Laughs in the Park 2011

On Sunday I ventured out of the safety of London to the wilderness of St Albans to attend the second annual Laughs in the Park. The event is touted as the Woodstock of comedy, and is headed in the right direction now that a second stage, BBC Comedy Presents, has been added to showcase new talent before the main show began. Sitting on the grass in the sun, sipping a cider and watching a range of comedic styles it was easy to imagine the event growing over the years, with stages dedicated to different comedy styles, maybe one with a dedicated open mic, and a huge camp site filled with comedy fans. With Izzard involved anything is possible.

Liam Williams
liam williamsWilliams was an odd choice to open up the BBC Comedy Presents Stage, with a deliberately awkward style that clashed with the vibrant atmosphere demanded by outdoor comedy. Everyone was a little too relaxed to get behind an equally relaxed performance. Not without his moments Williams may have been better received with a more thoroughly warmed up crowd.

Adam Riches
Easily the highlight of the smaller stage Riches bounded on with enough energy to engage the hot and apathetic crowd, without even making it on-stage for the majority of his act. Declaring himself to be Daniel Day-Lewis, Riches launched into a lesson on smacting (acting with a smoke machine) which left our little group in stitches. For once an act relying on audience participation didn’t ask anyone what their job was. If Adam Riches does a gig near me, I’m there.

Alex Horne
You may recognise him from We Need Answers on BBC Four… but probably not, it’s on BBC Four. Horne gave a deliberately lacklustre performance lacking more lustre than Williams. After the joy of Riches it was a little deflating, and as before comedy which might work in a club in the evening fell flat, out in the fields of St Albans. Nice to see a variety of comedy styles, though understandably there will be a few misses.

Kerry Godliman
Bringing a more upbeat and sunny vibe back to the stage Godliman was warmly received. Not necessarily ground-breaking in her comedy style but by this point we were grateful to have someone giving us actual jokes to laugh at. Her upbeat attitude and simple, funny style was perfect for a crowd lounging in the sun.

Angelos Epithemiou

Renton Skinner brings his character from Shooting Stars to the stage in a decidedly awkward routine. Most of the audience didn’t really know how to take his bumbling, possibly mentally challenged persona as he worked his way through a handful of jokes, a trick or two and showed us what was in his bag before stripping down to a lycra body suit. I’m a fan of his awkward comedy but it wasn’t hard to notice that not everyone stayed to see him through to the end.

Jarred Christmas
Holding the two hours on the BBC Comedy Presents Stage together was Christmas, a joyous Kiwi comedian with so much enthusiasm he could pick up the audience after the flattest of performances. I’ve only ever seen Christmas MC-ing event but would love to see him do a full set someday soon. I’ve never laughed so much at repeated references to brioche, perfect for a bunch of middle class people in a field drinking Pimms and cider.

Tommy Tiernan
A big name comic in his native Ireland, Tiernan is relatively unknown in England but that could be about to change. Tiernan was a revelation, a foul-mouthed, controversial and surprisingly energetic revelation. With graphic references to sex, Downs syndrome and religion Tiernan practically shouted his routine while pulling a bizarre array of shapes. Tiernan has the confidence of a seasoned performer but the unfamiliar edge of a new talent. He’s welcome back any time.

Eddie Izzard
Izzard was on top form performing a shortened version of his Stripped tour, the DVD of which I had mistakenly watched the night before. Having performed the same material at last years show it would have been nice to hear something new but with Izzard it doesn’t matter how often to hear his jokes they never fail to make my face ache from laughing too much. The sun having set and cold setting in, the crowd could not have been more delighted by Izzard’s set as we all laughed and cheered raucously, for the majority the familiarity of the material only helped the enjoyment though a few grumbles could be heard.

Ross Noble
MC-ing on the main stage it was a surprise that Noble didn’t get a full set of his own so thankfully he prolonged his interstitial sessions on-stage and a pre-show double act with Izzard was a personal highlight. Before seeing him live I was a Ross Noble sceptic but his energy and enthusiasm was irresistible. Hopefully if he returns in later years he’ll be allowed to perform a full set as Noble is a real talent.

Laughs in the Park 2011 was a great day out and I whole-heartedly recommend you all go next year. We got over 5 hours of comedy outdoors on a gorgeous day, all topped off with fireworks. Beautiful.

Footage from the weekend will be shown on the BBC at some point. How’s that for journalism?

Ricky Gervais Live IV Science – DVD Review

Let me set the scene here so this doesn’t come off as a Ricky Gervais bashing post; I enjoyed The Office, Extras, Cemetery Junction and his first two stand-ups. I though Fame was lazy and a bit dull though and while Science is an improvement, it’s still a bit haphazard.

For a start the title didn’t really relate to any of the material, a small niggle but an indication of the lack of effort put into the material. The majority of the performance was made up of his own self-praise, trying to solve fat people and the mocking of the story of Noah which Eddie Izzard did so much better.

I’m not saying I didn’t laugh, Gervais did have some good material in there but it was far too casual an affair. There was a lot of him saying offensive things then saying “I’m joking” and defending himself against anyone who might have been offended. Only no one was, they were all laughing making Gervais look mildy schizophrenic as he argued with no one onstage.

The DVD extras include a brief “documentary” of Ricky Gervais in New York and two lengthy clip with Karl Pilkington which were much better than the stand-up.

If you’re not put off, Ricky Gervais Live IV – Science is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Casting Couch #1

Welcome to the casting couch, have a seat. Don’t mind that, just move it to one side and pretend it wasn’t there. Now what part was it you wanted? Your hair looks nice.

Emma Stone/Mia Wasikowska for Spiderman
The Spiderman reboot has been getting more and more exciting with Marc Webb and then Andrew Garfield becoming attached. Now we might get Mia Wasikowska or even better Emma Stone as the female lead. This must happen.

Chloe Moretz is Emily the Strange
I’ve never read the comic Emily the Strange but this is Chloe Moretz we’re talking about. Of course it’s exciting.

Christopher Nolan has Shortlist of Directors for Superman
Since Nolan was given the power to guide Superman back to movie glory we haven’t heard much until now. Rumour has it he has a shortlist of five directors to helm the franchise. They are Zack Snyder, Duncan Jones, Matt Reeves, Tony Scott and Jonathan Liebesman. Any of the first three please!

In other news: There may well be a new 3D version of Day of the Triffids in the works. Can’t be any worse than the BBC’s attempt, apart from Izzard’s bits that is. He was great.

Izzard Returns to TV

After The Riches was cancelled two years ago I didn’t think we’d get to see Eddie Izzard as part of an American TV series again. Well, I was wrong.

Yesterday it was announced that Izzard will be joining the next season of Showtimes wonderful United States of Tara which stars Toni Collette as a wife and mother with split personalities. Tara is possibly the best of the variety of half hour US cable comedies and Izzard will fit in well among the slightly oddball plots and characters.

If you needed another reason to watch Tara, it co-stars Brie Larson (aka Envy Adams) as the daughter of Collette’s dysfunctional character.

Eddie Izzard Marathon Man

For the past two weeks we have been treated to the first two parts of a truly inspirational three part documentary series, and on BBC Three of all places. Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man has been following Izzard’s astounding attempt at running 43 marathons in 51 days for Sports Relief revealing one of Britain’s favourite comics to be a most determined man.

I’ll admit to being a big Eddie Izzard fan so perhaps a little biased but there is no need to like his brand of humour to get the most out of this series. Izzard is a not an athlete and trained for a mere five weeks before starting this challenge and simply cannot be stopped. In previous weeks we have seen him suffer through injury, torrential weather and seemingly oblivious lorry drivers but nothing can stop him.

It is amazing to see how despite all his physical problem’s Izzard mental determination to succeed helps him to keep on running, even against medical advice and common sense. Tonight is the final episode in the series and I cannot wait to see him finish this mad mission. The journey so far has been a marvel, one than will inspire and make you feel plain lazy.

Inspirational, astounding, determined, amazing, marvel, yup I think I gushed enough.

Eddie Izzard Marathon Man is on BBC Three tonight from 10:30pm and the first two episodes can still be seen on BBC iPlayer. You can also donate to Sports Relief here.

Not sure why the BBC hid this series when Million Pound Bike Ride: A Sport Relief Challenge gets the 9pm slot on BBC One.