Knock2bag Comedy at Rich Mix

The current vogue for comedy in all its forms is still going strong. Whether it is one of the 2,087 panel shows currently on television and radio, the abundance of sketch acts, or stand-up comedians writing their autobiographies, the interest in comedy shows no sign of diminishing.

This is partly due to the tough economic climate with comedy being a cheap night’s entertainment. Knock2bag are specialists at putting on comedy across London, gaining a reputation for gathering together exciting young talent that is on the verge of breaking out into the mainstream. The promoter’s newest venture takes them into Shoreditch and to Rich Mix, the multi-disciplinary arts venue on Bethnal Green Road.

The night starts with compère Ian Smith lolloping onto the stage. In what will become an increasingly irritating leitmotif, the names of the acts are announced over the PA system repeatedly by a computerised automaton. It’s completely superfluous as Smith has already announced the name of the act and so tonight’s performers are left in front of the microphone for a few minutes before getting on with their material.

First up is Matt Rees, the recent winner of the Leicester Square Theatre Best Newcomer award. In terms of the topics that make up his material, Rees is not doing much original. You could almost play hack comedy bingo with the topics that come up; boozing, slacking off at university and having endearingly thick mates.

Yet what separates him from most other open-mike chancers are the new angles he finds and the deadpan delivery which makes it clear that he is not taking it all too seriously. It’s a well-structured set that will see him do well across nights across the country, if not make him stand out in his field.

After a short break, we’re into the middle section, which is all sketch and character-based comedy. As this part goes on, it’s clear that all of the acts are trying out new material. First up is Colin Hoult with his new creation Tony Rider, the owner of a country and western themed restaurant in Derby. In order to give a comic character appeal, he or she needs to have some kind of flaw that makes them ridiculous or grotesque.

Yet with Tony Rider, it’s hard to see where the comedy is coming from. He’s married to a Thai woman, Su Chin, and repeatedly asks if she’s in the audience. Another character, Bill, a warlock, suffers from the same problem of underdevelopment and Hoult’s energetic performance is not enough to disguise the patchy material.

The next up, double act Cardinal-Burns, will soon be seen on E4. But on tonight’s performance, they’re not going to be must-see television. A protracted opening goes on to ever-decreasing laughs. An attempt at mocking spoken word poetry was always going to be limited due to the form’s in-built earnestness. A decent enough video sketch comes half-way through but is nothing original or thrilling.

Brian Gittens is feted amongst comedy’s cognoscenti with Ricky Gervais finding a part for him in Cemetery Junction. But he’s clearly coasting tonight, with dressing up as a goat, complaining about how much money it’s taken for him to get here tonight and a half-arsed attempt at improv being a poor substitute for actual material.

But when it looks like the night might be drifting into a mediocre night, on came the headliners to rescue the show. Canadian comic Tony Law might be baffling to some but his stream of conscious comedy along with commentary on his own act was riotous and a welcome change from the stiffness that had proceeded him. A closing piece on two elephants causing chaos in a bar did not have a clinical ending but the fact that it didn’t only added to his charm.

The Boy With Tape On His Face (pictured) is exactly that. New Zealand comic Sam Wills comes on stage with a piece of duct tape over his mouth and a bag full of props. With them he recreates Chris De Burgh’s Lady in Red, transforms a Tupperware box and flat cap into Louis Armstrong and encourages a member of the audience to strip off.

It is joyous and inventive, with laughs mixed with gasps as he produces a free-wheeling spectacle. It brings about a triumphant end to the night which had threatened to end in a damp squib.

Rich Mix
35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road
E1 6LA

Tel: 020 7613 7498

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