- Star rating: *****
- Venue: Eventim Hammersmith Apollo
- Date: Sunday 11th October 2015
- Organiser: The Comedy School
A stellar line of comedians came together on Sunday night to raise awareness for The Comedy School’s ‘It’s No Joke’ anti-knife crime initiative.
The event at the Eventim Hammersmith Apollo was tragically all to poignant coming on the very same day of the 11th knife murder in London this year. Joshua Hanson, 21, from Kingsbury, was tragically stabbed to death in the very early hours at the RE bar, Eastcote, West London. Co-incidentally, on the way home from a comedy show that night, I happened to drive past this bar, which sadly became a murder scene a little over an hour and a half later.
The showcase was superbly compered by Curtis Walker, who kept proceedings ticking along very nicely with an assured, confident approach to the night. Curtis had the audience heartily laughing away at his self-depractory jokes regarding his weight and his Jamaican family’s and wider general public’s reaction to this. Jokes regarding the joys and woes of parenthood went down well with the audience also. His teasing introductions that tried to wrong foot the audience about who was coming on next were amusing. Curtis was clearly in a mischievous mood.
It was great to see a really strong, mixed line up including Andi Osho, Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse, Simon Evans, Slim, Sean Lock and Dane Baptiste. We had men, women, black, white, young acts, the not so young and even a performer with a disability. Plus a big of music too. This was not your standard comedy line up and it certainly ticked all the right diversity boxes! That said there were surprisingly and disappointingly few Black people in the audience. I’d estimate around just 2%, the rest being predominantly white. Very strange considering the cause and the first class line up.
Opening the show, Simon Evans got he night of to an absolutely brilliant start and was one of the highlights of the night for me, with a constant flow of jokes that constantly tickled the funny bone. He made a number of jokes especially pertinent to the night itself, for instance, questioning the wisdom of supporting a school for comedians … and the less than positive impact that may have on his own career! He need have no worries on that score. There were some delicious jokes re fatherhood and a novel twist on the “three men walk into a bar” gag. Though the Welsh came in for some gentle ribbing, the topicality continued with humorous references to Wales riding high when it comes to sporting success in both football and rugby at the moment.
Andi Osho – The Mary Poppins of comedy
Andi Osho, a Patron of the Comedy School, rushed too much with her delivery and sometimes was a bit too crude and whilst generally funny, there were times when I think she found the jokes more amusing than the crowd. Some of her never material would have benefitted from a little more work. I enjoyed the tales of life in LA, where she’s been based in recent years and how her British accent has confused the Americans and genuinely helped her out of difficult situations. That said, as much as I try it’s hard to see her as the self-proclaimed Mary Poppins of comedy!
Chozen Official were also one of the highlights of the night. Providing a beautiful musical interlude they performed two songs, including one entitled ‘Tel a Lie Vison’. This was an intriguing mix of rap, 4 violinists and a video screen projecting in the background, offering a beautiful cacophony of sound and visual effects.
I’d heard of Francesca Martinez before but this was my first time seeing her. I was impressed. Though you had to listen hard to make out what she was saying, the pay off was worth it and she regaled the audience with self-depracating jokes about her cerebral palsy, how others perceive it and how she just gets on with her life.
Her disability makes it very difficult for Francesca to walk un-assisted. However she might consider one beneficial side effect on this occasion was being walked onto the stage by none other than Sir Lenny Henry. Not a lot of people can say that! Her condition meant she delivered her set sitting down.
She told a particular good story which made her stop and realise that, in spite of her disability, her life could be a lot worse and having a disability does not mean she has no ability. Her skills at making people laugh was on full display and well done to the comedy school to booking her for this show.
Dane Baptiste went down a treat with the Apollo audience. He was funny and told a lot of new jokes, not just old familiar one’s. The rum punch and RnB lyrics material were both unique and original and had everyone laughing away, with a hint at their honesty and how people pretend to be something they are not just to keep up appearances. On this form, it won’t be long before Dane Baptiste is back at the Apollo to perform for the BBC’s Live at the Apollo.
Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse
I was keen to see how Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse (a patron of The Comedy School) fared, especially as they’ve recently announced they will be doing a ‘Legends’ tour in 2016. They performed a good routine as ‘Smashy & Nicey’, the pop-tastic 70’s DJ’s. In the light of the Yewtree child sex abuse investigation involving DJ’s of a certain vintage you can imagine this tree was ripe for picking and pick away they most certainly did to hilarious effect.
Winner of countless awards, including the ‘Best Male Comedian’ at the Tiemo Entertainments Black Comedy Awards 2012 and 2013, Slim showed the big crowd exactly why he is widely viewed as ‘The People’s Champion’ with a ‘throwback set’ that reminded people of his former career as a London Bus Driver, driving the 295 through Hammersmith and the hilarious tales of how he dealt with nuisance school children. Message to children: Stay seated and don’t mess about when Slim is in the driving seat.
The joys and woes of parenthood were also touched upon, a bit of a running theme amongst the male comedians, to laughter inducing effect as he told the story of his response to his daughter’s 16th birthday party requests.
This was a great set and I’m sure on the back of this Slim will be attracting even more followers to his shows.
Sir Lenny Henry
One of the surprises of the night was Sir Lenny Henry telling the audience that he won’t be performing “because I don’t do stand up anymore.” He basically spoke about the anti-knife crime cause, introduced a video, the guest speaker Nathan Levy and the interval. Though it’s clear his focus has been on acting and studying over the past decade or so, he couldn’t help but crack a few gags, but it was still a little startling to hear him make that bold statement. A bit like going to a celebrity football gig where David Beckham is billed to appear and hearing him say he won’t be playing as he’s hung up his boots. We know he doesn’t play professionally but you’d expect him to put on the old boots one more time.
Headliner Sean Lock (also a patron of The Comedy School) delivered a fine set to close the night. It was confident and laid back and we heard some nice topical material re Jeremy Clarkson, Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron (pig-gate reference) and amusing anecdotes relating to some of his bucket list wishes.
Nathan Levy, the older brother of Robert Levy who was knived to death in 2004 spoke movingly about the loss of his sibling and the impact upon himself and his family. They went on to set up the Robert Levy Foundation to honour his name and help prevent further knife crime blighting other families lives.
although it’s a relatively minor point in the grand scheme of things, I think the dress of many of the stars left a lot to be desired. Andi Osho, Slim and Dane Baptiste all for some reason looked particularly under dressed. I don’t know what was going on with Slim’s t-shirt or the usually quite stylish Andi’s baggy trousers (I feel a Madness song coming on). I wouldn’t even wear those around the house, never mind on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo.
I think if you’re part of a production that is aiming send out a positive message to young people regarding putting down knives and raising good money then the least you can do is make an effort and dress appropriately, especially for what was after all a major fundraising gig at one of London’s most prestigious comedy venues.
It’s No Joke
The Comedy School have produced a play entitled ‘It’s No Joke’ that tours schools around London. Using humour it imparts a serious message warning of the dangers of knives. It may seem obvious to adults that knives are no joke, but for some youths they require that message as they live in fear that their live’s could be at risk just for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” This play is the main vehicle through which the Comedy School promotes it’s anti-knife crime message and the core reason for this fundraising show was to raise funds to enable it to continue touring London schools and ideally go nationwide.
Almost £20,000 was raised through ticket sales and donations, including £1,400 raised in a raffle. That’s a great contribution to supporting the comedy school and it’s efforts to make London a safer city for youngsters.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
Photographs © Steve Best
- The Flavasum Trust – website
- The Comedy School’s – ‘It’s No Joke’
- Stand up for the Comedy School – Comedy Store review – 6th November 2013
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