Sitting in the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, I’m looking forward to a varied stand-up bill this evening. The night is hosted by the insightful Richard Herring who ambles out on stage looking like a London university student, despite his 42 years of age, and proudly announces that he was voted the Worst Comedy Experience by the Daily Telegraph in 2005. His wry smile and glances at the crowd draw the audience into his confidence as he sneers at such an accolade.
Always smart and intelligent, Herring fills the space between each act with a quick wit steeped in irony, playing on his image as a dirty forty-year-old man as he lechers over a young woman in the crowd, before declaring that he is of course joking, and that he believes ‘women should be treated as if they were equal’. He then goes on to introduce the first act saying ‘I don’t want to do too much pratting about. I think I’ve pretty much succeeded in whipping you up into a frenzy’, and welcomes impressionist Alistair McGowan to the stage.
McGowan made a return to stand up at the fringe earlier this year after a 13 year absence, so Im looking forward to seeing how his work fares away from the comfortable set-up of television. Immediately he comes across as an engaging and likeable character who’s comfortable in front of an audience.
Taking off Michael Parkinson, Dylan Moran and Richard Herring’s ex-comedy partner Stewart Lee with a startling likeness, his impressions are uncanny and immediately enjoyable. However, overall his material did rely too heavily on a knowledge of sport. Perhaps this was more favourable than venturing into politics, as his Gordon Brown seemed more like an impression of an impression, in imitation of the talented Rory Bremner. While the impressions are good, some of his jokes are fairly weak, and his transposition of characters to different settings is slightly too similar to David Brent’s failed attempt at comedy in The Office.
Newcomer Naz Osmanoglu bursts onto the stage with enthusiasm and a twitchy energy about him which raises a smile. He has some funny material on his Turkish father and his obsession with his son growing a beard, but an odd routine about the multiple uses of a towel leaves the audience a bit cold. Despite this the young comic has a confidence about him which I’m sure will see him do well.
One of the biggest names on the bill, Al Murray, is the same as ever. Though his act is supposed to be ironic, you can’t help feeling as you watch him on stage yelling at an old man for being old, shouting ‘What’s that Granddad, it’s not the same as it was in your day? Can you hear me?!’ that after 15 years on stage this character has somewhat run its course.
By far the highlight of the evening is Wilson Dixon, a character comedian who performs as an American country singer. Straight away, his strange presence has the audience intrigued. He announces that he comes from Cripple Creek in America, asking in a country accent whether ‘there is anyone from the United Kingdoms in tonight?’. He then introduces a song off his first album (‘The Very Best of Wilson Dixon’), saying: ‘It goes a little something like this’, before pausing and correcting himself: ‘actually it goes exactly like this’.
Dixon has a great and original persona, delivering farcical one-liners similar to Demetri Martin and jokes which deteriorate into nothing after convoluted explanations. Accompanied by his guitar, he tells the story of a man who rolled into town one day, singing: ‘he came on a horse as big as a bus, in fact it could have been a bus, I didn’t see him arrive. He had no name… so we called him the man with no name… which ironically then became his name’. His slow and droll delivery has the audience laughing at every line.
Overall it’s been a great night of comedy in a fantastic venue. This gig is the first to welcome Richard Herring back to the Lyric Theatre for another season of laughs, as he continues to showcase his pick of stand-up talent throughout the autumn.
This article was originally written for Spoonfed.co.uk here: http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/samgould-5043/richard-herring-alistair-mcgowan-naz-osmanoglu-al-murray-and-wilson-dixon-at-the-lyric-theatre-1503/