Monday 18 December 2017


Vodafone Comedy Festival


Scoop monkeys and pixie heads - Barry Murphy's German alter ego, Gunther, is still calling us names. He hasn't yet done something about that ridiculous grey barnet and, yes, he's still ploughing ahead with the whole imaginary raffle. But boy, is it a great act.

One of the best 'characters' on display at this year's Vodafone Comedy Festival, Gunther recalls tearing it up with 'the Brian Cowen man' and hanging with Angela Merkel. He also sets Milton Jones up for a fall (stay silent when Milton arrives, says Gunther - it'll be hilarious). And it would have been…had everyone played along.

Then again, it's difficult not to make at least some noise for the Londoner whose loud shirts and mad-scientist hairstyle are almost as famous as those super one-liners of his. Indeed, Jones (50) is adamant that we won't remember any of his material in the morning. Not true, man. We just wouldn't risk messing it up. Taking straight-faced comedy to a whole new level, some of Jones' jokes land quicker than others, but you have to admire the bloke's ingenious way with puns.

Sara Pascoe could learn a thing or two from him. Frightfully nervous, and with a reminder or two scribbled on her hand (ah, come on, we're not in the clubs any more), Pascoe's routine (relationships, childhood, lads' mags) is reasonably solid, but her anxious presentation makes for uncomfortable viewing.


Steve Hall, on the other hand, has got the whole confidence thing down, but could do with refining his script. His Muppet and Father portrait skit is brilliant (he paid an artist hundreds of quid to ruin a precious childhood memory). Maybe there's more material to be found in the family photo album, Steve.

And then there's the eccentric (and musical) David O'Doherty, who fills us in on his never-ending quest for happiness and tells us about a comedian 'friend' who was offered €10,000 to mention a certain fizzy drink at least seven times at each gig. By sharing this story, David then does exactly that. Well played.

Kevin Gildea is in excellent form, too, finding jokes in the weirdest of places (Father's Day cards, letters from the bank, rasher packets, etc.). But the real discovery of the festival is Nashville comic Nate Bargatze. Here we have a performer whose likeable presence, simple material (family, marriage and getting locked out of hotel rooms…naked), and steady delivery combine to make for one of the most natural sets of the weekend. Rating: HHHHI

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