REVIEW: Newnham Smoker

Freya Harris had a blast at this feel good smoker.

Ahir Shah Comedy Feminism feminist comedy Newnham Smoker Smoker stand up comedy

Last night’s Newnham smoker had a pretty solid set of supporting acts, a blinding headliner, and a semi-adequate audience, whose appearance of being largely of Newhnamites who’d wandered in looking for something to do at the end of term, occasionally lead to a tentativeness of audience response that can slightly drain the energy of show.

Newnham grad student, American and ex-Mormon Callie Vandewiele, the event’s organiser and its MC, was energetic and warm and ideal for the role. Her jokes, often about differences between the US and the UK, were very well written and delivered. Ironically, their only flaw is that the largely British audience don’t quite get the jokes quickly enough, as these differences aren’t different to them. Things that you’ve lived with all your life don’t immediately seem absurd, and before you quite work out how they could be, another joke has begun.

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MC Callie Vandewiele

Ali Warwood’s discussion of the various dynamics of being a pregnant, married lesbian was personal, touching and funny. Six months pregnant and leaving early to work a night-shift as a psychiatric nurse, Ali also added a much-needed dimension of the real-world often unrepresented on the Cambridge comedy scene.

Quintin Langley- Coleman, who has been described in the past as ‘the most Cambridge person you’ll ever meet in Cambridge’, was a high point with his song on lad culture, abundant in witty wordplay and rhyme.

Newnham bar in all its glory.

Newnham bar in all its glory.

Miz Hashimoto’s jokes, while funny in their substance, of competitiveness and of her experiences of being British-Japanese, were often delivered patchily, and an improvement of confidence and pacing would let the jokes deliver the kick they should.

Chris Waugh’s serious, yet full of silliness, examination of a drunken Marx, Bill Clinton on drugs, and how Amazon and ISIS are really not the same things, was varied and very funny and was a good finale to the supporting acts.

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Perfomer Chris Waugh

The headline act, Ahir Shah, full of rage and humour and awe-inspiringly articulate in his moments of furious ranting that were more like performance poetry than stand-up, absolutely smashed the end of the show. Covering a bewildering range and depth of content, from the racism faced by his family in the UK in the 70s, to London’s housing crisis, and his audition for a role in Pirates of the Caribbean, the set nevertheless had its overall theme in the current situation of ISIS, terrorist attacks and radicalisation.  His insights, despite taking the form of comedy, relied on a sociological analysis that would be at home in any lecture hall, and that would make any intellectually desensitised  history student look up from their narrow-lined refill pad to be infiltrated with a genuine interest in the world around them.

Headline act Ahir Shah

Headline act Ahir Shah

His account, added casually into the last few minutes of his set, of fleeing through the streets of Paris in search of his girlfriend on the night of last month’s attacks, was sudden and shocking and drew from the audience far more than they ever expected they were going to get at ten o’clock in Newnham bar on the last night of term. And he somehow managed to make them laugh as well.

Only if one had come to it expecting ‘Cambridge’s only feminist comedy night’ did tonight seem to be somewhat lacking, as its overall feeling was that of male comics and politics, not of women or women’s issues, but it’s undeniably the most woman-friendly of Cambridge’s often male-dominated comedy scene.

A really brilliant night with a captivating finale, and as one of the few Smokers to bring in outside talent, The Newnham Smoker deserves its reputation as one of Cambridge’s best comedy nights

4/5 Stars

Newnham Smoker was also raising money for Survivors UK, a service which works with men who have suffered from sexual assault and violation. Donations can be made to them here.