Review: Wolfson Howler

SOPHIE BAUER returned to Wolfson for a Howler with everything going for it, including an impromptu chat show.

Akushie bauer Brodkin Gamble Howler Novellie Reams Rigg Syrett Wolfson

Attending a Howler once is merely a courtesy, twice you’re flirting with it…when you get to three times you’re into full-blown love affair territory. My affair with the Howler is a tumultuous one, suffused with undertones of discomfort and ecstasy; and so it was with a lover’s anticipation that me, my pad and I sunk into our seats. And then my heart skipped a beat and my mouth went dry. I gazed at the fine figure of compere Ed Gamble striding nonchalantly past me. My features wobbled like a child without stabilisers…I must confess that I had been ardently hoping that Mr Gamble and I would rekindle our powerful bond from the last time, and that I would once more bask in his Carlin-esque insight. Perhaps he too at some moments tried to recreate a time when all was so new and exciting, turning to me to lead the clapping as he once used to…

But enough of such melancholy: The Howler laid out a feast to soothe my comedy cravings. Ahir Shah kicked the night off, his waif like frame poetry in motion about the stage. His Oxfam-Topshop combo, as well as his interest in Indian names (mispronunciations of his christens him the ‘Potato King’) provided some great material.  Next up James Syrett, whose PC orientated routine invited hosts of ‘That is SO true!’ guffaws, his ‘bastard key’ references spread like a wave of mirth about the room.

Comedy connoisseur that I am, I feel semi-qualified in saying that Pierre Novellie is the new black of Lent 2010. Although I saw his material at the King’s Jest last week, his world of Activia, jesters in life jackets and the invention of the fridge was still as jaw achingly hilarious. The ease with which he performed and his charismatic demeanour ensured that the audience were hooked.

Last of the student performers was Grace Rigg, another ace in a pretty damn good hand. Her two monologues, especially her portrait of the humourless public school stand up Harriet, left me giggling incessantly to the point of snort laughter. I was a single step away from guffawing ‘but it’s soooo true’ myself….

And then the course of the evening swerved dramatically; we were told that headliner Simon Brodkin had still not arrived. And thus the battle against comedy meltdown commenced…The dangerous task of keeping the audience placated fell into the capable hands of Ed Gamble. His lethal weapon in combating the big chill you ask? One word: Gambletron. This was a fantastically unexpected addition to the evening, and with improvised chat-show type contributions from Charlie Reams, Keith Akushie and Ed Gamble in the driver’s seat, the evening was saved from being buried in a humourless graveyard.

So, what of Simon Brodkin? Well his performance was well worth the wait, his set of three character sketches ensuring that the evening did end on the ‘hilarious cloud nine’ that it deserved. His gap year aficionado TV host was my particular favourite, his prepared interjections from the audience (the studio dudes) on current issues inspired in the middle class mediocrity they represented. Amongst his menagerie were also scouse premier league striker Jason Bent (promoting his autobiography “Jason Bent is Totally Bent”) with Ed Gamble once more slipping into the skin of the interviewer. Finally the ever popular figure of the Chav, which unfortunately was cut short before it came to its rightful conclusion.

My penchant for the Howler is no secret; just have a flick through the other gushing reviews. Of all the comedy events I’ve been to in Cambridge, the Howler always comes out on top, and to be honest it’s worth it just to witness Ed Gamble. I do indeed love the way he is so funny and stuff. 

Editor's Notes

Unlike Sophie, this is only the second time I've been to the Howler but I'd say I'm already pretty in love with it. Sophie and I tried to sit three rows back but Ed Gamble and Aslan (another Howler character) seized upon us before the set began and made us sit in the front row. Fortunately for us there were some overconfident Mathmos and a truly bizarre visiting Fellow from New Zealand along with his seemingly mentally ill wife to distract Mr Gamble, and so we received affectionate ribbing rather than the full blown face fucking he can deliver at will. He even gave me a high five at one point. Gamble is really deserving of making it big and is certainly the most natural performer I've seen in Cambridge. At the very least he deserves a late night BBC3 show that, after too much tampering with by executives, doesn't really translate his humour very well and will subsequently see him doubting his self-worth as he gets eviscerated by the broadsheets on a weekly basis.

Anyway all the other acts were fantastic as well and were surprisingly varied. Despite being progressive in about every area of life, I'm incredibly misogynist when it comes to comedy and so was a little worried when I found out Grace Rigg (someone I know well enough not to slag off in an online Red Top) was ending the set of student comics. Of course I was totally fucking wrong, and her monologues were so amazingly good it makes me think that actually women are possibly better than men at monologues (Joyce Grenfell probably already having proved this) even if I still think that men hold the stand-up crown.

Go to the Wolfson Howler is basically what I'm saying. It seems to be the comedian's comedy show and most importantly isn't guilty of pulling its punches. The fact that the founder now works at Avalon means they get some fucking great professional acts as well. As Ed would say: 'Go that.'