Review: Stay At Home Festival with Robin Ince, Josie Long & Guests

josie long

When the coronavirus hit home last week there was a lot of talk about comedians setting up online gigs as their touring workload dropped off a cliff. As well as Scott Bennett setting up a show in his shed, Robin Ince was one of the first out the blocks, cranking open his contacts book and quickly putting together an entire comedy festival running daily from yesterday. The likes of Jo Brand, Sara Pascoe and Stephen Merchant are lined up imminently, but the first show featured Ince, Josie Long and guests Mark Gatiss, Grace Petrie and George Egg.

The first thing to say is that unlike Bennett's shed show, this is not really a comedy gig. In fact Ince has said following a Guardian review that it is not really reviewable, never mind something to give an Edinburgh-style star rating to. So this isn't really a critical assessment of what went on, it is more a brief guide to what to expect. And a recommendation. God knows we need this combination of intelligence and wit at a time like this.

Two things to note are that most of the shows go out live in the morning at 10am, though there are a few evening events planned, and Long is doing an evening show on March 28 with other comics that will probably be more of a comedy club gig. Also – and I don't know why this came as a surprise to me – the participants are not together, they are all at home doing a virtual round table thing, chatting to each other online. This made for occasional technical glitches during their convos, but nothing that would really spoil your enjoyment. And if you can't watch it live it is available for catch-up on YouTube.

Anyone familiar with Ince's umpteen obsessions and grasshopper style may not be surprised by the subject matter (or the fact that it overran), which covered books and film chat to discussing Peter Wyngarde's wig being auctioned off. The style was something like BBC2's Friday night Late Review, albeit with more emphasis on humour. Ince and Gatiss chatted about dystopian futures and Peter Cushing. Horror fan Gatiss suggested that we should have been ready for the current scenario, after so many films and books on the subject: "We've been workshopping this for years."

Ince also read out some questions sent in and you can submit these each day. Elsewhere anarchic cook George Egg offered advice on post-apocalyptic cuisine, poaching an egg using a wallpaper stripper. And Grace Petrie sangs some strident Billy Braggish comic songs, one about coping with break-ups by taking a leaf out of Princess Elsa's philosophy in Frozen (ask your kids...). 

Interestingly it was only Petrie that commented on the lack of audience applause at the end of her performance, which maybe highlighted the way that this wasn't really a gig. While comedians are the kind of people that need public validation more than anyone else, on this occasion they seemed happy to have the chance to chat and make do with online likes and shares. It's not the same as a standing ovation but then this wasn't the same as a conventional comedy gig.

The full schedule and more info on how to get involved, donate and watch it is here

 

 

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