You’ve Got To Laugh
by Andy Fawthrop
It really feels as if the old times are back with the very welcome return of Strakers’ Comedy Night at the Corn Exchange. A fairly packed audience of about 200, with long early queues at the bar, settled down for something we all needed – a great night of laugh-out-loud comedy. It did initially have the feel of a massed estate agents’ night out and bonding session, but once we finally got under way, all of that was forgotten.
First up was Kane Brown who wasted no time in warming to his first couple of themes – a black man in a very white town, and the obvious need to take the piss out of the sponsor of tonight’s event. Kane was quick-fire, calm, relaxed and made an immediate bond with his audience. It could be argued that he was scoring into an empty net, such was the crowd’s desire to have a good laugh after such a long lay-off, but in fact it was much better than that. Kane had a very nice line in nostalgia themes – salted crisps, the choke on cars, old TV technology – and his slot seemed to slip by in no time. Very assured, very funny and an obvious hit with the crowd.
Next up came Rod Woodward, veteran of the corporate comedy circuit, TV, Royal Variety show etc. Rod played the “I’m very Welsh” card early, followed it with low-level machine-gunning of the Strakers (a theme was developing here) and rounded out with routines on Ryanair, and the dangers of going clothes shopping with a married partner. Another great performance, also hilarious, and a great way to end the first half.
Following the half-time scrums at the bar, and the queues for the loos, the second half offered up a couple more comics. First of these was Ali Cook, another very experienced performer in terms of TV work, Edinburgh Festival and the corporate circuit. Ali combined his comedic patter with a number of sleight-of-hand magic tricks, effortlessly pulling victims (sorry – “assistants”) out of the crowd to help him on stage. Routines involved card-tricks, apparently eating goldfish, and smashing an i-Phone to pieces. Another clear hit with the crowd.
Last on stage was the wild-looking, long-haired Canadian Craig Campbell. Here was a real force of nature from the get-go. Having just done a none-too-easy gig for UK troops quarantined after recently returning from Afghanistan, Craig had a lot to say on the subject. At first this really took the audience with him, but then he appeared to lose a good few people with his crude, shouty, expletive-ridden rants about not very much in particular. He managed to pull them round with a very good story about the Dutch and the Danes, but then went off into another blizzard of shouting. A few people around me were making their excuses and leaving at this point, but other sections of the audience found him very funny. He lost me towards the end I’m afraid. I don’t mind bad language well-used, but Craig seemed to rely on the f-word almost completely to get his laughs, a thin cover for fairly sparse material. So, something of a Marmite type of performer.
Still – to badly paraphrase a certain rock legend – three out of four ain’t bad. Overall a great night, lots of laughs, and a very welcome extra step to getting our lives back again. Thanks to Strakers for putting the show on – great stuff!