosie Wilby races through anything remotely controversial, Meyers pauses to make a tumbleweed noise after her edgier jokes as though to draw more attention to them (unnecessarily). Her best routine is based around that idea that one little untruth can snowball out of control, beginning with her confession that she often refers to herself as “Mrs” so as to avoid the potential social embarrassment of “Ms” and ending with her realisation that she’s invented a husband who’s a bearded accountant called Tim.
The first Thursday of the month, then: the night for lady-shaped laughs...