15th June 2017
Following a brilliant opening night featuring a bill headlined by hometown hero Mark Watson, lofty standards had been set going into the second evening of the South West’s biggest comedy festival. With a line-up featuring Nish Kumar, Danny Bhoy, Seann Walsh and headliner Ross Noble, the second night of Bristol Comedy Garden 2017 was yet another strong and enjoyable evening of stand-up comedy.
An upbeat and engaging compere, Kumar passed perhaps the quintessential acid test of a natural comic – that being his/her ability to effortlessly riff of an audience – with flying colours. Describing Bristol as essentially full of “hippies and Muslims”, his posing the question of how many Muslims are among the audience leads to what Kumar describes as an “Islamic Spartacus” moment and, following a big laugh at Kumar’s somewhat esoteric Hot Fuzz reference, he is clearly pleased to dub tonight’s Big Top a “high functioning comedy room.”
Enquiries as to audience member’s occupations leads to the happy accident of an Airbus Vs Boeing face off and, amongst a boozy atmosphere including a man on his 3rd bottle of rosè, incites some curiously harsh boos for Bristol City Council. Kumar nimbly reacts to some off-kilter audience behaviour; a rather odd bovine wail emanating from the back of the room incites him to wonder if “we’re being bombed by the Luftwaffe.”
Kumar delves in and out of politics as he encourages the 48% of Remain voters to reach out to the other 52% to tell them they were “wrong about everything” and, after incredulously pondering over ethnic minorities voting Leave, amusingly declares it the ultimate sign of integration.
Launching into politics early into his set, Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy offers up the quaint image of Teresa May opening packets of crisps using scissors before comparing her to a “dead owl.” This leads to a riff on the incongruous attractiveness of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the imagined scenario of his wooing a weak at the knees Angela Markel. There’s also a passable mimicking of Trump’s ludicrous pronouncement of climate change being a Chinese hoax.
Despite Kumar’s aforementioned “high functioning comedy room”, Bhoy’s addendum of “you know, 6000 years ago” when describing confusion of over ocean levels rising since the beginning of time, is seemingly missed for its satire of fundamentalist religion. Bhoy does a good job of reacting to unexpected moments of external input: crowd noise from another section of the festival is reframed as a baying mob from his routine about airport queuing and he sees the strong winds ruffling the ceiling of the Big Top as an interventionist repercussion following a joke about ISIS.
Though Bhoy’s airport routine and his comparing the recent United Airlines passenger incident with Ryanair hospitality feel a bit obvious and familiar, it’s an enjoyable and varied set.
With his trademark staccato delivery landing somewhere between incredulity and outrage, Walsh begins with some solid material about being a boring thirty something; he’s aghast at reaching a stage in life where some of his friends now have a favourite journalist and riffs on the increased visibility of crumbs. For anyone of a similar age to Walsh, his nostalgic look back to the now worryingly antiquated LimeWire and video/Netflix comparison is impossible not to enjoy.
It’s a set that starts off very strongly and tails off a little towards the end but the strongest moments here are perhaps the most enjoyable of the night. Walsh highlights the nonsense of cigarettes being kept invisibly behind counters by brilliantly extending such logic to confusion in one’s own kitchen. Elsewhere he executes an attack on vapers by comparing it to the natural cool of an Italian cigarette smoker and, in a comment on health conscious times, performs a routine comparing bread to cocaine.
The set winds down slightly as Walsh’s material about sitting near the window in a restaurant and the gluttony of ordering a cheeseboard dessert doesn’t reach his early-mid set heights.
“I’ve been in the house for a couple of days, I’ve got a lot of shit going round my head.” Though in an unfamiliar truncated time slot, the improvisational wizard manages to cram in the expected dose of surrealist spontaneity and audience interaction. Pouncing on some mooing sounds from the audience, Noble begins by imagining the presence of a cow-riding Swiss community and sets up his tangential style by alluding to a backstage anecdote which he abandons and then revisits amongst a maelstrom of in-the-moment distractions.
He draws attention to a couple of audience members whose laughter nearly cause them to head-butt each other, imagines a Christian healing event resulting in cows having human feet and ponders the advantages of a 50 Shades style bondage sessions with the elderly. The quickness of Noble’s comedy brain is as impressive as ever and he gets substantial material from the mere layout of the stage; the two small wooden trees at either end of the stage leads to a riff on Wile E. Coyote and the Chelsea Flower show while a Brian Cox impression bleeds into George Formby when he imagines the starry backdrop as a ruse to ensnare the telly physicist.
For anyone new to Noble’s comedy it’s a solid showcase of his formidable seat-of-the-pants style. However, a routine about Bruce Forsyth being constituted of bees is dragged out a little too long and the backstage anecdote that Noble returns to in wrapping up, isn’t strong enough to completely satisfy as an end point.