Gangsters of Comedy – Young Guns v Old Guns
Star rating: ***
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Sunday 18th May 2014
I loved the Wild West promotion for this show that set the scene for a comedy shoot out. With the stage of the Shepherds Bush Empire featuring as the OK Corral. That’s right. The wild West London setting of Shepherd’s Bush Empire was the place to be to witness the ‘Young Guns of comedy’ (Aurie Styla, Axel & Kevin J) going head to head for our funny bones with ‘Old Guns of comedy’ – Richard Blackwood, Slim and Curtis Walker.
This was a very promising line up featuring 3 of the most popular names on the comedy circuit. We even had an American host in Will E Robbo to continue the American battle theme. Who won the shoot out? Read on to find out.
Before I comment on each performance, I have to report that sadly nothing whatsoever about the show reflected or even referred to this theme. Only the final act, Curtis Walker, referred to it, briefly, in passing.
Aurie Styla delivered a funny set, replete with old favourites about public urinals, ‘hench’ women and as always made humorous use of music in his set, particularly with the new material relating to funerals. His set was fun and the audience responded well to his set. He has the appearance of a young Curtis Walker and if he carries on developing as he is, you never know, he may yet come to reach the level of Curtis when it comes to performance and moving an audience to laughter.
Richard Blackwood, Best Stand up Comedy Host and Best Supporting Actor – Black Comedy Awards 2013, was at his strongest with his new material about Solange Knowles infamous attack on Jay Z in the lift, 10th May 2014. In trying to second guess what was said or what caused it (as the CCTV footage is silent) he was amusing. I half expected most of the acts on would have a go at this one, but sadly only he and Curtis Walker tackled the subject. One of the joys of live stand up comedy is it’s unpredictability and the opportunity it affords the performer to use the latest news to great comedic effect. The Solange – Jay Z – Beyonce story was a comedy gift wrapped up in a New York lift. Maybe this is one that will be better explored via a comedy sketch rather than a one man act.
He was also very funny when he started having a go at his “less famous” co-performers waiting to come on stage after him … before he’d even got to the punchline of his final joke. That spontaneity is what makes live stand up comedy so appealing. The “you had to be there”, impromptu humour that comes out of something as innocuous as a comedian getting the nod that there time is is up for the night.
It was good to see Richard spot and introduce The Voice UK winner Jermain Jackman to the stage and give him the limelight. A very nice touch indeed.
I see Richard as the Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England Forward) of the team – the star name in the team, a top performer who is always attracting plenty of comment, big crowds and still has the potential to pull something special out of the bag.
The “I’m famous” theme is a bit of a running gag with Richard these days and of course it’s undeniable that due to his TV, radio and West End stage work he does have a far higher profile than many comedians. That tells me that Richard should be saying goodbye to these type of 5+ on the line up shows and doing more solo shows. His January 2014 one man show (well one man + Kat B (I thought he was a man? Maybe he is a cat dressed up as a man?) at Indig02 went down very well and surely that ought to be touring London and the rest of the country. Better still, this should have happened after he finished Shrek last year. He could have capitalised on the success of this West End hit and gone on a national tour on the back of that. That’s the sort of tour that can not only develop Richard’s career and national profile, but also bring to a wider audience, up and coming performers he may include as support acts.
Axel Blake, the second of the younger comedians, delivered a good solid set. He also made fine use of music; tackled relationships, overseas travel and being a young father. Axel is a very assured and confident performer. He clearly has a lot of potential, but needs to work on adding more stand out, individual material that gives his set a more unique flavour.
Kevin J delivered a barnstorming set that had the packed West London audience rolling around with laughter. Not only did Kevin J perform superbly, he well and truly STOLE the show with a stand OUT stand UP performance of the highest calibre.
Through the vehicle of his brilliantly accurate Nigerian and Jamaican accents and sharp observations he dissected and found the funny, McIntyre style, in everyday life situations – be that ordering food in a North London West Indian take-away to responding to Nigerians whilst on vacation in Nigeria. They spoke about him in Nigerian right in front of him. Assuming he did not understand them. Big mistake! Bearing in mind that Kevin J is a White Englishman made this routine all the more funny.
What was especially impressive was how he didn’t just rely on the accents, which are spot on and terrifically funny in themselves, but he backed them up with good, strong jokes.
I really enjoyed the story about him helping out the old Jamaican woman and getting a bit over familiar in the way he spoke to her. Totally understandable, but highly amusing.
Tremendous performance. I see Kevin J as the Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool and England Forward) of the line up – exciting to watch and always scores/threatens to do something spectacular. I look forward to seeing Kevin J again.
Slim, Best Male Comedian – Black Comedy Awards 2013, performed a cracking routine, leaving the audience in no doubt about the talent that has resulted in the public voting him Best Male Comedian three times in a row and in total, four times.
I loved the jokes about his recent Jamaican family holiday. The jokes were to be found in the term “all inclusive” and the implications that had for his children! There were hair raising, yet hilarious routines about travelling on Jamaican mini-buses and mini-cabs.
There was a lot of new material which was very refreshing to hear. There can be a tendency by many comedians to deliver the “same old, same old” but Slim doesn’t tend to do that. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with bringing out the old favourites, so long as it’s interspersed with newer material. Paying punters don’t want to feel short changed by hearing only old jokes they’ve heard countless times before.
I see Slim as the Ian Wright of the line up. He’s a brilliant, reliable striker/joker, who gets the audience on the edge of their seat when he has the mic in his hand and always hits the back of the net.
Will E Robbo
I’d not seen Will E Robbo compere a show before, so this was a first. He did pretty well and was outrageously funny with his one-liner regarding the main woman helping organise the comedians back stage. His dinosaur voices were superb, not necessarily comedy, but impressive none the less.
Overall though I found his approach just far too crude, especially considering the relative youth of a lot of the audience (teenagers/20+ age group). Of course this is an adult show and anyone is entitled to cover adult themes, but I just wonder if you can go too far and if a comedian has some responsibility to tone it down a little for a young, impressionable audience.
It was clear those in the front rows he was engaging with were relatively young and so I feel this might have been more appropriate.
Will E Robbo was The Joey Barton (QPR) of the line up. With his very distinctive voice and chatter he is equally capable of exciting the crowd as he is of exasperating the referee and getting himself red carded for too blue material.
Curtis Walker, Best Radio Show Host (Colourful radio) – Black Comedy Awards 2013 closed the show with a fine performance – joking about his weight, gym membership, interspersed with new material about the Solange attack on Jay Z. By his very high standards I would have to say this was a good, but fairly routine performance from ‘the Don’. It lacked the zip and high energy you get when he gets going on a subject and goes for the jugular.
Curtis Walker is the Gary Lineker of the line up. One of the first names on the team sheet. Solid, dependable and always delivers. Curtis is a real crowd pleaser who adds real bite to any line up.
It was a pity the show didn’t really have a distinctive theme or performers dress code in keeping with the promotion, other than having a group of relative newcomers and well established comedians on the line up. However, all in all this was a good show.
It’s hard to call who won the shoot out as most Comedians gave a solid performance on the night. I think thanks to Kevin J’s set, allied to Aurie’s strong performance, I’d say on this occasion the young guns just shaded it.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town