Felix Dexter Tribute Show – Nice, nice, nice
Star rating ****
Eventim Hammersmith Apollo,
Sunday 9th February 2014
Hammersmith Apollo was sold out for an impressive array of some of Britain’s funniest comedians who came to honour the late Felix Dexter. The stellar line up and full house was a measure of the respect his peers and comedy fans alike had for Felix.
Some Comedians paid tribute directly and personally, referencing their personal and/or professional relationship with Felix. Others paid tribute simply by delivering fine performances in the limited stage time they had. The range of talent on stage was surprisingly wide though and I’m disappointed to report that some of the performances were truly dreadful. Far too many people had off days and frankly did not deliver good enough tributes to Felix Dexter.
The giant photo of Felix Dexter smiling down onto the stage as if he were watching the performers was a lovely touch. “Nice. Nice. Nice.” I’m sure Felix would have said.
Overall it was a top quality night of comedy with 60% (11/19) of performances rating *** or more. This included a third of the acts in my view meriting ***** ratings, evidence of the high standard of comedy delivered.
The audience were treated to a wide range of styles, from straight stand up from the likes of Dara O’Brian and Curtis Walker to camp stand up from Alan Carr! There were impressions from Alistair McGowan, poetry from Simon Day and sit down character comedy from the BiBi Crew.
I loved the fact the acts at times just seemed to get better and better and the fact you didn’t know who’d be on next, but more often or not it would be “that man from the telly”, be it Sean Lock, Jack Dee or Paul Whitehouse. A downside was the lack of video screens in the arena. Those with seats up in the God’s, struggled to make out the facial expressions on the comedian’s faces, which is a key facet of live comedy. I understand the erection of such screens is down to the promoters, not the venue, so this is something that should be addressed whenever a promoter is putting on a big show at a huge venue such as the Apollo or Wembley. It’s pretty standard fare at concerts, so why not comedy shows?
Stephen K Amos *****
Stephen K Amos kicked off proceedings with a superb set, full of a number of “classic” SK Amos jokes. He told the story of having a twin sister and being asked if he ever gets mistaken for her. His retort is a gem.
Also on the theme of mistaken identity, he amusingly bemoaned the fact he’s never mistaken for someone younger or better looking than him (maybe nobody is!). Bizarrely he even said he’s been called a Black Alan Sugar!
I like the cultural jokes, how he’s proud of his Nigerian heritage, yet when going through Heathrow airport that takes a back seat as he becomes a “proud Brit” to get through customs with the least amount of hassle.
He was first on as he had a show to do in nearby Richmond Theatre straight after. Good for him that he still did this show, but he will have missed seeing a great show.
Stephen K Amos performed ‘The Spokesman’ nationwide until 28th February 2014 and is now touring New Zealand.
Alistair McGowan *****
Alistair hilariously used his time on stage to hilarious take the mick out of his comedy peers including Andy Parsons, Milton Jones, Kevin Bridges, Stephen Merchant and two of the night’s performers Dara O’Briain and Jo Brand. His impersonations were absolutely spot on. They were very funny in themselves and showcased his wonderful knack for a huge range of accents.
Hugely impressive set from the only impressionist of the night and one of the few well known one’s we have in this country.
John Simmit ***
Though this show was called ‘Stand up for Felix Dexter,’ John Simmit (pictured below right) started off somewhat slowly by standing up for Birmingham, by disclosing his Brummie roots and joking about ‘White Dee’ of Channel 4’s ‘Benefits Street’ infamy.
From there he proceeded to joke about David Beckham, the late Queen Mother (the joke re her teeth needed to be appreciated a little more. being a gangsta Comedian, well at least until the BBC came waving their cheque book at him to be Dipsy in the then unknown, but soon to become hit children’s TV show, ‘Tellytubbies’. This lead him to ‘do the voice’ which had the audience laughing heartily.
Curious, but honest opener from the Irishman as he said he’d never met Felix Dexter, but was glad to be on stage. He continued by saying comedians don’t really do sincerity to well. He’d get asked if visiting poor African countries changed his perspective on how he saw his own children. “No, in a word. As if I could love my children any more than I do already.”
He recalled the conversations he’d have with African children who generally seemed quite happy with their lot, spending their days playing football and enjoying the sunshine. “Fine. Well we’re going to build you a school and end all that fun!”
Mr Motormouth was very funny, but could do with slowing down a little, to allow his musings room to breathe. I loved him taking the mick out of Rapper’s names such as Plan B, Labyrinth and Example.
Bibi Crew *
They delivered a sit down, largely in patois, performance. It was quite hard to follow and doubtless some Jamaicans will have understood and found it funny. However, considering there were less than 30% Black people at the show and of course not every Black person will be Jamaican, the jokes probably didn’t engage around 70% of the audience at best. Also the interpreter struggled to match the correct words for the patois and therefore the jokes didn’t come across as funny as they could have done.
Jo brand *****
Jo Brand kicked off by saying “laughter is the best medicine, but perhaps not for every ailment!” I won’t spoil the joke by saying which one, but it was hilarious and brought the house down.
She did a few cracking marriage jokes regarding being on the wrong side of the bed; her brilliant riposte to her husband cheekily buying her a dress two sizes too small and saying, “I look forward to seeing you in it.”
She amusingly related the gig she did in Southampton for 700 builders, not exactly her “target audience!!”
Jo Brand was hilarious and the best act on at this point in proceedings.
Omid Djalili *****
Omid had really thought about what he could do to honour Felix and in the most touching moment of the night, asked the audience to stand up and unite through 10 seconds of shouting and applause by way of remembering both Felix Dexter and the late Nelson Mandela who died just 7 weeks after Felix on 5th December 2013.
That was a superb way to show respect for both men and put the night into perspective.
His set was just as brilliant as he gently took the mick out of Nelson Mandela’s accent with his three decades inside joke. I loved the material about immigration and the Poles. He came across as someone who knew and loved Felix which was lovely to observe. His multi-racial, race themed jokes were spot on and extremely funny.
The Nigerian bus driver joke was hilarious as he told the tale of the choices the driver had to make to avoid killing too many people as a consequence of his brakes failing. Brilliant gag.
This set reminded us that Omid Djalili has been off the stand up scene for far too long. He’s back on tour and I look forward to seeing him again this year.
Geoff Schumann ****
Geoff Schumann delivered a very funny set. He was also respectful of Felix Dexter and talked about working with Felix over the years. It was interesting to hear him mention that he and Felix used to attend ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ rally’s and observe that they were amongst the few Blacks there. “They need an after rally dance to get Black people to attend,” he surmised.
I particularly enjoyed his old favourite, ‘expensive date’ joke involving a trip to the West End. Alas, he ran out of time to finish it off, so I guess people will have to see him at another gig to hear the end of that one! It was pretty clear that with 19 acts on the bill, all had a restricted time to perform so perhaps this wasn’t the routine to use on the night, or if so, maybe Geoff should have cut out the other jokes.
Sean lock ***
Sean’s set was a bit hit and miss, but there were enough gems to make it a satisfying set, including joking about the expensive price of cinema tickets for a family night out.
Leo Muhammad **
Leo delivered some good observations about Black people and the Mark Duggan verdict. His set was far too serious though to my mind and didn’t quite capture the mood of the night. His observation re Black people referred to the fact the attendance was, in my view, approximately 80% Caucasian:20% Black. “Black people are coming …. yes, they’re coming. They just didn’t realise white people were coming too [and buy their tickets early].” That got a good laugh.
He talked about Felix crossing over to the mainstream, “but he did come back.” I’m not really sure why Leo made that point. Everyone knew Felix was a star of the Black comedy circuit as well as a face on the mainstream TV, theatre, radio and comedy circuit.
Tonight was about bringing your A game to one of the biggest and most prestigious comedy stages London, Britain in fact, has to offer and it’s a shame Leo didn’t on the night, as I’ve seen much better performances from him over the years.
The same applies to many others on the bill, who, in my humble opinion, all delivered below par performances that were not a fitting comedic tribute to the memory of Felix Dexter.
Jack Dee ****
Good, typically droll set from ‘Mr Grumpy’ Jack Dee. The jokes regarding the beers as friends in the fridge went down as well as nice cold beer, as did the joking about his children. He was on fine, sardonic form. Good to see him back ‘Live at the Apollo.’
Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson *
Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson didn’t go down that well at all. They acted out a strange double act, master and servant routine, which didn’t really work. A real shame as I’m sure many were looking forward to seeing them.
Felicity Ethnic *
Felicity Ethnic, winner of ‘Best Comedienne’ at The Black Comedy Awards 2012, delivered a very disappointing set. She came on as character act Wilma Simmit, a West Indian Cleaner, who’d been in England for 45 years. It wasn’t Felicity at her best and that was a real pity on such a big occasion.
Alan Carr *****
The penultimate act of the night was Alan Carr. He was very funny in his trademark comedy style, loved by his legions of fans.
Curtis Walker *****
The prestigious headline act slot went to Curtis “The Don” Walker, winner of ‘Best Radio Host’ (Colorful Radio) at The Black Comedy Awards 2013. He joked about the diverse, multi-racial audience present singing “we are the world, we are the children…” and sent himself up with a series of very funny self-deprecating routines regarding being fat, be that the over the top reaction to seeing from his Jamaican relatives when seeing him for the first time in years and his “investment” in a local gym he’s not visited in four years since joining!
As one of the leading lights on the Black comedy circuit for the last 20 years, Curtis performed a fine and hugely amusing finale to a wonderful night’s entertainment. It was, as Felix himself would have said, “nice, nice.”
As the cause behind the night is so worthy, I hope this becomes an annual fundraising event. That would be a really good, fitting and noble way of keeping Felix’s name in the forefront of fans minds, whilst leaving a positive legacy that will benefit his country kin in St Kitts.
The Felix Dexter Foundation
The night was in aid of not just commemorating Felix Dexter, but had the practical purpose of raising funds for the newly established Felix Dexter Foundation, which has been established to raise money to help educate children from his home country St Kitts who come from underprivileged backgrounds.
The Black Comedy Awards 2013
Felix Dexter, by overwhelming public majority vote, was the posthumous winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Black Comedy Awards 2013. This was kindly acknowledged in the programme for this tribute night.
RIP Felix Dexter 10th February 1958 – 18th October 2013
Review and Photographs © Michael Peters – Tiemo Talk of the Town
Felix Dexter Obituary
Felix Dexter Foundation