Mishka Shubaly straps on an electric guitar and starts his set by telling us he’s American; he’s 39 (he tells us that a lot); he lives in a caravan in his sister’s garden; he doesn’t like work and hopes the world will give him a living without his having to contribute much. Right. Then he plays some songs, rather too loud, but not too well: the songs all bleak dirges about women he has or hasn’t fucked, and drugs he has or hasn’t taken. Seemingly, women only feature in his world as prospects for a fuck, and not much else. Actually, not anything else. This is what you might call post-Lenny Bruce memorial comedy; the idea that talking about drugs, sex and degradation is of itself entertainment. In Lenny’s day it was an important and courageous breaking of taboos, and Lenny had an underlying warmth and concern for humanity that isn’t much in evidence here. Shubaly’s only schtick is self-pity and an avowedly immature desire for attention. Why he chooses at one point to sing ‘Willing’, the old Lowell George truck driving song, and change just a few of the words, mainly just the names of drugs; and what that has to do with comedy, remains a mystery. His last song, an agonised eulogy to the drugs and alcohol he says he stopped using seven years ago, is even more odd – what I believe is called in the business a ‘dry drunkalogue’; and he finishes with yet another appeal for suitably immature women who might want to have sex with him. To be fair, he does fit in some self-deprecatory gags now and then, though they are few and far between; and his audience is generous with applause. It’s not for everyone, but if the Dark Side is what floats your boat, then Mishka is your man.

** – 2 stars

Glenn Wool is a comedian with a larger-than-life persona, who hits the stage full-on and takes no prisoners, starting with telling us shoutily how he’s back here (He’s Canadian.) after not making it in Hollywood. This is someone who can tackle any subject, however seemingly dark, and wring tear-inducing belly laughs from it. Politics, sex, religion, whatever. Paedophilia, he can do jokes about that, hysterical jokes, without its being tasteless. There’s an anecdote about telling gags at a heavy metal awards ceremony that the organisers thought would offend even heavy metallers. What? All this with a huge vocal range from wheedlingly soft to a bellow that would daunt Brian Blessed, and a range of facial expressions to match. But his timing and control of all this is exquisite, and every vocal tic, every grimace, every stare counts. There is not a moment when he is not funny; he can even explain a joke, classically the death knell of comedy, and make that funny! Audience interruptions, dropped glasses, cause not a missed beat. This man is a comic to his fingertips, his style unique, his command effortless; and despite the high-volume attack, always warm and likeable. Masterful.

***** – 5 Stars

                                                                                         John Christopher Wood