PHOEBE LUCKHURST is left feeling dissatisfied and slightly used as Corpus loses its smoker virginity.
Corpus Playroom, 11th October, 9.30pm, £5-6
Compèred by Pierre Novellie
The Corpus Smoker was apologetic.
Within moments of his arrival on stage, Pierre Novellie had shrugged off a spattering of initial chuckles with, ‘it bodes well that that impresses you’. This is a construct so hackneyed it has even featured in a scene from Friends, and it’s a sex scene. I therefore had the uncomfortable experience of feeling like we were about to have sitcom sex.
Performers entwined fingers in hirsute mops in a painful manner that reminded me of my younger sister apologising abashedly for dropping my copy of Harry Potter Four in the bath: begging forgiveness for their existence. It’s not my fault they were performing, just like it isn’t my fault Molly is a ham-fisted cow who‘ll be paying for HP‘s replacement for the next decade until Mum and Dad up her pocket money to more than a pound a year.
Lennard’s delivery, if not his mannerisms, were relatively smooth. He clearly had confidence in his material; it was confidence in his ability to perform it that was lacking. He was often at his funniest when he lapsed into the unrehearsed and quipped glibly off-pat. His material on what is apparently the “most middle-class product ever invented”, the Waitrose condom (reality of product to be ascertained), was very funny (‘Two flavours – guilt and shame’). Although elements of his set were comedy-by-numbers – a racist joke, a sexist joke – his extended pieces were strong.
Shah tried vainly – and at length – to foster a dialogue with an attractive blonde in the front row; unsurprisingly bemused, she was politely unreceptive. That was a mistake. His repetition ad absurdum of ‘CTRL+W’ (his was a sketch about computers) reminded me of the recurrent Family Guy scene in which Peter smacks his porky shin against an inanimate object and moans again and again and again and again until you laugh because if you don’t you will just cry and just switch to American Dad forever and be done with it. But his meditations on internet pornography and Jeff Goldblum were well-received.
Ultimately, sketches fell to hollow chuckles or provoked almost disproportionate amusement in a jittery Week One audience, although Chris O’Donnell was excellent, certainly the best performer; his eulogy for his cat, ‘Richard and Judy’, was highly original – an element rather lacking in this smoker – and genuinely hilarious. His affected bad grammar enhanced his act rather than irritating the audience. Katie Bulmer’s poem about her relationship with two men, her boyfriend and William Shakespeare, dripped with puns, exacting groans and laughs in equal measure.
It was an unreliable evening: I enjoyed elements (O‘Donnell, largely), others rather bored me. On leaving, I lacked any strong passions either way, hardly an effusive sell.
This review was edited on October 14th to clarify that rather than stealing a joke from Friends Pierre Novellie used a well-worn construct that has also featured in Friends. Apologies for any confusion there.