Review: Rob Delaney, Joe Wilkinson, Zoe Lyons, Fin Taylor – Greenwich Comedy Festival

The Greenwich Comedy Festival always marks the end of summer for me. Kids back at school, getting dark on the way to the gig. In the past it has been coats-on cold inside the cavernous tented venue, but this year a combination of full house, lively acts and maybe some extra heating seemed to deliver the perfect storm of a great night.

Fin Taylor was compere for the opening night and after a month of shows in Edinburgh was certainly match fit, even if he did have initial difficulties recalibrating his mischievous anti-PC political schtick to warm up the crowd. A few gags abut Brexiteers coming into the big city from Kent on their wooden carts seemed to do the trick though and we were off and running

First guest was Zoe Lyons. If you looked up “safe pair of hands” in the dictionary there should be a picture of Lyons. If I said she was a reliable comic that might sound patronising, but it is actually meant as praise. Performing in front of a big audience that hasn’t paid specifically to see you means you’ve got to be very good and Lyons certainly was, with a punchy, energetic – despite her moans about getting older – style and some excellent gags.

The theme of her set was how modern life has become better and worse at the same time. We can send people to the moon, for example, but try getting a train from her home in Brighton to London. Lyons had plenty of skilful gags about relocating to the south coast, a place where they are tolerant about everything except for gluten. And her routine about flies distracting her from her work was observational comedy gold.

After the first of two intervals which must’ve put smiles on the faces of the bar owners and street food vendors Joe Wilkinson lurched on. The comic oddball doesn’t do that many live gigs and by his own admission was a slow starter, but this was all surely a well-crafted ruse to get the audience to tune into his off-kilter wavelength.

Some eccentric acts such as Brian Gittins and Ed Aczel don’t really have that many proper jokes, but Wilkinson had plenty, often with a scatalogical motif - stories about traces of faeces in coffee, dollops of poo on a wedding dress and references to diarrhoea. There is more than a hint of Tim Key about him, from the beard to the scruffy suit to reading things out to the subtle intelligence behind the lines. It’s a shame Wilkinson doesn’t perform live more. He joked that he can’t get on Live at the Apollo but I don’t see why they wouldn’t have him.

The final act of the night and maybe the one who sold the most tickets was the UK-based American co-star of C4 sitcom Catastrophe Rob Delaney, who very quickly had everyone on side, getting a big cheer for expressing his desire to watch Donald Trump die and an even bigger cheer for singing the praises of the NHS. Delaney is very much a committed Anglophile, he even now has a classic British story of the horror of travelling en famille on a train to Cornwall.

Delaney’s set mixed some familiar old material with some very funny new material. His comedy has been darker and more brutal than this in the past but I would not go as far as to say that he is mellowing in middle age. For every endearing story abut accidentally ordering way to much mint tea online there was a brutal anecdote. The highlight was a cringe-making account of meeting Bill Cosby after a Cosby gig. I’d call this a routine but it was pretty much just Delaney telling us what happened. But boy was it funny and boy did it have a delicious last laugh pay-off. 

The Greenwich Comedy Festival runs until September 16. Details here.

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