Corpus Smoker

The last Smoker of term serves up a healthy portion of belly laughs and splits the sides of HUGO JONES.

Corpus Playroom Corpus Smoker Hugo Jones John Gallagher nick ricketts Oliver Marsh Pierre Novellie

Corpus Playrooms, Monday 14th March, 9.30pm, £5-6

[Rating: 4/5]

With the end of term lugging its ungainly form over the horizon there is a definite feeling of lethargy in the air. The UL seems too far away from bed to bother and worryingly so does your desk. Into this apathetic bubble bravely stepped Pierre Novellie and his assorted collection of sketch-artists, musicians and stand-ups to laugh away those ‘nearly-there’ blues.

A couple of regulars to the Cambridge comedy scene ensured a solid foundation for some of the newer or less well-know acts, with Novellie as competent and funny as always. His sociable but slightly odd persona means you never know quite what to expect, but you can be sure that it is going to be original and belly-tickling. As a presumably new stage-crew got to grips with the lighting-rig during his first set there was ample opportunity to see how well he worked on his feet.

The supporting acts all performed well, though some were undeniably stronger than others and all paled in comparison to the unusually high standard displayed further up the bill. A trio of fresher sketch-artists had some clever ideas with an apologetic serial-killer and a school-child posing as an internet paedophile. Had their acting been to the same level they would have brought the house down, but it missed the bar by just a few inches. It was a similar story for the musical comedian, mistakenly introduced as the headline act by Novellie in a rare slip of the tongue. His material on pop-song clichés and children’s books was good, but needed the support of a slightly more confident and assured performance.

Footlight’s comic Nick Ricketts provided a welcome monologue as ‘Jeremy Cabbagepatch’; a man obsessed with ensuring that the nation got its five-a-day even if only in the form of eggs, “the fruit of a chicken”. Ricketts utilised his trademark frenzied flair, which was lacking from his recent performance in Odds. At his best, Ricketts fizzes across the stage spitting out gobbets of comic gold like a benign Charlie Sheen struggling to open a jam jar. Equally good, though less polished, were stand-ups Oliver Marsh and ‘Zoe’. Marsh’s humour was very much Cambridge-centric, but somehow avoided clichés. Zoe’s self-critical musings – her mother apparently compared her to “a small garden gnome who found himself startled to be at a rave” – largely made up for a few slips in her act.

The real star of the show was the beaming Irish comic, John Gallagher. The constant smile on his face rendered him vaguely reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat on a Prozac high. His level of stage confidence is one which few Cambridge comics can match and was backed up with some genuinely side-splitting material. It is not often that a set ranges from Mossad to erotic novels and even rarer that it manages to squeeze in a complex debate as to the relative merits of ‘Lego’ and ‘Duplo’ en route. In case you were wondering, Lego is king, Duplo is “like a special-needs teacher in a box”, but both are better than the monstrosity that is ‘Playmobile’.

The Corpus Smoker is always a good bet on a Monday evening and this week was no different. If you get the chance, check one out next term; you won’t be disappointed.