Friday, March 09, 2007

Sarah Kendal

9 March 2007

Comedy’s a funny thing – haha! No, but seriously, forget the Comedy Store or the Edinburgh Fringe, the real test of a stand-up comedian’s skill is playing a small-town arts centre on a weekday evening. Many years ago we saw a young female comedian at the arts centre in Grantham. She had been getting good reviews and had just got her first TV show but she was no match for Grantham! She started by pointing at a man in the front row and saying how fantastic it was to see someone wearing a tie at one of her gigs and she thought he looked like her Dad. Only then did she look around the room to see it was full of men wearing ties who could have been her father! Further demonstrating how little she knew her audience she started to tell a joke set in a nightclub and asked us to name the best nightclub in Grantham. After several minutes of discussion the audience concluded it didn’t know of any nightclubs in Grantham and, somewhat reluctantly, the comedian agreed, as a compromise, to set her joke in a nightclub in nearby Nottingham. On another occasion, while on holiday in Suffolk, we were surprised to see the enormous old seaside theatre in Lowestoft advertising an evening with Jeremy Hardy. This theatre, which had Ken Dodd the previous week and Jimmy Tarbuck the following week – seemed an odd setting for a left-wing political alternative comedian. We booked our tickets and, on the night, found ourselves lost in a sea of empty seats with only about a dozen other people but Jeremy Hardy dealt with a potentially embarrassing situation extremely impressively. Quickly abandoning his prepared material he probably worked harder than ever that night and completely won his tiny audience over – one of the most impressive comedy performances I’ve seen. Last night we were at the Library Theatre in Luton to see the Australian comedian Sarah Kendal and she was great. I’ve realised over the years that to really enjoy a comedian’s performance I need to feel I like the person. Some picking on the audience is fine but it has to be done gently and in good spirit and to be balanced with a good dose of self-deprecation. Sarah Kendal had the balance about right – she has a good line in carefully constructed observational stories and is a good improviser and ad-libber. But above all she charmed Luton by getting to know her audience and treating them with respect. Watch out for her.



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