Ooooooooh this was a nice show. The kind of show that reminds you why you got into being a fictional owl who puts on comedy nights in the first place.
Despite being an owl, we were super happy to see a dog in the audience. Waffles sat in the front row and was impeccably behaved, apart from when Luke Rollason tried to put a crown on his owner’s head. But even then, his barks and growls were so perfectly timed I can only assume that he has been to some kind of canine school for the performing arts.
Please come back, Waffles, wherever you are.
James Walsh started things off as himself, after hosting the previous two shows in character as a furious pub quiz host and a disgraced choose your own adventure novelist.
This was a mistake, as he had forgot who he was, and also half the lines he had prepared. But he managed to get through his “were Busted right about climate change” slides, which (sort of) explain what the night is about, and demanded the audience name the red owl sat proudly on the stage behind him (which they did!).
This done, he abruptly left the stage and a distinctly non-warmed-up audience in the hands of our first act, Camilla Borges, whose surname he pronounced – incorrectly – in the style of the legendary Argentinian novelist.
Sorry about that.
She was excellent; a real “fuck all of you, I’m the best” energy which would not work at all if she didn’t have the charm and persona to back it up.
Fortunately, she did – and this owl’s highlight was her character study of that friend who tells you about how brilliant their life is, under the pretext of caring about how you are doing. It was expertly performed and left at least one audience member in what comedy scientists call “hysterics of recognition”.
After establishing, belatedly, the correct pronunciation of Borges “it rhymes with gorgeous” – Walsh got the audience prepared for the Luke section of the evening, which is like the erection section at the end of a club night, except everyone is called Luke and no-one has an erection.
Luke #1 was Luke Beahan, of excellent sketch group The Free Mondays and part of FI sister night Next Level Sketch’s extended universe.
He is a deadpan, lugubrious presence, who proceeds at his own pace and logic and slowly but surely drags you into his world.
Today’s mission was audience participation inspired, random slideshow madness. We were taken on an extremely silly, but somehow profound, journey into how to change this world we’ve ended up with, via some truly terrible images and some inspired, off-the-cuff philosophising.
Luke is the cult leader we never even knew we needed, and I urge you all to drink deep from the snake oil of his mind.
Luke Rollason couldn’t have been a more pleasing comedic juxtaposition to Beahan – physical, manic, and relentless to Luke #1’s slow, calculated deliberations.
A returning champion, Rollason was trying out some new material around the important historical figure of King Midas, and it – and he – absolutely slayed. Literally, in one sense – he ended his set by shooting us all, regardless of whether we were Jesus or not.
I’m not going to give too much away, as I really hope he uses this material again, but as always with Luke, his mastery of marshalling laughter, and then manipulating and remixing it is up there with the best physical comedians performing at the moment. Go see.
Oooh eck- time for an interval! We tell you it’s ten minutes. It’s actually longer! Behold, a glimpse behind the comedy curtain, at the pulleys and levers we use to toy with you and your perceptions.
Ben Lund-Conlon started off our second half. He’s been performing at the Brighton Fringe with a show almost absurdly perfect for our silly lecture format – a proper, in-depth, analytical investigation into why Buffy is actually a very poor vampire slayer.
No spoilers here, but if you’ve never watched Buffy, it’s still funny, which is a tricky trick to pull off, and speaks of the care gone into the material.
If you are a fan, you’re going to fucking love it.
The next performer is one of the humans I, as an owl, outsource a lot of the organisation of this show to (due in part due to my lack of opposable thumbs, and in part to my incorrigible laziness).
Maddi Sainsbury has been gigging hard of late, and has figured out that the secret of comedy is to embrace one’s own weirdness and eccentricities. And so we learn more than we absolutely need to about stylophones, are reminded of the existence of Rolf Harris, and are led into a great finale of electric synthesiser related humming.
Oh hey it’s returning champion Thom Tuck! Looking dapper as always! Thom’s laugh is infectious, and it was a joy to have him sat at the back, guffawing at the other acts like some kind of dream audience member.
He came to the stage with an easel (a chair) and a pad of letters, with which he reinvented the alphabet, for brevity is wit and communication is garrulous these days.
Here I don’t want to give away too many spoilers either, but rest assured pirates and fans of potassium are well catered for in our brave new linguistic world.
There were many enjoyable bits, but the conceit that he was in fact gonna just keep going, forever, was hilarious, if, fortunately a ruse, as time had done its thing and it was time for us to go downstairs and have a drink.
But first – time to sweatily pose our humans for a photo of Waffles.
See you all next time!
Thanks to Paul Creasy for photos, and to Vitali for being fabulous on tech.