So Irresponsible: Kevin Hart

The Irresponsible Tour: Kevin Hart
Rating: *
The O2 Arena
London SE18
Review date: 1st September 2018

Comedy superstar Kevin Hart’s Irresponsible Tour opens with a trailer for his new film ‘Night School’ and a compilation of clips from his past movies. It’s all hugely impressive and emphasises his status as one of the world’s #1 comedy actors. However when it gets to the main stand up show there’s a major disconnect between the big laughter, exaggerated set ups and goofing around that works so well on his many TV shows and films with what happens on the stage.

Maybe it’s because he is forced to literally stand up on his own two feet, sharing the stage with no one so that he cannot play on the short-man persona that is his comedy USP, that he carry’s off so well and so that which many are so used to enjoying is completely absent from the show.

There was some good material about his “great baby” and the perils of couple’s making out when their off-spring could burst in at any given moment. That was very funny. The story  about having 9 guns in the house in case he gets burgled was a little baffling to a British audience, who at most might, at most, have a baseball bat lying around the house as a potential weapon of choice! A 9 gun salute in a private house is a whole new level of welcome a burglar can expect if they even dare to try breaking into Kevin Hart’s yard!! Is it irresponsible for American’s to be so fixated on guns and the right to bear arms? Without getting into that whole debate from a British perspective, regardless of whether you stand, you must agree that it’s totally irresponsible for there to be so many senseless mass murders and smaller murders right across that nation and for their to be appear to be no solution in sight that all sides of the debate can agree on.

There was some pleasant enough material re playing Monopoly, but using “real stuff “ as collateral which showed the serious lengths some will go to “play” and win. The Japan-rollercoaster joke was quite neat in a self-depracatory way, which is Hart’s stock in trade.

Overall the showed lacked any real substance and spent far too much in the comedy gutter with it central theme being overtly crude, sexual material as opposed to anything more original. That was the same for the support acts too – Naim Lynn and Will “Spanks” Horton really dragging the level down. Naim Lynn to be fair told a mean joke and held the audience’s attention. Host Joey Wells was quite funny and kept the audience nicely entertained between acts. I found the crudeness quite ironic really seeing as Kevin Hart was so keen and proud to bring out his “great baby” daughter during the show. If she was older would she really be proud of what her Daddy and his support acts presented on stage? I don’t think so. Now that’s irresponsible.

Why not get the comedians doing at least some topical material – Brexit, Trump, Aretha Franklin, Teresa May’s trip and dancing in Africa last week are just a few issues that spring to mind? There’s so much to cover. For someone who comes across as quite a playful, jovial guy, it was a shame he didn’t make more of a connection made with the audience. So focused was he on performing to the camera. This was being filmed for his 6th “Live Special.” Ironically considering his ban on mobile phone usage in the arena no advanced notice was given of this or permission was requested from the fans for this filming. As a result of this focus on the camera, there was no banter between Hart and his audience.

His set lasted around an hour, which felt disappointingly short especially after all the waiting and hype before the show. It seemed very off too that before he came on stage Joey got the audience to pre-record “fake laughter” to no jokes!! Bizarre. Surely its the job of the acts to generate the laughter to be captured on film?!!  That said it all really.

In addition, despite doors opening at 5.30pm with a promised start time of 7pm the hostct didn’t hit the stage until 7.45pm. leaving the audience to chat amongst themselves and twiddle their thumbs … for they’d daren’t play with their phones! More on that soon. Rather than have quiet time with no-one on stage it would have been better to put on the opening acts and/or add some more acts if needed, or fill the time by playing some Kevin Hart TV shows.

Kevin Hart & Tiffany Haddish on The Jonathan Ross Show 01.09.18

The ban on using phones during the show was annoying – not so much the banning them. That was fine as I agree people should focus on the show rather than being on their phones, but the excessive going on about this from the stage before the show via public announcements and by some of the acts. That said, it did allow Joey Wells to come up with one of the funniest routines of the night when he joked that if you get tapped on the shoulder for having your phone out it’s time to go. No arguing. No matter if you’re Black, White, Asian or Latino. He playfully joked about all the little stereotypes of each race, with the biggest laughs reserved for his view on how he hoped Middle Eastern audience wouldn’t over react to being evicted for having their phones out!

They could have introduce those lockable Yondr pads that Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle use at their shows but I guess they (sort of) half-trusted the fans to be adult and not use them!

By and large the experiment worked and after a fashion most people got the message that even holding your mobile phone was a big no no and would get you evicted. There were numerous security patrolling up and down the arena specifically looking for people on their mobile phones! Sadly there was more fun  to be had looking to see who security might throw out than there was enjoyment to be found watching the performers on stage.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Kevin Hart appeared on the Jonathan Ross show with Comedians Rob Beckett and Night School co-star Tiffany Haddish. This can be viewed on itv-player until 30th September 2018.

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Yardie: The Movie Review

Yardie
Star Rating: ****
Nationwide Preview Screening: 23rd August 2018
Director: Idris Elba
Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd and Everaldo Creary
A Studio Canal film

Idris’s Elba’s Yardie opens with a bang and is banging throughout, literally with gunshots liberally peppering the story as well as the pulsing soundtrack of banging dancehall music throughout.

Idris tells the gripping story of a young Jamaican man, D (Aml Ameen), who never truly recovers from the murder of his older brother, Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary), which took place whilst he was a youngster. That painful memory haunts him and many years later when in London he realises the killer is in his midst and set out to get bloody revenge.
Drug trafficking is a major part of the story and it is clear that he is actively involved in this in Jamaica and London, though whilst in London he is keen to get out of this but for various reasons, as you might imagine, it is not that straightforward when you’re in as deep as he is with the shady, dangerous characters orchestrating and dominating the drug trade. That generates a great deal of danger, excitement and tension, not just for D but for the viewer.

As a backdrop to this major storyline, whilst in London D reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), and his daughter, who he’s not see since she was a baby. D’s dilemma is how to establish and maintain a relationship with his ex and daughter whilst extracting himself from the lucrative but personally (for himself and family) life threatening drugs business. In an additional sub-plot, as if D’s not got enough to contend with, he’s also seeking revenge on the man who killed his brother.

Yardie is a gripping tale from start to finish with numerous exciting and tension filled plots going on simultaneously. Some of the best moments included the authentic, captivating Jamaican dancehall vibe captured on screen, evoking an intense, serious, dangerous vibe, which was simultaneously quite alluring due to the catchy and danceable music. It conveys a heady mix of good times being had on the dance floor with the simmering tensions and battles going on in smoky rooms behind the scenes that threatened to spill out onto the dance at any moment.

I thought Aml played the part of D well, although looks wise and in his portrayal I would have to say he wasn’t truly convincing as a Yardie gangster. The scenes where he entered the lion’s den unarmed and alone were not realistic as I just don’t think someone in his position would put their life at risk to do that.

Nonetheless, he successfully demonstrated the dilemma between forgiveness or not forgiving and the harm failure to forgive can bring upon the un-forgiver. It brings to mind a pertinent line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s a powerful statement about how people should forgive others their sins, just as the Lord forgives you for your sins. In other words, not doing so is likely to cause the un-forgiver more harm than the person who committed the sin.

Yardie was very well directed by Idris Elba and the story flowed nicely, with the various story lines and sub-plots merging together. Although predominantly set in London, it was great to see Jamaica on film.

Just as this is Idris’s directorial debut, Yardie was also Victor Headley’s first published book, back in 1992. It’s taken a long time, 26 years, to get to the big screen, but it was worth the wait.

A nice touch before the film was shown was previewing a world exclusive cover of the Bob Marley classic ‘Johnny Was’ by his grandson Skip Marley.

The preview was preceded and followed by music and Q&A. Unfortunately technical difficulties meant the audience had to watch repetitive, rolling screen image for 25-30 minutes, with no trailers. That was awful. I was told the reason was technical difficulties and they couldn’t show anything else due to it going out live simultaneously across England to around 200 cinema’s. That was poor and just not good enough. It’s 2018. When the link worked we were treated to a few songs from Rapper Kano, which were nice enough but seemed somewhat superfluous and irrelevant to the main business of screening a brand new film preview.

The preliminary Q&A by Radio 1 Xtra’s Yasmin Evans with Idris was interesting enough. At the film’s conclusion the audience were told there was a problem with the link up and they might want to leave as they didn’t think they’d be able to fix it, but within around 5 minutes it was up and working! Many had left by then. DJ Yasmin Evans proceeded to interview Idris and he gave some good answers including one on the topicality of the film and the near 100 murders in London thus far this year. He explained how he hoped middle agreed fathers would take their sons to see the movie so that the youths would realise the cycle of violence we’re seeing currently in London and across the country is not new, but has always been present.

Unfortunately the link to this cut out so I can’t comment on the rest of the Q&A. That was extremely disappointing. It didn’t detract from a wonderful film, but did spoil the night overall. That’s truly unacceptable in this day and age. If they couldn’t get the link right all they had to do was show trailers, pre-recorded videos and the main film. It’s everyday fare for a cinema so it’s a real shame that this appeared to prove so complicated. Maybe next time keep it simple and just show the film!

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Lenny Henry Turns 60

The Lenny Henry Birthday Show
Star Rating: ****
Broadcast: 22nd August 2018, BBC1

As birthday presents go getting a 60 minute birthday tribute show on primetime BBC1 television must rank pretty highly. That is one big early birthday present Sir Lenny Henry got exactly one week ahead of his 60th birthday on 29th August 2018.

This fabulous show showcased exactly why Sir Lenny Henry has become such a national treasure. To think he first broke through to national consciousness 43 years ago via winning New Faces in 1977, aged just 17 years young. Older readers will recall this as one of the original talent shows long before shows like Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor.

Sir Lenny Henry PhD

From thereon the rest as they say is history. This highly enjoyable show had as its centre piece an interview with his fellow knight of the realm and national treasure, Sir Trevor Mcdonald.  The mutual affection and comfortableness with one another was a joy to watch. Lenny was on great form telling stories about growing up as a young lad from Dudley hoping to make it as a Comedian. The tales of his strict Jamaican mum were great to hear and clearly influenced a lot of his earlier material from his younger days. There was a great energy, passion and vitality to his story telling which we used to see a lot more of when he did the chat show circuit.

The interviews was interspersed with some top quality sketches that harked back to prime time Lenny when his comedy and sketch shows were must see television events. I loved the sketches of Bishop Michael Curry, Childish Gambino and Stormzy in particular. It reminded you that Lenny Henry’s still today pretty much the only TV comedian who could carry off impersonating such famous Black figures authentically, which curiously enough is both impressive and disappointing at the same time.

The old clips from Tiswas and other shows were lovely to watch as they took the viewer on a trip down memory lane.

What’s mightily impressive and what sets Lenny apart from many of his peers is the unusual career path his trodden – from Comedian, to charity fundraiser par excellence (Comic Relief has raised over £1billion to date since its inception in 1985), to knighthood, to academic (in under 20 years between aged 40-59 Lenny knuckled down and got himself a degree, masters and PhD,  despite being hugely wealthy and famous and not really having to do so), to an actor, not just of “regular roles” but taking on heavyweight Shakespeare roles too.

Troy (Lenny Henry) and Cory (Ashley Zhangazha) in Fences

Sir Lenny Henry’s impact on the British comedy scene is legendary. More recently he’s got ever more active in the fight for diversity in the media. In terms of diversity there’s still a long way to go as it shouldn’t be that only a select few Black and minority performers like Sir Lenny Henry are getting TV shows and films commissioned. There are countless excellent comedians and comedic writers who’d be great on television and should get regularly commissioned shows, including Comedians such as Marlon Davis, Prince Abdi, Judi Love and Nathan Caton, whom Lenny gave cameo roles to during his Stormzy sketch.

The Lenny Henry Birthday Show was a fitting, joyful and lovely tribute that briefly highlighted the varied career of a much loved national treasure.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photo from Fences ©  courtesy of Nobby Clark

The Lenny Henry Birthday show is available on BBC i-player until 27th September 2018

Links

  1. Lenny Henry graduates from Royal Holloway University – 13th July 2018
  2. Arise Sir Lenny Henry – receiving a knighthood  at Windsor Castle – 29th June 2015
  3. Beyond a Joke: Inside the dark minds of stand-up comedians – Tiemo review of Bruce Dessau book – 2nd September 2018
  4. Brung up Proper: Jason Manford autobiography – Tiemo book review – 21st August 2018
  5. Mack the Life: Lee Mack autobiography- Tiemo book review – 19th August 2018

 

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Beyond a Joke – Inside the dark minds of stand-up comedians

  • Beyond a Joke – Inside the dark minds of stand-up comedians by Bruce Dessau
  • Book Review Rating: *****
  • Publisher: Arrow Books

Public speaking is often cited as one of most people’s biggest fears. In fact in 2015 it was deemed to be Briton’s #1 fear. Even greater than a fear of spiders, flying, confined spaces or heights. To think there are a select troupe of people, whom we  know as Comedians, that make a career of not just of speaking in public, but being expected to make strangers laugh via their on stage utterances is quite something and would surely rank as a far, far greater fear than ‘mere’ public speaking.

Speaking of the uniqueness of the situation facing Comedians, Jimmy Carr’s succinct and highly pertinent quote on this is featured in the book: “There are 500 people in the room and I’m the only one in the room facing the wrong way.

Beyond a Joke is about the people facing the wrong way.’ It is an excellent book that gets right inside the minds, personalities and characters of the men and women who have made a successful career out of facing the wrong way. Being just that little bit, or in a number of cases, often a lot, different, to the typical man or woman who would run a mile at the thought of having to go on stage and make a room full of total strangers laugh.

Not only does the book detail numerous storiesthat let us into some of the little known history of many of our well known, much loved comedians such as Jimmy Carr, Russell Brand, the late, great Bob Monkhouse and Richard Pryor, it also takes the reader on a fascinating history of the start of stand-up comedy from Joseph Grimaldi in the 18c through to modern day superstars such as lee Evans, Michael McIntryre and Peter Kay.

Comedy connoisseurs will love ‘Beyond a Joke’ as it a thoroughly well  researched, anecdote filled, extremely funny book, full of insights into what goes on behind the scenes, including many less than savoury stories that many probably wish had never happened and were not featured in the book!

With observational and personally revealing, self-focused, confessional style comedy dominating the modern day stand-up genre, this book is quite prescient to understanding the psyche of Comedians. Now that people are encouraged to be as open about and generally alert to their mental health in as normal a way as they would, for instance, discuss physical health, I think we should be thankful for the countless Comedians who are so open and frank on stage for our entertainment. For them it’s potentially usefully cathartic, whilst audiences “enjoy their pain” by laughing at their discomfort thinly disguised as jokes. In return the Comedians get their catharsis, plus the added bonus of the buzz they get from seeing their audience laughing at what is now effectively their material. Doubtless there are some in the audiences finding such talk equally beneficial, finding the comedy to be ‘light therapy’ and providing an entry for them to go on and start a conversation about their own issues.

The countless highly personal anecdotes and revelations indicate this book could only have been written by a comedy insider and true lover of the genre. That most definitely is the case here, for Bruce Dessau has been writing about comedy for 30 years for a variety of publications including the London Evening standard and knows just about everyone and everything there is to know about stand-up comedy worth knowing. That shows throughout the book with

Beyond a Joke  enriches the reader with a far greater understanding of the psyche of a Comedian by pointing the spotlight away from the stage and TV screen onto their lives off stage to illuminate the dark and often humorous life of a comedian whilst they are far from the public view.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

   Links

  1. Beyond The Joke – Bruce Dessau website
  2. What are you scared of? Britain’s Top 10 Worst Fears revealed! – Good To Know – 28th October 2015
  3. Funny Business – Can’t you take a joke? Tiemo book review – 25th April 2014
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Brung Up Proper – Jason Manford Book Review

Brung Up Proper – Jason Manford
Book Review Rating: *****
Publisher: Ebury Press

Further information and to purchase ‘Brung up Proper

The opening chapter of Jason Manford’s autobiography sets the scene beautifully and dramatically for what’s to follow in the next 25 chapters of the book. It’s a wonderful microcosm of great humour and insight into his extraordinary family life that contains rather more than its fair share of larger than life characters.

I loved discovering the aha moment that spiked not just an interest in stand-up comedy, but something that what would turn out to be a successful career for Jason. The clarity and simplicity of the moment was all too clear outlined, almost like a punchline to what could have been a very disappointing Christmas for a young Jason Manford. Receiving a C90 cassette of well known Comedians for Christmas in 1990 proved to be the most pivotal moment in his young life at that point and a simple present given merely to bring joy and laughter, inadvertently achieved so much more than that and set Jason on the path to becoming a Comedian. The tape featured the likes of Billy Connolly, Les Dawson, Dave Allen, Ben Elton, Victoria Wood and Eddie Murphy to name but a few. Most people just laugh at these people’s jokes, but what sets someone like Jason apart, is his desire to become one of those people telling the jokes, not just the punter in the audience or viewer watching on television in the comfort of their home.

As with many performers, Jason’s family background is key to understanding who he is and he doesn’t shy away from it, warts and all, in this hugely entertaining, extremely funny and revealing autobiography. Each character is clearly and vividly depicted, from his brothers to his ‘nanna’ to some of the less savoury members of Manford’s extended family.

Not surprisingly for this football loving fan, his passion for Manchester City underpins the book too, though that’s not the dominant theme in the book at all, but an important element none the less as we learn a lot about what it was like to grow up in Manchester as we’re taken through many eventful stories from Jason’s childhood, to teenage years, to adulthood and all of the, well some of, the romantic escapades in between! Manford beautifully captures the feelings of first love and teenage crushes which brings back memories for all who’ve been there.

‘Brung Up Proper’ doesn’t seem to spare anything in some of the astonishing revelations from his upbringing, but also shows in great and humorous detail the journey he found himself on to try and become the very talented Comedian he became. It clear their’s a lot of hard work and travelling involved, often for very little reward, yet also there’s a fair degree luck involved too and he highlights the importance of being willing to accept any offer of stage time to try and make people laugh. The book shows that if you want to make it you always need to be ready for you never know when that one opportunity to shine will arise. On top of that, you need to be prepared to fail, to pick yourself up and start all over again. Jason Manford did all that and much, much more to get to where he is today. He was ‘brung up proper’ so to speak, with good hard working values that included putting family first and by featuring them so prominently in his autobiography he shows that he’s not forgotten the part they played in him becoming the Comedian and Father he became.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Funny Business – Can’t you take a joke? Tiemo book review – 25th April 2014
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Mack The Life – Book Review

Mack The Life – Lee Mack
Book Review Rating: *****
Publisher: Transworld Publishers – Corgi Books

Mack the Life – For further information and book purchase

I’m sure the writing skills and discipline required to write his smash hit sit-com ‘Not Going Out’ came in very handy as Lee Mack evidently spent a lot more time not going out, just to stay in and write his autobiography. It was actually published in 2012 but I’ve only just read it. Only 6 years late but better late than never as they say! I was of course hoping that, much like a fine wine, the book would mature with age! Let’s see.

Frivolous comments aside – and if you like those – there are hundreds of them to be found here, Mack the Life is a brilliantly funny and enlightening insight into Lee Mack’s background – born and raised in Southport, near Liverpool and the story of his journey into the world of stand-up comedy. For anyone genuinely interested in knowing what it takes to become a professional stand-up comedian and potentially a TV comedian too, there are plenty of insights as he walks us along his road, or rather path to success (as walking along the road might have resulted in a very different and much shorter life story) as one of the nation’s top stand-up comedians.

Lee Mack

In common with most performers, Lee Mack cannot claim to have been an overnight success. That much is clear as he takes the reader through the many trials and tribulations, the rites of passage, so to speak, that most Comedians endure as they try to make it, first by seeking opportunities to perform on stage, be it at student comedy nights, small open mic nights, to performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and so on. Not only that, once on stage, it’s about proving yourself worthy, as far as paying audiences are concerned, of standing on that stage. That is a very difficult one to crack and few careers are more unforgiving than that of the stand-up Comedian. There are not many where the feedback on your performance is instant – be that great, awful or somewhere in between.

This is an indispensable read not only for fans of Lee Mack, but for any would be Comedian wanting to break into the comedy circuit or Comedian wanting to take their career to the next level for it vividly highlights the plain old fashioned hard work, inevitable set backs and the smattering of luck that is required to go on to become a professional stand-up Comedian. That, of course, is not exclusive to comedy, for the same could apply to many professions.

The story behind the hit sit-com ‘Not Going Out’ and other TV shows are told in great detail which makes for very revealing, behind the scenes accounts regarding the all important commissioning and re-commissioning  process required to make shows in the first place, before you even get to the business of making a TV show that will be broadcast.

There’s no resting on your laurels in the TV comedy business either thinking that being commissioned once means that’s it, for each series you do stands or falls on its success. There are no guarantee’s of longevity.

It was interesting to read about his work with comedy actress Catherine Tate and her role in Lee’s career path. I really enjoyed the running theme/gag of Lee being in the Psychiatrist’s chair to open and close each chapter of the book. That was a clever way of revealing a little bit of Lee Mack’s psyche, whilst playfully trying to hide his true self behind this play of him being on the couch. Some would say many comedians would actually benefit from a spell on the therapist’s couch and I daresay this is a deliberate nod to that. Having said that, Lee Mack is not one of those comedians known for oversharing, confessional comedy and you get the very real sense he has his head screwed on and doesn’t allow himself to get carried away by showbusiness and all it’s excesses, which whilst they can be enjoyable, can be damaging if not kept well under control.

This is a wonderful, insightful, frank, hugely enjoyable and funny read from start to finish.  Whether or not the book has improved over the years like a fine wine I can’t say (ask me if I re-read it again in many years time) but what I do know for sure is that Lee Mack certainly has not looked back since turning professional in 1995 as he career has gone on from strength to strength.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Bad Boys II Surveying Their Empire

Danny ‘Slim’ Gray and Richard Blackwood
Show Rating: ****
Hackney Empire
London E8
Saturday 28th July 2018

Produced and Promoted by Alpo R, Charlie Kenny & Geestor Productions

Richard Blackwood

After a 3 year sojourn onto prime time TV, with only fleeting stand up comedy appearances during this period, Richard Blackwood, was earlier this year freed from the shackles of Walford, London E18, aka Eastender. A few months on from his departure, Richard Blackwood found himself back in the real Eastend of London, on stage at the Hackney Empire. This was the prestigious setting for his return to his stand up comedy roots. It was going to be fascinating to see how Richard Blackwood fared. Could he still cut it or had the seriousness and somewhat dourness of Eastenders, blunted his cutting edge stand up?

His set covered a number of light hearted themes relating to dating and the sort of past experiences and quantity of relationships men can get away with, that women just can’t. We’ll not without gaining a bad reputation anyway! In a very amusing way he highlighted the double standards and one of the main differences surrounding how men and women perceive one another. What is considered acceptable or not depending on your gender. In other words, men are “allowed” to have had a past, yet a woman with a “busy” past love life is generally not viewed in quite such a favourable way by men or women.

A variation on this theme was explored as he spoke about his encounter with heavyweight boxing champion Anthony “AJ” Joshua in a restaurant. This was an opportunity to showcase one of Richard Blackwood’s comedic strength’s, his highly animated storytelling technique that leaves you in no doubt about the situation  he is in and wishes to paint a picture of, namely, the huge size and height of Anthony Joshua when  stood beside mere mortals of “average size and height” such as himself and the woman he was enjoying a night out with.

He also had fun with the Kiki dance craze which apparently is the latest “thing.”  I gather it’s a female dance, but men can get away with doing it, so long as it’s performed in a manly way, but when they do it in the effeminate way Richard demonstrated the results were quite hilarious.

There was a lot of warmth in the room for Richard (and not just because it was an incredibly hot venue and night either) as it was great to see Richard back on stage doing what he does best. He told us to expect big things in November so we shall just have to wait and see where the next installment in Richard’s career takes him.

SLIM

Slim continued the sporting theme with his boxing and world cup anecdotes. He got off to a rip roaring opener by comparing football, which he’s not a big fan of, to boxing, which, like many comedians, he’s a huge fan of. He said he couldn’t support a team who’d been losing for 8 years and with that in mind had unfriended on Facebook, a well known former Olympic heavyweight boxing champion! That had the audience in stitches as he elaborated on why he had done this.

He had a simple explanation for his preference for boxing and aversion to the team sport of football. In boxing, as per being a stand up comedian, you are on your own on stage/in the ring; un-reliant on team mates who might let you down. You can see the clear affinity with boxing and comedy for those who prefer not to be a team player and stand or fall on their own merits.

On a more touching, sympathetic note, we learnt how he’d recently spent 8 years looking after his old man as his life neared its final act. However Slim being Slim he wasn’t playing the sympathy card or expecting his audience to get the violins out. Shockingly and in a strangely funny way he said, “it was time for him to go” when he passed away two years ago in 2016. He had lived to the grand old age of 94, having been born in 1922, just a few years after World War I ended. He focused on his dad’s final years to highlight how men want women, not a man, to look after them in their old age/dotage and therein perhaps lay the source of humour around a sad event.

On a more political note he talked about the recent Windrush scandal and how impressed he was by the passionate, eloquently put anger of David Lammy MP, joking that before making that impassioned speech he must have popped in for a West Indian take-away en route to parliament.

As he often does, but this time with more poignancy, he focused on the gun crime in the capital and put the emphasis firmly on the need for parents to take serious responsibility for raising their children; pointing out the critical importance of strict parenting that is demonstrated via setting and maintaining strict boundaries. You are the adult, the parent, not your child’s friend. He speaks from hard earned experience as a father of 5 and in a touching gesture he brought one of his son’s and daughter’s onto the stage at the end of the show.

Entertainer and host for the night Eddie Kadi was on fine form with his flexible, loose limbed dancing moves amusing the audience.

A highlight of the night was hearing Cellist Ayana Witter-Johnson playing and singing her own versions of The Police’s ‘Roxanne’ and Omar’s ‘There’s nothing like this’. Hearing a song from my favourite band of all time in the Hackney Empire is the last thing I expected and made my night!

I can’t see that the Bad Boys II relates to the behaviour of its stars, but the running themes of the show were bad boys – from footballers cheating on the pitch during the world cup, bad boy boxers, casanova’s and criminals.

Danny ‘Slim’ Gray and Richard Blackwood have been in the comedy business for 25 years now and this show was a fitting tribute to both men’s staying power, longevity and ability to keep things moving and fresh. In a show full of great jokes, entertainingly told anecdotes, music, along with some serious social commentary Danny ‘Slim’ Gray and Richard Blackwood demonstrated via great humour and masterful joke telling ability, just why, after 25 years, they are still at the top of their game, selling out big venue’s like the Hackney Empire.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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