Saturday, August 10, 2013

A funny thing happened - review of the You Must Be Joking 2013 final

YMBJ 2013 winner Matt Dwyer

You Must Be Joking final 2013 at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Wednesday, July 10

HAVING struck out alone from the Newbury Comedy Festival which it used to be part of, The Corn Exchange’s You Must Be Joking stand-up comedy gong has enough clout to continue to be coveted by new and newish comedy talent from all over the UK - and even from other countries. Sort of.

Saying that, it was a delight to have local woman Eve Slatcher, AKA Mama Eve, in the final, not only representing West Berkshire but the whole of womankind, as the only female to make it through the heats. Feisty and fearless (this was only her third gig), her material understandably needs a bit more development, but the confidence to take her stand-up career onwards and upwards was certainly on display.

Bravely taking the first spot (well, not sure he had a choice, actually) was Carl Jones, who has been out and about on the comedy circuit for around three years. His material was fairly safe and cosy, but he had a lovely, warm style, and the audience took to him with ease.

Ian Cooper had a braver edge to his jokes, and a good narrative arc ran through his eight minutes on the theme of facing fears, only falling slightly flat with a weak wrap-up which suggested material that had to be cut short to fit the slot. He had some great punchlines, though, and wholly deserved his place in the final.

Welshman Kappa Llewellyn was getting laughs before he even started his set, peeking out of the wings dolefully, before introducing to his part-lovable, part-pitiful character (if it is a character). His material was strong, about searching for love and being Welsh, and he definitely came out with the best joke of the night - which can’t be repeated here, or even touched upon, for reasons of taste, decency and my desire to continue writing for the Newbury Weekly News.

First on after the interval, Bobby Honeybun had an easy conversational style - nearly to the point of not coming across as a performance; very natural, but maybe requiring a little polishing, just to  bump up the air of confidence. His act displayed some excellent writing though, and while he might have focused on the comfortable themes of music and TV, there were some really good jokes in there, and Honeybun appeared to have a fun, dark streak that belied his innocent appearance.

Mark Cram’s act was a masterclass in comedy design; his story of sibling rivalry with his high-achieving military brother had an unexpected revelation dropped in halfway through, and wrapped up its threads beautifully by the end. Almost certainly pared down for the competition from a longer act, he left me wanting to know more about him and his family.

“Swedish-ish” Olaf Falafel was a beardy blonde Viking in a Scandi knit sweater told the most complicated toilet joke of the night.  He was a strong character and great with the audience, jumping down to interact with the front row and give them Viking names; and was confident enough to insult the judges (from the safety of the stage). What a cheeky Viking. The £250 prize would not be his.

And so to the winner: selected by a judging panel comprising local actor and ACE Space founder Adam Kotz, managing director of Windsor’s Firestation arts centre Dan Eastmond, and, er, me - the gong went to imported Australian Matt Dwyer. Dealing with the sole heckler of the evening magnificently, he was relaxed with the audience and demonstrated excellent stage craft, using the space well without too much bounding.

Dwyer’s act featured a bunch of excellent one-liners, including a bundle of jokes about women and relationships which managed to be razor sharp without ever stumbling into the mire of bitter misogyny. A well rounded performance that deserved to win, up against some other great acts; and a winner genuinely and touchingly blown away by his success on the night.

The whole shebang was compered by YMBJ 2010 winner Matt Richardson, who continues to support the contest which launched his career. Richardson will be presenting The Xtra Factor on ITV2 this autumn, and is currently schmoozing with the likes of Nicole Scherzinger as The X Factor auditions are being filmed, so let’s see if he remembers little old Newbury this time next year.

Actually, Richardson’s coming back on October 5, when he will be bringing his first solo show, Hometown Hero, to New Greenham Arts. Strange to think that he’ll actually be a bit famous by then. But hey - that’s the magic of being a YMBJ winner. No pressure, Mr Dwyer...

  • First published in the Newbury Weekly News on August 1, 2013

Olaf Falafal. Not the winner, but what a magnificent beard

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