Just Comedy Friends; Ed to Follow

Broken Down on the M25 Wednesday, the Devizes Arts Festival comedy event, Ed Byrne and Friends unfortunately altered to just friends.

 
Then the mobile rang…. A call from Beano artist Kev F. On any other occasion this would’ve been a most welcomed call, but I was rubbing my forehead on a plush street in Bath when I was supposed to be setting up a table at the Bristol Comic Expo. My debut stand at a convention, the next evolutionary stage of comic glory, rather than the usual sauntering the site, lugging a bag chockful of my smutty outpourings, chatting and hoping to flog a comic or two.

The curse was an egg-shaped black rubber ring, which I held in greasy fingers while frowning in abundance. Like an elephant’s trunk suspended on an earring, this was, I’d just discovered, what supported the exhaust pipe of my VW Polo, which now dragged along the road beneath the car. Bit of a design fault, I was eventually informed, fortunately from a ‘mechanic’ passer-by, once the ring bent out of shape, the exhaust dropped.

He eavesdropped my apologies, as I explained the situation to Kev. We talked of my destination, and because of the interest he exhibited, I gifted him a comic, hoping he’d fix the car. I then ventured underneath it, an attempt to assign the ring back onto its bar, and hopefully attach the exhaust pipe; breakdown services for losers! Needless to say, the effort futile. I appeared from under the car to the sound of the mechanic giggling; the guy engrossed in my homemade publication! “No,” he explained the aforementioned design fault. Humm, I see that now. “Thanks for the comic,” he acknowledged, and whistled off on his way.

A wedge of abandoned broken bin held it, not quite long enough to make it to Bristol, but after a few pitstops I arrived, fashionably late. Tense, irritated and in no mood to greet people with plastic smiles and laughs, I spent the day hoofing and sulking. My point to this anecdote, other than I’ve not much of a review to write about Ed Byrne and Friends? When vehicles breakdown on an imperative assignment, nothing is more frustrating. Therefore, to the hundreds sitting uncomplainingly in the Devizes Corn Exchange Wednesday, perhaps it’s best Ed Byrne didn’t make it.

Rescheduled for September, if he had of made it, would he have been on top form, would comical genius spurt from his mouth? Yeah, he’s professional, suppose. Still, I’d favour the feverishly brilliant observational comedy routine, the like we’ve come to expect from Ed would be best served cold. An odds-on at the bookies he’ll open with the tale of his primary attempt to make it to our backwater. Not everyone could conjure an amusing story of being stuck on the M25, I bet Ed could. That’s why these people rule the comedy circuit. See above, I’m capable of writing a comic tale of woe, but I’d never acquire the valour to perform it before an audience; it takes guts and a chunk of lunacy.

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Chris Stokes Image: Gail Foster

The support acts then, did a grand job. Opening act Chris Stokes vastly different in style to David Hadingham, who followed. Akin to a lovechild of Mickey Flanigan and Bill Hicks, I’d argue David had the posture, the visual comedy, and through crazy expressions could, just, carry off a corny gag. But his style akin to a working-man’s club, was coarse, banal but often hackneyed. References to masturbation and psychedelia pigeonholed him as outrageous, though the quality of the jokes have to match that panache.

For me, David started off brilliantly but declined somewhat, while Chris, more stiff and static to begin with, especially considering he had to break the ice after the devastating blow Ed may not appear, by joking about said devasting blow, grew in wittiness. Through local observations of his bus journey from Chippenham, to a set routine about his Black Country homeland, he improved with each laugh that passed, and importantly, had  incomparable originality. Thick and tough those laughs hailed through the Corn Exchange.

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David Hadingham. Image: Gail Foster

No doubt both these guys were remarkably funny, easing the blow dramatically, yet I’d argue Chris was the better of the two, as he played to the mostly, conventional audience. Well done to both for covering the absence of Ed, an unfortunate turn of events. Least, I think, we’d be set for a better performance from him in September than one after a car breakdown.

 

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