Jericho Comedy's excellent Stand Up series succeeds once again, but errs on the side of endearing rather than hilarious.
It’s a surprisingly effective formula; you mix a bunch of knowledgeable comedians with a gaggle of funny academics, equip them with a PowerPoint and launch them at a typical Oxford crowd. Cue funny facts, silly songs and some deliciously groan-worthy puns. Jericho Comedy's latest iteration on the theme of history was lighter on the academics and managed to raise a consistent smile, though perhaps less proper guffaws than previously.
Our compère, Alex Farrow, is exactly what you need in this situation; supremely comfortable and very experienced, he manages great non-threatening banter with even the toughest crowd. And for some reason it was a tough crowd. Perhaps the reflected lighting from the large projector screen left us feeling exposed, but right from the start applause and laughter was oddly hesitant. To his credit, Farrow, displaying the professionalism that can only come with experience, never faltered despite not getting fulsome response his gags normally would do.
First up was the delightfully energetic Ted Hall. Bouncy and smiling, Hall galloped us through a gag-rich list of choice American presidents. Relying heavily on his slide deck was no bad thing as Hall had clearly put plenty of thought and time into how they mixed with his delivery. Good early pace and consistent laughs were just slightly let down at the end though by two elements that perhaps went on a touch long after we had already ‘got it’. With a touch of tightening it would have been gold.
The equally delightful and energetic Bec Hill was up next. Self-described as ‘not an edgy comedian’, Hill was the epitome of adorable on stage. Her main shtick centred on a lovingly handcrafted interactive flipchart, used to intentionally misinterpret things to amusing effect. It’s kind of hard to describe but well worth looking up on YouTube. Though funny, as with Ted Hall, the set perhaps needed to be snappier, meaning the experience was highly amusing rather than utterly hilarious.
After the break we were treated to Daniel Roberts’ tour through all of history in 15 minutes. Roberts fully crammed his set with gag after gag, finally revving up the audience into high gear. Witty, pacey and very funny, Roberts’ well prepared set did what all good sets do: delivered loads of material with great callbacks. His slides were fully thought through but not utterly relied upon, and his delivery was high-energy and jovial without straying into breathlessness. If Robert’s hour long version is anywhere near as good as this short one was it’s going to be time well spent indeed.
Finishing off the night was Katie Prichard. Though friendly and excitable, Prichard had a bit of a slow start to her set. Leading with a Roman themed an alternate word version of Lip Bizkit’s Rolling (Rollin’? Roman? Geddit?), it felt like the gag went on two verses too long. However, as Prichard took on other other more ‘singy’ songs like Bonnie Tyler’s Hero, she was able rely on her simply excellent voice to lift mood and bring the parody, ending the night on a high.
All in all it was a good night - I had some laughs, I heard some songs, I even learned a fact or two. The balance this time was very much towards the comedy rather than history, which perhaps meant it didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of greatness the other shows in the series have - I’m still going to go to the next one though.