When chatting with friends about how I was going to spend my Saturday evening, the mention of musical comedy seemed to elicit a pretty Marmite response. The only thing everyone did seem to agree on was that if it was bad, it would be really bad.
Well, you pessimistic lot, I am happy to inform you that the inaugural Tuborg Musical Comedy Awards were a resounding success. There wasn’t a single act that produced that toe-curling ‘I’m-embarrassed-for-them’ feeling and there were a couple of flashes of genuine comedy brilliance.
The five finalists (as voted for online) had spots alongside four well-known, award-winning and less funny circuit professionals.
First up was my favourite act of the night and rightful winner of this newly devised award, hilarious female duo Adams and Rea. With the help of a mandolin, a couple of guitars and some grimy beats these potty-mouthed ladies regaled the audience with tales of library fines, oh-so annoying Islington parents and the perils of dropping rubbish. I am still singing their perfectly un-PC crunk track Me Litter Bin several days on. Out loud, unfortunately…
Duncan Oakley was next to tread the boards. He looked a lot more comfortable (and was a lot funnier) when performing his in-between song skits than the songs themselves. He did have some good material, and got a pretty good response from the audience, but I just didn’t get the feeling that he was passionate about musical comedy, just that he enjoyed being on any stage that would have him.
The last act of part one was Frisky and Mannish. A hugely talented, highly musical pair who, in their own words, ‘tit about with pop-songs’. Their vaudeville reworking of The Pussycat Dolls’ Beep was absolutely inspired, and in not being placed by the panel, they really were robbed.
Part two began with John Hegley look-alike Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer rapping about Cricket to an NWA backing track and his own banjo ukulele. Of course. His rhymes were, as he proclaimed, rather righteous, and a joke that could have easily worn a little thin after the first tune was saved by the laugh-out-loud Whatever Happened to Timothy? – a musing on Radio 1’s premier white-boy-gone-black, Tim Westwood. Whatever you do, I urge you to look this track up online, as it is even funnier than The Big Dog himself, and that’s pretty good going. Mr B received the second place prize.
Last up was Howard Read, as seen on ITV’s comedy cuts and children’s TV, apparently. He was quite funny in part, but a thirty-something man in a crap checked shirt telling jokes about how difficult his life is now he has kids was hardly original. But even so, the judges (very wrongly, in my opinion) awarded him third place.
The aim of these annual awards was to promote musical comedy as a genre in itself, so it doesn’t have to be crow-barred into stand-up bills and ensure performers get the recognition they deserved. Apart from Frisky and Mannish not winning anything, it seems to have succeeded, both rewarding talented acts and nurturing newcomers; Jay Foreman, recipient of the best newcomer award is certainly one to watch.
Check out www.musicalcomedy.co.uk for clips of all the finalists and many more.
This year’s final took place at:
The Pleasance Theatre
Box Office: 020 7609 1800