My poor attempt at photography
Last night, I had the honour of being my friend Rachel’s plus-one at, The Greenwich Comedy Festival 2014. We arrived at the Greenwich Maritime Museum at 7:15, and were escorted in to the Festival hub, adorned with gold wristbands which gave us access to a VIP seating area, and most importantly; a free bar full of glorious, golden, Magners cider.
We entered the tent through a separate side door and were seated on blue chairs in the middle of crowd. It felt pretty good by-passing the other queue and taking our pick of the good seats; the privilege/Magners was starting to go to my head. The lights went down, and the comedy began.
Our host for the evening was John Robins, comedian and one of the many voices on XFM Radio. He handled the crowd with pure professionalism. His responses to the endless heckles from a woman in the audience called Francesca, were brilliant; his Macbeth reference in particular put her irritating laugh/interruptions in to perspective. It was a shame he had to spend most of his stage time telling her to pipe down; but his retorts were super witty, and the crowd were well and truly on his side.
After the heckling, Robins introduced the first act: Shappi Khorsandi. Most people will know Khorsandi from her appearances on Live at The Apollo. Her set included jokes about UKIP/EDL, her kids, being a single Mum, and being unbearably horny when pregnant; all of which were expertly delivered and received big belly laughs. Khorsandi also spoke of how, as a female comedian, she often hears that bastard phrase: ‘Women aren’t as funny as men’ and that it is often women who actually say this to her. Khorsandi’s response to female fans who say this is ‘get better female friends’; which won me over instantly.
After a short 15 minute interval, in which Rachel & I inhaled the most delicious steak, mature cheddar and onion sandwiches we’ve ever eaten; we returned to the tent to see John Robins battle the infamous Francesca again, and then introduce the second act for the evening; ventriloquist Nina Conti. From start to finish, Conti’s set was absolute genius; her use of puppets and props was so simple, but so brilliantly effective. Her puppet, known simply as ‘Monkey’, dominated the first half of her set, but she put him in the bag half way through, and pulled an audience member up on stage instead. Conti then turned him in to a human puppet, attaching a mask to his face which turned out to be a false mouth, which she controlled the movements of with a small handheld device. For the next ten minutes; Conti improvised a whole scenario around her human puppet, interpreting his actions and putting the words in his mouth; and the result was absolutely phenomenal. She achieved in ten minutes what I try to achieve in a two hour improvised class every Thursday night; she was flawless. Her self-deprecating yet supremely confident style had the audience in pieces; the guy next to me was rolling around on his chair, and Rachel & I were on the verge of soiling our special seats because of our hysterical laughter.
After another fifteen minute interval (and another Magners cider) we returned to the tent for a final time to watch John Robins introduce the final performer; actor and comedian Ardal O’Hanlon. With roles in sitcoms like Father Ted and My Hero, O’Hanlon is instantly recognisable, but his stand-up style is ultimately different to his on screen characterisation. He cracked some good gags about his hometown and the first time he came to Greenwich, and Rachel & I enjoyed his set; but we were on a Nina Conti-comedown, so our laughs weren’t as loud as they could’ve been. I did however, enjoy his closing sentiments about paranoia, and statistically, the chance that there’s someone out there who wishes you harm. That sounds like a downer; but it was refreshingly hilarious.
Ultimately, I had an absolute HOOT at The Greenwich Comedy Festival this year (and that’s not just because I was a bit sloshed on free cider), and I owe it all to Rachel & Nina Conti.