“Hey Baby! Better stop smoking those cigarettes…Baby!”
I love to laugh, which is always a good start when going to watch a comedy show. Paradoxically, I have a mixture of the British reserve that tries to prevent me from laughing out loud in public (I have overcome this flaw as I’ve got older, I’m happy to announce) and the desire to make sure that everyone is having a good time. That includes the performer, who I am so desperate to see do well, whoever they are. So I’m always a little apprehensive about going to see stand-up comedians perform.
Our compère for the evening was the delicious David Morgan, so adorably geeky I wanted to pick him up and take him to work to meet some equally geeky colleagues. He practically opened the show by asking an audience member (a programmer) what his favourite programming software is. He also engaged with various other audience members with ease, and, importantly, was funny while doing so. I’d love to see him performing his own stand-up routine, and kind of want to make him my new gay best friend. He has a cheeky glint in his eye which only adds to his fresh-faced charm.
Both acts for this evening were performing the shows that they are taking to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. My aforementioned apprehension flared up at the thought of untried material falling flat on a Thursday night audience. In Didcot. But I needn’t have worried. Really.
First up we had John Hastings; tall, blond and from Canada. I was won over immediately in a shallow kind of way. When he started by telling us he was born 3-months premature, I wondered where on earth this ‘anecdote’ could be going, and why it would be funny. But it was. He gifted his audience with an acerbic, witty insight into his flaws, his upbringing and his cultural background while weaving his tales of growing up with ADD, having awesome, yet awesomely toxic, blood and a father who used one random quote (see above) to sum up every situation he thought needed it. His delivery was commanding and I found myself being carried along with his storytelling, although the “Hey Baby…” quote was possibly repeated once or twice two often. However, my OCD tendencies found pleasure in the neatness of the way he used it to round up his set.
After the interval, our beautifully cheeky compère noted that we’d all loosened up a bit, having imbibed a couple of (ridiculously over-priced, in my opinion) drinks. So it was with less reserved applause that we greeted to the rather attractive Jimmy McGhie: a self-confessed "posh, privileged, middle-class, white Manchild". There was a sort of juxtaposition of nervousness and arrogance about him, which was quite endearing. Although I knew both comedians were trialling their Edinburgh shows, McGhie was much more open about this, which made me slightly anxious for him as he glanced at his set list and eventually remembered to switch on his voice recorder. I would say there were more gaps between laughs from the audience for his set, but that’s not to say he wasn’t enjoyed. There was some excellent banter with audience members, one in particular who corrected him on a couple of points about Australia, and then apologised for his heckle. But continued to heckle, in a nice way. This was all taken in good humour, and McGhie handled it brilliantly, but I think it threw him from his flow occasionally, which made the set seem a little disjointed. Overall, I really enjoyed his style and delivery, and would love to see his Edinburgh show proper, but I’m not sure about how he ended it – talking about death can be a bit of a downer sometimes. It left me feeling a bit flat as I left the theatre.