Live Review: Kae Kurd, Esther Manito, Jon Long, Carl Donnelly, Aurie Styla

kae kurd jon long esther manitoVauxhall Comedy Club, Vauxhall, London, 07/08/2020.

At the beginning of tonight’s outdoor gig the very capable MC Aurie Styla gently suggested that the comedians might not be at their very best, that due to the pandemic they’d not performed live comedy in a long old time and so might be a bit rusty, but we should just enjoy it nonetheless and have a good time. Fortunately such a warning wasn’t necessary though, nearly all the comedians were on fantastic form, and the one who wasn’t really couldn’t blame a lack of recent stage time sadly.

After opening with some skilled crowd work, something I’m not that fond of normally but which Styla pulled off impressively, Carl Donnelly was the first to take the stage. I haven’t seen him since I caught his show at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2009, though I’m not quite sure why as he was great then and he’s still great now. Like most of the comics tonight he touches on the pandemic but the majority of his material was based on his family life, from his Irish parents who cared more about the craic than raising him properly to his own attempts at starting a family via IVF, and all of it was laugh out loud funny, Donnelly has a great turn of phrase and the occasional unusual metaphor or comparison which made it far better and far funnier than others who have covered similar material.

Esther Manito followed and she was just as fantastic, another comedian I’d seen before, when I reviewed her last time I described her as being “the opposite of predictable” and “sublime”, and that still applies here. She opened with a very angry but very funny rant about what life during the lockdown has been like, mocking her husband and child to beautifully funny effect, with the way she compared her son to a certain individual from North Korea being the best joke of the night for me. There was also pointed but funny discussion on the differences as to how male and female comedians are received online, and she ended on a superb routine about the lack of shaving of a certain area of her body and smear tests that had the whole audience laughing hard.

After a break Styla came back on and though there was smidgen of crowd work this time where he obsessed about the audience’s age in a surprisingly unfunny manner, most of the time he was doing his own prepared material and it wasn’t quite as sharp as what he gave us in the first half. Slightly problematically he started off by accusing Destiny’s Child of being witches, and though he quoted some of their lyrics and explained why he dislikes them, it was a little weak, and would have benefited with him not going on about it for so long.

Fortunately Jon Long followed him, and absolute stormed it. My only complaint is that it was a relatively short set and that he wasn’t the headliner as his set was a superb one, admittedly I’m a fan of musical comedy but it’s something he excels at, and judging by the reaction from everyone else they were equally impressed. The first song we got from him tackled the subject of consent in nightclubs and that might not seem like the kind of thing a male comic could mine comedy gold from but it was carefully managed so it not only made a serious point but was also hilarious, while after a brief, very funny bit of material about how he used to work as a tour guide at recycling plants, he sang a song on that subject, getting everyone to join in, and it’s hilarious stuff. From this short set alone Long’s instantly become a comedian that I’m very, very fond of, and as soon as full length shows become a thing again I’ll definitely be seeking his out the first chance I get.

Kae Kurd was the headline act and given how impressive the rest of the evening had been I presumed he’d be equally as fun, especially as he’d previously performed on Live At The Apollo, but sadly it wasn’t the case at all, and his headlining set was one of the worst I’ve seen in years. He was needlessly aggressive from the get go, verbally attacking the people on the table in front of him, and though during the rest of the evening some of the other comedians had noticed they were drunk and teased them about this, Kurd was flat out nasty with the comments he made. When he repeatedly insulted an American and her friends it was not only lazy but so unfunny that it made me feel sorry for those involved, who as far as I could see had done nothing to deserve his wrath, especially as by this point there were others in the venue who were being far louder and more distracting.

Kurd’s prepared material was sadly worse though, a bit about his generation not being prepared for war mocked those who worry about the importance of gender neutral toilets, and he also has a bit on Brexit where he equated remainers to those who get annoyed by people who don’t wear masks, which instantly made me wonder if he was deliberately being a twat, and I can’t understand why someone would be against mask wearing if it saves a single life. When neither of those routines got much of a reaction he went back to insulting the table in front of him, losing the audience even further, and once again it was piss poor and tedious to hear, the very opposite of funny. He ended with a routine about his relationship with smart technology and fridges who send him texts and that was at least a little better in that it didn’t actively annoy, but it was also by the numbers blandness, and the kind of trite, tired observations an open mic comedian might make.

It’s a shame that he was so poor as the rest of the night was enormous fun, it was fantastic to be back seeing stand up comedy again after all this time, and I’d definitely return to the club. It’s well run, a great space, and everyone that I saw was considerate when it came to social distancing, but at sixteen quid a ticket even in these strange old times I truly hope that the headliner is better next time, as no one should be subjected to the tedium that Kurd generated.

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
Vauxhall Comedy Club’s Official Site.

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