Review: Corpus Smoker

Matt Songi 16 May 2012

Corpus Smoker

Corpus Playroom, Mon 14th May, 9.30pm

Being a Manchester United supporter I needed cheering up this Monday, and the Corpus Smoker went some way to doing this. It was a very small audience, understandable in the exam term, which presented an interesting challenge for the comedians as the audience feels more self conscious. However the acts on show dealt with this expertly using audience interaction that made the evening intimate rather than awkward.

Pierre Novellie was compere for the evening and deserves special mention as he set up the Corpus Smokers and it was his last before graduates. I had seen him the Friday before but was happy to hear again his satire of the renaming of colleges as a result of donations, as he created the CV nightmare of a degree from ‘Clown College, Cambridge’. He also kicked off the audience interaction in which he gently eased people into participating and reacted brilliantly to their responses.

Harry Michell followed Novellie and had the audience in stitches. He is very likeable on stage with a set that stuck to truthful anecdotes that made him even more endearing. His self-reflection on the ridiculousness of his younger self was especially effective and was true to how all of us have felt at times. With guitar in hand, he deconstructed a song he had written in his teenage years about being dumped, and this part of the set showed great resourcefulness and originality. Michell also had time to try some improv, as he endeavoured to write a song on the spot for a girl in the audience. He could not have known how well it would go as the girl he chose had some funny responses, allowing Michell to ride the waves of laughter and highlight the ludicrousness of the situation to great effect.

Maintaining the pace was Ben Pope who I also reviewed last Friday. His set had a nice theme of slightly repressed anger with the company he keeps, claiming to be posh yet disliking posh people, going clubbing yet hating clubbers. His disappointment with the people he has to tolerate shows a clear thread to his set conducive to a comic voice. Pope’s best moments are his use of surrealist imagery: it can miss the mark, but lines comparing dubstep to “a dalek having sex with a toaster” or a hipster with a “tattoo of a skull giving fellatio to society” always hit.

The penultimate performer was Lowell Belfield who was clearly enjoying his set, and so were we. He had a great awareness of his surroundings as he launched into his fears for how the stage curtains might reveal unexpected horrors. He then moved on to a surrealist meandering prediction for a future Derren Brown show that contained many laughs in its absurdity. Lowell and Michell are doing a two man show in Edinburgh called ‘I am, I am’ later in the year, and on the basis of their individual performances it should be well worth a watch.

The final act was a sketch by Ed Rowett and Alex Gomar (Alex Gomar filling in for Robert Frimston). It is a testament to the writing of the sketch that it was very funny even though it did not have one of the original performers, but it should also be made clear that the fact Gomar was only a stand-in would not have been apparent had it not been mentioned. The original line-up of Ed Rowett and Robert Frimston will be doing a sketch show at the ADC on the 22nd May that, from this taster, promises to be very enjoyable.

Only after the show did I really have something to criticise. Walking back I passed the Van of Life and suddenly felt the burning hole in my pocket. The show seemed to have been short as one of the acts (Hisham Zlauddeen) did not show up, and the cost was £5, which equals chips and 9 chicken nuggets with a student card at the Van of Life. Although the comedy was quality, and I am stingy, handing over £5 for such a short time still felt expensive.

Matt Songi