Kieran and the Joes: Teampowered
Joe, Kieran and Joe are supposed to be spoof management gurus, sending up the teambuilding days inflicted on office workers across the country. As a premise it never comes through strongly, and yet the show is enjoyable regardless – a testament to the talent and immense likeability of its three eponymous performers. Their attempts to turn individual audience members into a team get lost amid a series of sidetracks, mostly amusing though they are.
Conceptual flaws aside, Kieran Hodgson and Joes Parham and Markham give an incredibly polished performance, bouncing off one another in a slick, energetic way that would be impressive even for a far more experienced troupe. Hodgson, playing the dimwit sidekick of the more dominant Joes, emerges as the star of the show, managing to time his supposedly blundering, disruptive interjections to perfection. He has the most wonderfully expressive face, needing only to raise an eyebrow at the antics of the other two or to scowl after being scolded to have the audience falling about laughing – with the women in particular cooing with affection.
Shows that rely so heavily on audience interaction always risk struggling against a reluctant crowd but these three seem to have mastered the art: the boys don’t miss a beat when a participant gives an unexpected answer, immediately turning it into a witty two-minute digression. With just a little more coherence and consistency across their individual gags, they could become something very special indeed.
Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen
New York comedy pairing Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords, The Daily Show) and Kurt Braunohler make an admirable but not entirely successful attempt to revive the variety format with their mix of standup, singing, sketches and puppetry (of a sort).
The two play their respective personas well: Kurt—repulsive but also creepily charming—and addled, childish Kristen combine for the sort of odd, socially awkward couple you might expect to live in some remote corner of middle America with a nasty secret hidden in their freezer.
There are small number of brilliant gags that show a very deep love for and understanding of comedy – chief among them a meta-joke in which Kristen appears on stage dressed head-to-toe in pink rubber; or a chain smoking whoopee cushion full of bitterness and bile at being overtaken by more modern, sophisticated pranks as the years have gone by.
A pseudo-puppetry act in which Kurt manipulates a manic puppet Kristen is another highlight, but apart from this, there isn’t really much else to comment, and what would have been a tight 40 minutes drags horribly into an interminable, arse-numbing 85. The gaps between the different segments are filled with cheesy musical numbers from the musically but not comedically talented Adira Amram, who manages to sing for what seems considerably more than five minutes about her “tiny vagina”.
This really is Marmite entertainment: some of the audience are doubled-up with laughter throughout while many others remain completely unmoved and at £15, it probably isn’t worth the risk to find out which you might be.
Andrew Bird’s Village Fete
Andrew Bird’s show about the foibles of English rural life mirrors his subject matter very well: not a whole lot happens and there are no great surprises, but it’s quaintly pleasant nonetheless.
Having been born and raised in a Northamptonshire village before moving to London to seek a living and then returning to the country to raise a family, Bird is well placed to use the same eye for the humour in the mundanities of everyday life that he demonstrated in his previous shows. This time around, though, Bird seems slightly lacking in imagination: he milks a few laughs from reading his newsless local newsletter and contrasts his “world tour” of Northamptonshire village halls with the stadium tours of his better-known colleagues, but they ride almost entirely on the fact that not very much happens in the countryside compared to the cities that most of audience come from. Amusing at times, yes – but hardly something that The Vicar of Dibley, The Last of the Summer Wine and whole host of others didn’t get to years before.
That said, his subject matter and his gentle, easy, inoffensive demeanour make for a reassuringly and enjoyably old school show. Bird is an everyman, but one far more likeable and engaging than Al Murray’s Pub Landlord and as a result, his warm, rose-tinted look at growing up—delivered in his trademark man-in-the-street style—strikes a chord in the audience, even if it isn’t the funniest and most original hour of comedy on offer at the Fringe this year.