This is the final act of Comedy Festival 2016, featuring the ten finalists, whittled down from hundreds of applicants, in this year’s competition to find the best of comedy talent that isn’t yet famous, but ought to be. And, pleasingly, the line-up this time is 6:4 majority female. A first. It is hosted by the amiably voluble Geoff Whiting, who continues his banter with audience members, not just before and after the competition, and at the intervals; but between every act. Give it a rest, Geoff. Especially when nervous contestants are waiting for you to shut up before they can get on stage. I digress.
The standard of performances is very high: particularly worthy of mention are cheeky singer/songwriter Tamar Broadbent on keyboard, and her dirty but delightful ditties, delivered with devastating dexterity (enough alliteration, now. Ed.); Maggy Whitehouse, a vicar (yes, you heard right) who does a totally accomplished, wry and witty routine on the difficulties of religion, that would probably have got her burned at the stake 400 years ago. Though, of course, they wouldn’t have let her be a vicar then; and Cally Beaton, whose confident, feisty stuff about her autistic son and her difficulties with single motherhood and sex hits exactly the right balance of feminism and funny – very funny. In the end, the winners are: at number three, Faye Treacey and her trombone, and you don’t see many of them in comedy clubs, do you? Highly original, and also informative on the names of famous trombonists. Famous to other trombonists, that is. At number two, Mark Dennett, who gets an unbelievable, and aggressively hilarious, ten-minute routine entirely out of the question of who makes the tea in the office. Brilliant. This year’s winner, though, is Pav, who gives an intellectually thoughtful, though never patronising or preachy take on racism, genocide, social attitudes, and history generally, with a beautifully measured and timed delivery, every wry gag hitting its mark with a devastating accuracy that has the audience roaring. Comedy with brains and brawn. It’s a fitting end to a great festival.
John Christopher Wood