Edinburgh Fringe Review: Amused Moose National New Comic Award Final, The Space @ Symposium Hall

The Amused Moose Grand Final in Edinburgh for bigger acts is still to come on Sunday August 20 but first there was this one for relative newbies. And there are a lot of newbies around. Over 500 entries were whittled down to nine finalists and the standard was strong from the very start. Well, almost the very start. 

Sam Whyte had drawn the short straw and had to go first. Even compere Ian “Goole” Smith’s enthusiastic warm-up did not really help. Whyte seemed like a clever comic struggled to get any momentum going. His stories – mostly about being a young, white, single male – were good but did not really contain any laughs until the final punchline and even then the punchlines weren’t great. His strongest routine was about finding himself in an unexpected threesome on a train, which is not as sexy as it sounds. A witty comparison of Brexit and the M&M World shop in London was a nice finish but not really enough. The most memorable thing about Whyte at this early stage in his career is that he looks like a prepubescent Miles Jupp.  

Second up was Rosie Jones, who has been making a bit of a name for herself on the circuit recently. Jones has cerebral palsy but despite the fact that she sometimes struggled to get her words out clearly there was obviously plenty of comic potential as she skilfully discussed her condition and pulled the rug with gags going off at different, unexpected tangents. Jones has a natural wit and friendliness which meant the audience very quickly warmed to her. She was a definite contender for a prize but missed out against some tough opposition.

Rob Oldham looked like your typical twentysomething male comedian and also a bit like a stretched Joe Lycett. But after a so-so gag about the differences in language after meeting Americans on holiday his brisk, enjoyable set quickly went up a gear after he explained that he spent three years at university having to live down the fact that in the first week his classmates mistakenly thought they saw him squash a frog. The set hopped around from subject to subject but each one had a top quality pay-off and there was a very original riff where he recited a poem over some house music. Oldham is clearly good with words although here it was also his subtle geeky dancing that bagged the laughs. It also helped him bag Breakthrough winner. 

It was one those quirks of the random running order that Oldham was followed by Joseph Emslie, who also looked like he had just come out of a twentysomething stand-up sausage machine. His opening description of his hairstyle did not do him any favours, but after a slow start his material improved as he recalled going to the same school as Shakespeare, being a coeliac and being circumcised as an adult. Emslie didn’t make the cut and get a placing but he is definitely a name to keep tabs on. 

The final act of the first half was Jack Gleadow (pictured, by Krissi Lundgren), who used props and took the risk in such a short, important set, of inviting audience members up to help him. And as Sod’s law would have it, the music cues let him down and some of his visual gags missed their mark. But this didn’t seem to matter. The flat-capped rake-thin comic has natural old fashioned funny bones - bopping around the stage or pretending to be one of those inflatables you see outside car dealerships. The audience was clearly on his side. As were the judges. He clearly has star potential and was chosen as winner. The sky is the limit if his music cues play in on time.

Review continues here

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