Live Review: Balham Comedy Festival Comedy Contest, The Bedford

It is a truth universally acknowledged – among stand-ups anyway – that you can’t have too many comedy competitions. They get you noticed and push your profile up and may even earn you some money. Last week’s English Comedian of the Year winner picked up cash and a trip to Australia. Last night’s winner won a paid spot at the Bedford pub in Balham. Not quite in the same league perhaps but still a significant step in a comedy career. 

First up was Jason Patterson, who was an easy going local comic with a relaxed manner and an engaging personality. After a slow start which generated a few polite laughs his set picked up pace as he chatted about life in general. He had a nice routine about being an unusually young uncle because so many of his friends had become fathers in their teens, but there was not really enough here yet to make him stand out.

Second up was Lea Rose Emery, who bounded onstage and was certainly not short of energy. Emery is American but UK-based which should have given her an interesting angle on life, but again, this was fairly generic observational humour which occasionally sprang to life. Emery was very amiable though – just on the right side of kooky – and a bit more consistency in the writing and she could do much better in the future.

There was no problem with Ben Clover’s writing. While he was not the most high voltage act on the bill his deadpan take on the world still generated the most laughs on the night. At times I thought he should maybe take a back seat from performing and write for others – his musings on the 'mustn’t grumble' attitude of the English would work well for Bill Bailey, for instance – but gradually his own distinctive personality started to shine through. And he also had some good off-the-cuff banter with the crowd which showed that he could think on his feet. The judges had no hesitation in awarding him first prize.

Clover was a tough act to follow and Adam Greene struggled at the start with a gag about moving to a posh block of flats. But then it turned out that this was part of a much cleverer running gag that peppered his set. Callbacks and Stewart Lee-style mid-set deconstructions of his material and the audience’s response to it made this easily the most interesting act of the evening if not the funniest. Greene is definitely somebody to keep tabs on, even if the tragic jilted lover aspect of his persona had slightly too many echoes of  Nick Helm about it. 

Review continues here.

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