2Northdown, King’s Cross, London, April 28th 2019.
As I mentioned in my recent review of David McIver and Will Rowland’s Edinburgh previews right now these types of work in progresses are still in an early state and likely to change, and it’s possibly unfair to review them while at such a stage, so I’ve decided only to comment on those that I really enjoyed and hope people will see both while they’re being worked upon and when they’re in a finished state. And once again both of the shows I saw today fall in to such a category, they’re very different pieces of comedy but both made me laugh a good deal.
Rob Kemp was first off and the main reason I attended (with no disrespect meant towards Josh Pugh, I just wasn’t aware of his work before today), Kemp’s The Elvis Dead was one of the comedy highlights of 2017 as the comedian took the music of Elvis and changed the lyrics so that they applied to Sam Raimi’s much loved horror film, but chatting to him after that gig he mentioned how it wasn’t like his usual comedy shows and as a stand up he was quite different. So I had no idea what to expect from his new hour long show, “Moonraker 2: Moonrakerer”, and there was the possibility it wouldn’t be my cup of tea, or coffee or even wine (I’ll drink alcohol out of any container) but if anything while nothing like The Elvis Dead it’s just as funny, if not more so.
Kind of like a one man sketch show it saw Kemp perform a variety of different sketches, some of which recurred throughout the performance while some were one off’s. Using a mix of audio and video due to the nature of the show the technical side of things was a little uneven but then this is of course early days and I’m sure it won’t apply to the finished product, I wouldn’t complain if it did though, the ramshackle nature of the show has a lot of charm, as does Kemp himself. At the end of the set he seemed a little disappointed and in a self-deprecating manner commented that he still had a lot of time to work on it before Edinburgh, but I thought 99% of it was pretty superb and he had no need to be negative about it at all.
It’s the kind of completely unpredictable show that sees him sing new words to The Beatles Let It Be and then adapt that song to the Sesame Street theme tune, where we get on an ongoing news report about the artist Magritte and his inability to draw trombones and faces, there’s a Top of the Pops style countdown of the Top 10 which is beautifully constructed, a quiz involving audience members testing their knowledge of sportsmen, a variation of the main character from the Death Note anime series informing the audience what their next act of urination will be, trailers for spin off’s from the movie Jaws, a version of the 12 Days of Christmas based on Greek myths, and that’s only about a fifth of the joyful madness which takes place on stage. It’s constantly inventive, smart, daft and incredibly funny stuff, and a show that I’ll definitely see again post the festival.
Josh Pugh in comparison is a far, far more traditional stand up, and I worried that his act might suffer after I’d enjoyed Rob Kemp’s unique brand of silliness, and though it was the lesser of the two shows it still made me laugh a lot. In Pugh’s show “Maybe The Real Comedy Awards Are The Friends We Made Along The Way” he admits he’s sort of a laddish comedian but I don’t think that really applies, the laddish comedians I’ve seen tell a lot of sex based jokes and ones which vaguely appal and thankfully there was none of the latter and only a couple of the former in the set. Being between two worlds was a big theme in the show however, as he talked about how in the comedy scene he’s seen as quite bloke-y whereas at his local pub he’s considered a flamboyant theatrical type just because he once got a question about a book right on the quiz machine, in what is a very funny routine.
He also talks about how he was invited to pitch ideas for BBC 4 Extra and didn’t feel like he fitted in, this section is a little weak but at the end he admits he missed a big chunk of it out and as he was only on stage for thirty minutes by the end it was apparent it was true. The show wasn’t a disappointment by any means though, Pugh has a lot of strong material about the nature of his relationship with his wife, what it’s like to walk his dog wearing a t-shirt but no trousers, along with the fact that he has an eye condition that means his eye sight is quite poor and the way it’s effected his life over the years. He has a lot of strong punchlines which made me laugh hard, and while it was mostly a fairly conventional set it was one I found greatly appealing.
Both of these were show’s that I think will do really well at the Edinburgh Festival, I do lean towards preferring Rob Kemp’s hour just because as much as I love stand up I’ve seen a crazy amount of it and now am a little fonder of comedians who do something a little different. Pugh is definitely a talented comic however and if that’s your bag (which I’m sure it is for most) then he’s someone who I’m sure you’ll enjoy a great amount, and of course the perfect solution is to see both and have a ball of a time.