Botley Road’s flood defences and driving rain failed to stem the tide of avid comedy fans who packed the Glee Club on Saturday night. It was an exceptional line-up of live and TV talent.
Compere Australian/ Scotsman Ro Campbell kicked things off by trawling the audience for exotic nationals. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not undercover from immigration’, he told a tall man from Kazakhstan. ‘Where’s your mankini?’ Campbell roared. The insults flowed. ‘Anyway,’ Campbell concluded. ‘You haven’t told us what you’re studying.’ ‘International relations’, the man replied.
The first act, Roger Monkhouse, looked strangely incongruous, with his grey suit and shiny bald head – like a bank manager who’d taken a wrong turn, and he knew it. ‘You look like a thumb’, Monkhouse reported being told. He did. You could see the similarity at once.
Moving edgily around the stage, Monkhouse roamed from insulting the Scots, who, post-independence, would be ‘climbing over Hadrian’s Wall like Mexicans’, to driving a white Fiat Uno with the Duke of Edinburgh in the passenger seat ‘shouting directions’. Even Diana, it seems, is now the subject of stand-up. Monkhouse mocked the audience’s disapproval.
Ben Norris’ set had less swearing and more domesticity. As the father of triplets, he had plenty of imaginative material. Norris was irked by the cost of young childrens’ shoes: ‘they’re not full size – only a model of a shoe; and they’re made by children – they should be cheaper,’ he protested. Norris’ story about the service provided by the newly privatised Royal Mail was hilarious. If only it wasn’t so accurate.
After Ro Campbell had silenced a heckler with a look of ‘psychotic intensity’, Paul Tonkinson made his appearance, with a good deal of face pulling, mimicry and physical clowning. He was exceptional – confidently sparring with the audience, juggling a clutch of stories – never letting one crash-land. Each was grounded in simple observation, but in Tonkinson’s hands, soared with surreal and comic invention. The audience roared their approval.
It was a grand night.