Monday, October 13, 2014

Comedian Factor

It's Saturday night, the deep voiced guy is really going for it. We've been waiting all year for this.

The final. A number of lucky winners have been hand picked from months of scrupulous searching through the tedious masses of hopefuls. Now, here we are. Here they are. The judges are lined up, their familiar faces shining out from behind the tooth glare and layers of foundation.

There's the industry mogul, famously rude and cruel but undeniably successful. No one could argue with the way his career panned out and even those without a pleasant word to say about the scowling gentleman on the end would jump at half the chance to work with him. It's Don Ward, ladies and gentlemen. As I live and breathe.

Next to him is the hugely successful vision of what each of our hopefuls are dying to become. She's beaten the odds to become the well presented face of up and coming clever, vivacious, hugely popular comedy. A hit with both men and women alike, she looks great, sounds even better and is there to offer insight as someone who's actually done it. Katherine Ryan is ready for action.

Next to Katherine we have the one with nothing to lose. He made it big in the 90s and is ready to criticise his way through the next generation with the acid tongue of someone who just couldn't give a fuck any more. Obviously, a nice boost to his own career wouldn't go amiss so there'll be an attempt to keep the crowd onside but this savvy comedian knows how to occupy the screen. Peter Kay is chomping at the bit, asides prepared and experience dripping from every pore.

Lastly, it's the industry figure that everybody knows and can't help but love in a shambolic fashion. He's been around as long as anyone can remember and is, how shall we say it, a character on the scene. He's certainly been successful, no one can argue that, but how that success has come about might evade some people's memory. A cheery, smily, comedy obsessed face reveals Martin Besserman as our final judge.

We're ready to go.

The first act is up. Belting out a string of carefully traced jokes about their shitty home town. There's an original spin to one or two of them but it looks as though's she's lost the interest of Katherine Ryan who seems to have been hoping for something more exciting. The rhythm is there, the timing is excellent - no one watching at home could argue with the professionalism of the delivery of this act.

Don is bowled over - he loves it. He knows a steady routine when he sees one and this is the sort of thing that would go down a storm at a big weekend club. He's smiling from ear to ear and this girl looks as though she might just have a future in comedy. Peter is scathing at best. He's completely unimpressed by the audacity of the act to come up armed with nothing better than jokes about being from somewhere - don't they have an original bone in their body? Not a yes from Peter.

Joel Dommett is thanking the act and sending on her on her way, relieved and exhilarated, back into the dressing room. He's introducing the next act.

This guy has clearly done his research. Research of one particular inimitable act. The jokes come slow and incoherent, repetition is a key feature. The only feature. Repetition is the only feature. They key feature? Repetition. Rhetorical questions and overusing his own name come naturally to this rookie and he laconically drips lists and concepts onto the stage with seemingly absolute no interest in how he's being perceived. He finishes up his set and Joel shuffles awkwardly on set to firm him up.

Katherine is first to speak.

"I could see what you were trying to do..." she begins kindly. She has positive words for him but she can't hide the disappointment. No amount of constructive criticism can make up for a silent audience... but you can still go home and claim they just didn't "get you". Don't you worry.

Martin loved it. Something weird, something wacky... "Well done!" he enthuses sincerely. "I'd book you for my London club any time. I loved it. You're something different and that's what the circuit needs."

"Don't be ridiculous." chimes in Don, "What works works for a reason, because it works. And this, didn't work. Sorry but you need jokes, you need a certain punchline rate, you need observations, you need punch. You, had none of that."

Peter says something irrelevant that makes the crowd laugh and we're off onto the next act.

The next act looks the party. He's all bouffant hair and skinny jeans. A red chequered shirt that the stylists have picked straight off of BBC3. He's personable, smily and great company for his brief spell. Lad culture, am I alpha enough, why do women want a real man not a weakling like me, I can't get a girl, I'm a geek and I'm camp. He covers it all. He's sewing together "honestly true" stories from his ramshackle life with terrible puns that he cajoles the audience into laughing at. They are loving it. He's just handsome enough to be handsome without being handsome. He's every agents dream.

The judges are unanimous. He's excellent. He's got panache, he's got style, he's got jokes and he's got persona. What a guy. He will fit right in with all the other exact replicas currently lining the charts. Money signs are lighting up behind the judges' eyes. It's going to be a tough act to follow.

Luckily, the next act doesn't seem to be trying that hard to go any further than infamy. The last of our four finalists has a few American influences and he traipses them across the boards without a second thought for the careful touch that his idols used to scatter them. He hammers home cancer punchlines and flips the concept of rape up in the air like a February pancake. The audience make no more noise than a few extremely uncomfortable titters and eventually the camera pans round to Katherine just miming the word "stop". He ploughs on regardless, mining the deep well of baby death comedy between a lighter section on a particularly racist grandparent that, oh no wait, has actually turned out to be dead now anyway so don't worry. The set comes to an abrupt end as the act stabs someone on a bus and Joel tries his best to be professional without in any way condoning anything the act had to say and landing his own career in scalding water.

The judges don't know where to begin. Peter shakes his head in despair, "How could you take something as fluffy as comedy and do that to it?" he asks. "It's like you took the ingredients for a greta cake and just shat on them instead of baking." The audience muster a low laugh but they're too shell shocked to react properly. We move on.

Katherine asks the act politely to go back to being an estate agent. Martin is not impressed and consequently only offers him a spot at his Thursday night show. Don, well Don is thinking.

"You actually don't have no joke writing skill." He concedes, "But what you lack is any kind of respect for you audience or skill at reading a room. I wouldn't be surprised if you got somewhere but you've got a long way to go yet."

Joel ushers him to one side and brings the four finalists into line on the stage. They stand, nervous. There are clearly only two in the running. The girl from a shit hole and the lad with masculinity issues... who is it going to be...?


He had it all... the hair, the teeth, the jokes, the smoothness, the twinkle in his eye and ability to turn his hand to any panel show that needs a jocular guy to sit next to the other ones. Well done lad. You're the king of comedy for a year. Wear that crown with pride.

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