Thursday, 18 September 2008

Tony Law, Stephen Dick, Eddie Hoo, Eilidh MacAskill, compere Sandy Nelson - The Stand, Edinburgh, 13/09/2008

Photo courtesy Diamond Geyser, reproduced under a Creative Commons license

September at the Stand tends to be a quiet month, as the city calms down after the excesses of the festival, but the club still fairly buzzes for a weekend show, and while the lineups may feature some less well known names, they still manage to draw the odd top headliner to pull in the punters.

Glaswegian Sandy Nelson is one of the regular MCs at the club, and always sets a good tone for the night. He has a quick mind and a way with a snappy retort, and he is served well on this night by the presence at the front of a large gaggle of Welsh thirtysomething women out on a birthday shindig (but amazingly not a hen party,) together with a group of squaddies standing near the back who he attempts to hook up with them.

Sadly, his initial efforts go to waste when opening act Eddie Hoo takes the stage. At this level one tends to expect that the opener will be a well established club act with experience, professionalism and finely crafted routines. Hoo demonstrated none of these things. He looked uncomfortable and nervous, stumbled over his words, and his jokes suffered from overly complicated and convoluted set-ups leading to punchlines which seldom rose above the level of "and then I fucked her." He was clearly attempting to be controversial, but doing so with such an utter lack of wit or charm that he barely raised a titter despite this being a crowd that was clearly "up for it." In the ten minute try-out spot, this may have been just about acceptable, but as an opener it was highly disappointing. Hoo does seem to have been on the circuit for some time, so one can only hope this was merely an off night.

Thankfully, this turned out to be a temporary abberation, as the try-out act, musical comedian Eilidh MacAskill, turned out to be an utter delight from beginning to end. Billing her act as Eilidh's Daily Ukelele Ceilidh (all of these words rhyme with Daily for the uninitiated,) she fired off silly jokes and daft songs which were short enough to hit their mark quickly without ever outstaying their welcome. With a bright and engaging personality, she held the crowd easily and I could happily have sat through a set twice as long.

Main support Stephen Dick is well established on the Scottish scene as a comedy magician who, thankfully, keeps the emphasis firmly on the comedy. The magic, it has to be said, was nothing out of the ordinary, the usual card tricks that we have seen a hundred times before, together with the old chestnut of taking money from an audience member and seemingly destroying it before restoring it unharmed. But there's very little else a magician could do in the close confines of the Stand's tiny stage, and what Dick does very well is to supplement the tricks with some great gags and some fine self-deprecating humour, as well as putting the odd new twist on the trick to keep it reasonably fresh.

And so we come to headliner Tony Law, a master of surreal and twisted humour who, after a slightly shaky start, quickly has the audience in the palm of his hand, so much so that despite massively overrunning his slot he continues to hold their rapt attention with not so much as a single fidget in a seat.

Law's act affects a constant bewilderment at the world around him, but it's not a world the rest of us would recognise, populated as it is with random anthropomorphisms conjured out of an imagination most of us would give everything we own just to spend one day in. The bulk of the set is taken up with an instructive guide to setting up a fight between a black bear and a shark, but his attention is easily drawn such that this line of thought is regularly abandoned as he trails off onto yet another lengthy digression.

This is a kind of comedy that you have to be in the mood for, but on this night the audience certainly were, and rounded off the night well. A night of ups and downs, to be sure, but with the ups firmly in the majority.

No comments: