About 2 Blow

About 2 Blow **** 4/5

Bloomsbury Theatre

London WC1

Saturday 27th April 2013

Regular followers of the Black comedy circuit are used to seeing the same faces headlining shows all over the country. Nothing wrong with that per se. After all, people want to see the likes of Slim, Kojo, Quincy, Felix Dexter and Glenda Jaxson. They sell tickets and bring in audiences. However once you’ve seen a big name act such as Slim, Kojo or Curtis Walker you’ve seen their act. What next? Are there any other comedians about to breakthrough and start headlining shows in their own right?

LOL Show UK set out to answer that question and show that there are talented comedians out there with the potential to make that breakthrough to the next level. In a show entitled, ‘About2Blow’ at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Central London, seven comedians, all young Black men (except one) in their 20’s or early 30’s headlined a showcase of fresh talent to the Black comedy circuit. Babatunde, Axel, Travis Jay, Mo the Comedian, Aurie Styla, Mikey Carpenter and Dane Baptiste.         

about2blowb-stage1

Before the show had even started you got the sense this was a gamble that was going to pay off. Financially at least as a very good turnout from a young audience made for a great atmosphere and showed that people would turn up in their numbers for a big theatre show without a well established name headlining.

Were they about to blow? Let’s see.

Babatunde                 

Arguably the man with the toughest job of the night – as host, keeping the show running along nicely, the jokes flowing and managing the audience and links between each act.

Some might say he was ‘deece’ (as in decent … a running joke during the show) but I

Would go so far as to say I think Babatunde was a brilliant host. He was consistently funny throughout, with good natured, humorous interaction with the audience.  

He dealt well with latecomers (though if we’re going to boo latecomers. then perhaps we should boo the host for starting 30 minutes late too!!)

His set covered his unusual name, differences between African’s and Caribbean culture, attitudes and diet. His set even extended to amusing tales of the ‘birds and the bees’.

Babatunde is also an accomplished Actor and he doubtless intends to maintain a dual career as an Actor and Comedian. Many have done so – Angie Le Mar, Lateef Lovejoy and Richard Blackwood and countless American’s such as Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart. I can’t comment on his acting, but I’m certain that as a Comedian Babatunde has a bright future ahead of him.

Aurie Styla

Excellent performance from Aurie Styla. Reminiscent of a young Curtis Walker in appearance.  A lovely, original opening to his set helped him gauge the age profile of the audience. Good fun and immediately got the audience involved and engaged with him. Great. He was very funny and energetic. I loved his story about the “hench woman” in the gym. Another good anecdoate involved his travels through South London.

Aurie, like many of the acts, made good use of music in his set which down very well and keeps things lively and contemporary. This was the first time I’d seen him perform and he was excellent.

about2blowonstage1

Travis jay

Travis has been on the scene for a few years now and primarily focussed on jokes about being a young father and his recent holiday in Jamaica. Unfortunately he didn’t quite find the funny in this to connect well with the audience. He referenced adverts on Jamaican TV, but as the audience hadn’t seen them and he didn’t quite manage to convey the humour of the adverts it didn’t go down as well as would have hoped for.

The joke about being afraid of spiders and his method of dealing with them was quite funny.

He demonstrated some fine observational skills, but too many were just not belly laugh funny.                                  

The anecdotes about picking up his daughter from school and interacting with her and her school friends didn’t work so well. Putting on a voice as if speaking to a 2 year old when addressing an audience of adults didn’t go down well and went on too long.

I first saw him perform 3 years ago, 10th September 2010, on the line up for his mother, Angie Le Mar’s, 25th anniversary ‘An Audience with Angie Le Mar’ show at the Barbican Centre. There he delivered a far better set than this one, which went down a storm, so I know he can do much better.

I welcome the fact Travis is trying to mine fresh territory in his comedy, trying observational comedy about his life as a young father and not necessarily cover similar material to his 20 something peers. It just needs working on and stage time to polish up and that’s what this is all about after all. Young comedians about to blow up big and become stars of the future.

Mo the Comedian

I loved his set and his opening ‘Gwen McCrae’ routine. The audience loved his mum dance routine as he neatly used a classic Gwen McCrae hit  to demonstrate how his mother dances.  Judging by the knowing laughter from the packed audience at Bloomsbury Theatre Mrs Mo the Comedian isn’t the only mother who does that.

His set made good use of music and covered clubbing, being single and trying to pull or be pulled whilst out clubbing. All good fun and struck a chord with many in the audience who were heartily laughing along to his routine.

I like his youthful, friendly disposition as he genuinely seems to be enjoying himself on stage and that comes across as almost effortless delivery of his material.

ACLT

The Afro-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust were present with a stall at the theatre promoting their charity. However coming on stage to open the second half they were given way too much time – 5-7 minutes to promote their work. It’s great what they do trying to save lives via bone marrow donations, but alas it was just too long, too serious and devoid of jokes, which is what people had paid good money to see. They should have been much briefer and to the point.

Their simple message was that from mobiles phones you can quickly and simply donate £3 by texting ACLT to 70300 to help save lives. “Your generosity will enable us to create lasting change in the lives of the many thousands of children & adults around the world who need our collective support.” ACLT

That and a brief call to people to become blood donors is all they needed to say to get their message across and that could have been done in 2 minutes. Maybe they could have worked in some comedy into the message or done it in partnership with a comedian.

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Dane Baptiste

Dane Baptiste was hilarious and stole the show. Dane had the audience in stitches with his terrific jokes and deadpan style of delivery. A Black Jack Dee if you like!

Talking about being in a minority in the workplace, he was particularly funny and  witty. Referring to how he hated office work and socialising out of hours with colleagues he amusingly explained how family prevented made it difficult for him too. This was a terrific set from Dane and I look forward to seeing him again. Never mind ‘About2Blow’, Dane is already blowing up a storm.

 Mikey Carpenter

If Dane Baptiste felt in a minority at work, then goodness knows how Mikey Carpenter must have felt as the one white guy on the bill. I guess, pretty much like the one black guy in an all white office.

Mikey looked like a short Phil Mitchell.  Fortunately that’s where the similarity ended and he was quite funny. Not everything hit the mark and overall I found the set a bit hit and miss, with no consistent flow of material and laughs. It was the first time I’d seen him, but I’d be interested to see him again.

Axel

Coming on at 11pm Axel arguably had the toughest slot of the night. By this stage we’d seen 6 Comedians and Axel was the 7th and final act of the night. He felt the audience energy level was a little flat by the time he entered the stage. He quickly and humorously addressed this saying, “I feel like the last beer at the back of the fridge,” which got him a good laugh and some sympathy.

Sympathy’s the last thing he needed though as he confidently got into his stride and had the audience laughing away to his high energy, highly entertaining set. Maybe the audience were more his peer group than mine, for when he name checked various fashion labels that people used to wear, “back in the day” – (Axel’s and the audience’s day that is, ‘cos it certainly wasn’t my back in the day!!) the audience got it and laughed along.

The way he ran around the stage and flung around the microphone like it was a rag doll was brilliant and anyone tempted to drift off or think this was one act too many would have been rudely awoken.

He covered relationships, London life and entered into plenty of good natured interaction and bantering with the audience.   He is supremely confident on the stage and uses the whole of the stage to maximum effect. The close of his set was highly unusual to, which I’ve never seen before. That’s pretty special as there’s not really that many different ways to end a set other than on a strong punch line, but Axel pulled something different out of the bag.             

Conclusion

The London Marathon was at the start of the week, Sunday 21st April and though we had 7 acts and they held your attention in the main, it did feel a bit like a comedic marathon. What made the time pass well though was the variety of styles seen and that each had relatively short sets of 15-20 minutes. Sufficient time for each to develop their routine but not too long either. The show was around 3 hours long which is about an hour too long really. I don’t think there’s any need to make a marathon out of a night out at a comedy show. Two hours of good quality comedy is sufficient. I accept though on this occasion it was a showcase of upcoming talent of varying levels of experience and ability so it was necessary to allow more time.

The absence of female talent was noticeable. Is there no female talent about to blow up? When Tiemo hosted the comedy awards in 2012 there were only 3 contenders for ‘Best Young Female’ Comedian, so perhaps there aren’t many and we need to examine why. I’ll return to this topic in a future Blog. In the meantime, you can read here the review of ‘Funny-N-Stiletto’s’ an all, mostly, female show that took place  at Broadway Theatre on 6th April 2013 starring Donna Spence, Maureen Younger, Queen Aishah, Vanessa  Fraction and Wayne “Dibbi” Rollins.

Overall this was a very funny show. It entertained and kept everyone laughing away for much of the night. The LOL Show UK sought to prove there is life beyond the usual big names of the Black comedy circuit. A number of, how can I put this, longer established members of the comedy circuit were also there to see who’s coming through, including Angie Mar, Mr Cee, Special P and Victor Daniels. The seven comedians showcased without a doubt proved that there is very good talent bubbling away ready to blow up on the Black and mainstream comedy circuit. Look out for them. They’re going to blow you away.

In the forthcoming Black Comedy Awards 2013 a number of the acts that performed will be nominees for ‘Best Young Male’ Comedian. Watch this space.

©Tiemo Talk of the Town

3rd May 2013

For news about the Black Comedy Awards 2013 nominations and awards ceremony please keep an eye on this Blog as well as tiemo where news and information on the awards will be posted in due course.

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7 Responses to About 2 Blow

  1. ryan says:

    I went to this show and it was great. Some very fair comments and well presented but it seems like your review is more based from the perspective of someone whose core idea of comedy is that portrayed by generation before… And not totally on the idea Of these seven being individuals bringing comedy from their position, as the generation before did in there early days.

    The show was something great, kudos to the New school.

    • Tiemo Talk says:

      @Ryan – Thank you for your kind words and for taking the trouble to provide feedback.

      I don’t quite agree with your analysis of my comedy perspective. The show was called ‘About 2 Blow’ and didn’t use an experienced, regular headliner in the line up. So the clear premise was a showcase of upcoming talent. I’ve been around a while and seen many shows from longer established professional comedians, so naturally that will inform my view. However I gave the show a very favourable four star rating and was pretty complimentary and positive about most of the acts. There is clear evidence, taking the review as a whole, that I was very impressed with the talent on stage.

      There were some negatives. Surely that’s almost to be expected in a 3 hour show with 7 newcomers? As a Comedy Critic it’s my job to balance the positive with the negative. To even offer constructive criticism if I chose to and where I can. I did.

      To be fair, the show was that good, I didn’t even have to take account of the fact that some of the comedians were relatively new to the comedy business compared to some of the longer serving comedians in the audience and others out there plying their trade on the comedy circuit.

      I concluded: “The seven comedians showcased without a doubt proved that there is very good talent bubbling away ready to blow up on the Black and mainstream comedy circuit. Look out for them. They’re going to blow you away.”

      That seems to me a pretty clear, positive statement of confidence in the future of comedy as seen at this show.

  2. Kristina says:

    I actually think Tiemo’s review was fair and well-balanced. It was a fabulous night of comedy and ALL of the acts brought something special. There were no duds only great acts with promising comedy careers ahead of them. That said, it’s important to keep it real. There were acts who fared better than others. Here’s how I think they did. (And sorry for the lateness of this write up – it’s been a crazy few weeks).

    The show was kicked off by Aurie Styla, whose charismatic and energetic act got proceedings off to a very, very good start. His infectious smile and energy were a delight to watch and his reminiscing about his raving days produced some comedy magic. He’s a great talent and my only feedback would be that for him to take his act to the next level, I’d need to believe his material a bit more.

    Then Travis Jay took to the stage. He is also clearly a promising act. He’s bespectacled but behind the Clark Kent exterior, he’s a cutie and comes across as really sincere so I really wanted to hear what he had to say. His material was strong and well-structured, but at times his act felt a little bland and he struggled to engage the audience. That said, whilst some of his material lacked a killer punch, I did get the sense that this was a great comic who was just having a slightly off night. 

    Mo the Comedian was next with a very lively and physical act. He used music really well (despite the repeated failure of the DJ to press ‘play’ at the right time – a career limiting deficiency in my opinion). But Mo’s well chosen melodies took us back to our party days and added to the energy of his set. He was fun and dynamic and wrapped up the first half really well.

    After the interval, the ACLT took to the stage with a heart-felt plea to help their cause. The text to donate option was excellent and I donated on the spot. That said, given the seriousness of the topic, I think they should have done a 2 min pitch before the interval in order not to detract too much from the comedy. And I agree that with Tiemo that it would have helped if they had partnered with a comedian.

    Next up was Dane Baptiste. He got off to a slightly subdued start, which belied the impact that he would have. He stood there in a sweatshirt and jeans like he’d just popped round to fix a mate’s boiler. But by the time he got into the swing of things, I was in comedy heaven. His jokes were sharp, dry, insightful and gave us a real sense of what it means to inhabit his world. As he managed to find the funnies whilst avoiding many of the typical urban gags, I really believe that the sky is the limit for Dane. My only (minor) constructive criticism is that his final gag (which I don’t remember) was probably the weakest of his set. He should have left us with a bang. But an amazing set from a guy who I had better see on Live at the Apollo soon, otherwise there’s just no justice in this ol’ comedy game. 

    Next was the only white act of the night, Mikey Carpenter. It was no easy feat going on after Dane. I would have locked myself in the loos, Eminem stylie, but he went out strong and confident. Mikey held his own and talked enthusiastically of his time dating a black girl, offering up quirky stories about her hair and meeting her father. He did well but for me, there wasn’t real magic to his set. Still, it was a solid, fun performance all the same.

    Axel was a great act to end the night. He was the headliner and had oodles of energy and stage presence and his act was packed with well-paced gags. He also did some great audience work – which was impressive given that it was now after 11pm. Go Axel.

    And of course, I have to mention the amazing host, Babatunde. He was fun, relaxed, did great audience work and had some great material – effortlessly balancing his roles as comic and master of ceremonies. He also did an awe-inspiring job of picking up the audience after the ACLT appeal which left attendees slightly subdued. The MC often has a thankless role in proceedings but Babatunde was one of the strongest comedians on the stage and was truly instrumental in the success of the night.

    So, all in all, a wonderful night of fresh, energetic, urban comedy. Made me feel really proud to be there to witness comedy talent on the rise. It’s only a shame that there were no women comics on stage. I have my fingers crossed that next year will bring some female talent. Well done to all the acts though. It was an amazing night and I commend you all! Only time will tell exactly who will make it but on the strength of show it’s only a matter of time.

  3. Tiemo Talk says:

    Hello Kristina. Better late than never as they say. Thank you very much for you excellent review and analysis of the night’s proceedings. It made me laugh and I’m delighted you have taken the time to submit a considered, detailed review of the night. It’s good, constructive feedback for all who performed or watched the show.

    It’s also a reminder for me to do the review of female comedy. It is on my list of articles to write this month, so watch this space.

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