Leicester Square Theatre New Comedian Of The Year Final Review

Leicester Square Theatre New Comedian Of The Year Final – Results

Apologies for this review running late. I was particularly busy after being one of the judges of this final, but having recently spoken to the organiser i decided I say a few things about the acts at this year's Leicester Square Theatre New Comedian Of The Year Final.

As I've noted on another recent review, the standard in comedy finals these days is incredibly high. While it's prestigious to win, even just making it to a final should give your career as well as your confidence a boost. There were 14 acts in this final and while none might reach Michael McIntyre levels of fame/pulling power, pretty much all of them – to a degree – have the ability and chops to carve out a career in comedy.

First onstage was Kathleen Hughes, who set the tone for the evening with a short set that mixed smutty dick-sucking banter with something a little cleverer bubbling under the surface. There were nuggets of pithy humour here and a confident brisk delivery that suggests Hughes has the potential to get better and go further.

Maria Fedulova certainly had a striking origin story. If you can't find the humour in being a refugee and coming from a Russian mafia family you might as well give up now, but Fedulova had a natural ease onstage and plenty to say about her background. If anything she maybe suffered from having too much to say in too short a time. A full length Edinburgh show must surely beckon, assuming this is all true and she's not a character act. 

Next act Riggs stood out mainly for his single name but also for his style. He simply came on and fired out gags at the crowd without seeming to have given too much thought to structure. Occasionally he span off into something warmly surreal, occasionally he came up with something more relatable, such as being a northern fish out of water living in Brighton. There were laughs, but he didn't quite connect enough on the night.

Bespectacled Sallyann Fellows, by contrast, comnected with the crowd very quickly, even if in her dungarees and brightly coloured top she looked ominously like a children's TV presenter beamed in from the 1970s. Her style is slightly kooky and oddball, which could have been cheesy, but there was plenty of originality too - she comes from Cornwall, is neurodivergent and queer so was certainly not short of subject matter. She also had a lot of charm, and don't underestimate the power of charm - along with her gags it helped her to win the top prize on the night. 

Hugh Peacocke had a doozy of an opening line after he was introduced by compere Mick Ferry and pointed out how the greyer, stouter Ferry might be his long lost dad. It's always impressive when a newbie can think on his feet under stress and Peacocke confirmed suspicions that he was good by having strong material about dating and relationships to back up his ad lib and picked up third prize.

Maple Zuo was another new act to me but one that felt like another fully formed comedian, with a back story about being a lesbian with a strict mother and some tart observations about her Chinese background and oriental cuinsine. Another finalist that was well liked and could have easily been placed on a different night.

Last act of the first half was something different for this night but also something that has been done with more style before. JR (Jonathan Rippon) specialises in show tunes with retooled lyrics. And retooled is the right word here as his revisions usually involved smutty innuendo. It's the sort of act that would be crowdpleasing in a Saturday night club setting, less effective in a competition and he was probably liked more by the audience than the judges.

Review continues here.


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