Corpus Smoker

KIKI BETTS-DEAN desperately searches for synonyms of “average”

Ali Lewis average Ben Pope Comedy Corpus Christi Corpus Playrooms Corpus Smoker funny John Bailey Pierre Novellie

Corpus Playroom, 23rd January, 9.30pm, £5-6

[rating: 2/5]

Smokers are often hit-and-miss. Irritatingly, the Corpus Smoker on Monday night was neither. I laughed a bit, cringed a bit, and vaguely wondered how I’d find enough synonyms for ‘average’ to fill a whole article.

The evening began well enough. Veteran compère Pierre Novellie soon had the audience guffawing with his comparison of feudal lords to children in aeroplane seats. In fact his sections were some of my favourites of the show. His comfortable charm provided respite from the awkwardness of the other performers, some of whom looked about as comfortable as a Mathmo in a social situation.

The first performer, John Bailey, was visibly nervous. Although some of his jokes were funny his demeanour was so apologetic that, rather than laugh, I really just wanted to give him a cup of tea and a hug and tell him not to worry – probably not the reaction he was aiming for.  Annoyingly this sheepish self-consciousness was characteristic of most of the performers.

The show was almost entirely devoid of variety. I found it difficult to tell the performers apart – each denim-clad navel-gazer was as moderately funny as the next. The one character performance, an assembly presentation on ‘Murder Day’ by Michael from Class 5A, was well-conceived but too poorly executed to rescue the evening from the depths of mediocrity.

Yet my enjoyment of the show increased as my expectations plummeted. As Mrs. Eggleston, my Year Eight science teacher, so wisely said; all things are relative. Thus any joke that didn’t fall flat automatically became utterly hilarious. I had come to laugh and laugh I damn well would. So much so that when one performer asked why porn was never classed as a feel-good movie, I screeched like a maniacal hyena.

Rookie comic Ben Pope was a genuine highlight, not least for bringing the word ‘fucklump’ to my vocabulary. Yet his constant self-deprecation became annoying, mostly because it was unnecessary. He was actually very funny. Ali Lewis, on the other hand, could have done with a little of Ben’s self-doubt. This might have mercifully stopped him from talking about his own good looks, without a hint of irony, for a significant proportion of his set. (For the record, his looks were average, his jokes were average, his set was average. AVERAGE!)

So should you fork out a fiver for the next Corpus Smoker in two weeks’ time? Sure. If you want. Or don’t. I really don’t mind. Until this evening I never knew one could feel indifferent with such passion.