From hooker books in libraries to middle-aged masturbation, Saturday night at the Comedy Box is not for the faint-hearted.
It kicked off with ever-smiling but arch compere Clint Edwards, who warmed the crowd up with plenty of personalised banter. From the audience we met the energy tycoon, the happily unmarried couple and the sexy farmer. For those who’d seen him before, Edwards’ gag about the dirty chat-up line won’t have come as a surprise – but it went down well with this crowd.
Support Phil Wang was a good match for Clint’s gentle jibes, riffing on his Chinese-English upbringing and his love of mixed-race couples. Self-styled as ‘the world’s most reserved man’, Wang’s presentation is quirky and visually interesting: and he begins by discussing the cultural stereotyping of East Asians in the media.
Like a good New Year’s resolution, though, he gathers momentum and is soon into more risqué, if disorganised, territory on ex-girlfriends and masturbation. Unfortunately his act finished a bit like a resolution, too: prematurely. In the end, a series of amusing impressions felt tacked on to what could have been an accomplished show.
Headliner Markus Birdman burst on to the stage with some old-fashioned gags about school reports. That was the last we saw of his softer side, though, as he then shared the story of his break-up from his partner of 14 years. Birdman’s heartache was in places too much to bear, but he lifted his material with anecdotes about life as dad to a 10-year-old.
At moments, we saw a more optimistic version of Birdman: he deftly corrects his portrayal of women, claiming to be a feminist, and also shares the story of his stroke and subsequent visual impairment with an impressive lightness of touch.
You wonder what his vicar father would’ve made of Birdman’s quick-tongued jibes at the expense of religion – but as most of the material circles paedophilia and sex, presumably that would’ve been the least of his concerns.
Markus Birdman and co. played the Comedy Box at the Hen and Chicken on Saturday, January 31. For future Comedy Box line-ups, visit www.thecomedybox.co.uk/site/index.asp