KIKI BETTS-DEAN narrowly avoids bag-related cliché after seeing another average Corpus Smoker
Corpus Playroom, 6th February, 9.30pm, £5-6
I find it hard to reflect on this evening’s smoker without resorting to a dreaded cliché featuring miscellany and containers for the carrying and transportation of one’s possessions. The show was just extremely varied, both in terms of standard and material and the performers themselves seemed like some overly politically correct advertisement for diversity in Cambridge. There was even a girl!
It was an inauspicious beginning as Pierre Novellie hauled us through the agony of audience participation. The crowd reacted with the stubborn unresponsiveness of a petulant three-year-old and Novellie, whose ramblings are usually characterized by comfortable ease, simply prolonged the awkwardness.The first act didn’t come on until almost twenty minutes into the show, by which time I was seriously contemplating starting a cheeky game of noughts and crosses with my plus one in the dark.
However, Julia Newman soon took to the stage and dispelled my ennui with a collection of funny if forgettable anecdotes. She also managed to avoid either grovelling for the audience’s affection or coming across like a cocky wanker. The next performer Stefan Arridge, however, was deeply, fundamentally awkward. Yet oddly he made this work to his advantage by incorporating it into his act. He revelled in his awkwardness, gloried in it, luxuriated in it, took a nice long hot bath in it. This gave the best moments of his set a pleasantly surreal edge, displaying a level of comedic sophistication not often seen in the Corpus Playroom on a Monday.
But then came the act of doom, the act that single-handedly took a star off the rating. Bhargav Narayanan was simply dire. Some of his jokes were mildly funny but were delivered with so potent an air of smarmy self-congratulation that I sincerely wanted to slap him. I even became offended by his shortness, such was the irrational fury his incompetence inspired in my otherwise kind and generous bosom. A little amateur sleuthing also revealed that his set was virtually unchanged from a gig he did last term at Trinity’s Magpie and Stump show, which was not well-received then either.
Luckily, Footlights big dog Phil Wang was on hand to make everything better again. From his comparison of the Corpus Playroom with ‘one of the shit pieces from tetris’ to his admission that he didn’t want to go on a gap year for fear of finding out what an arse he really was, Wang’s set was simply hilarious; definitely the evening’s highlight.
Much like a high quality whorehouse, this smoker catered to all tastes and preferences. Wang’s poo jokes had the six-year-olds among us in hysterics, while Novellie’s references to the Byzantine empire tickled the fancy of those in the audience who actually deserve to grace these hallowed halls of learning. It was an enjoyable evening and we got what we came for – a good, hearty lol.