Corpus Smoker

HANNAH MIRSKY reckons this smoker got the job done quite nicely.

Ben Pope Corpus Smoker hannah mirsky parkinsons

Corpus Playroom, 9.30 PM, May 5th, £7/6.

Sometimes you just want to watch a bit of nice, easy comedy: an episode of Friends or some Russell Howard. Something that will make you giggle without rocking the boat or making you think too hard. That’s what this Corpus Smoker was like. There was nothing too startling or new, but the comedians were talented performers, and it was difficult not to laugh while watching them.

Awkwardness, that staple of stand-up, was something of a theme in the evening’s performances. Jamie Fraser described that instantly recognisable situation where you have to make awkward small talk with someone you sort-of know – though he comes across as a little too confident t have too many difficulties at these moments. Tom Fraser’s (no relation, I think) delivery was, in contrast, hilariously bumbling, and his list of things to say when someone walks in on you pooing had the audience – including the member he invited onstage – in hysterics.

A performer who stood out from the others was Alex MacKeith, due partly to the fact that he brought a guitar onstage and had the audience sing along with him. His set at times felt a little disjointed, but an extended joke about other people’s social awkwardness worked beautifully, as he discussed how Coldplay is probably an elaborate joke the band played on Chris Martin.

Ellen Robertson, at her first ever stand-up gig, had material that at times felt a little too recognisable, discussing the problems of alcohol and the Mail’s report on Caesarian Sunday. But some smutty jokes (‘Raise your hand if you’re wanking! Raise both hands!’) and confident interactions with the audience meant that she was still great fun to watch.

The two acts that felt a little out of place were Archie Henderson and Adrian Gray doing character comedy. Although each of them made me splutter at times – Gray’s character wrote a script called ‘Sweet Dreams my NHS’, for example – these two sets felt like the hardest work to watch. The second half of Henderson’s set and all of Gray’s revolved around getting the audience to laugh at someone who’s not very bright. ‘Ha-ha-it’s-a-thick-person’humour feels a little cruel at the best of times, and particularly uncomfortable when performed to an audience of Cambridge students. It’s also not easy to think up the slowest character you can, and then manage to make them interesting for an entire comedy set.

To say this show was a mixed bag, however, would be dull, and, more importantly, it wouldn’t be true. It was more like a bag of Revels: there might be some you like more than others, but even the raisins are actually pretty yummy. Ben Pope, as the plastic packaging that held the show together (ie the compere) was a joy to watch, and he also organised this lovely evening to raise money for Parkinsons UK, so please do check out the charity’s website, and donate if you can.