On first catching sight of the name of the comedy club – ‘Jesterlarf’ – my expectations for an evening brimming with first class wit and sophisticated humour were low. The combination of a pun that sounds like a failed attempt by a German ex-patriot to demonstrate a witty familiarity with the English language, with the painfully contrived mis-spelling of ‘laugh’, hardly seemed promising. Mercifully, my experience at ‘Jesterlarf’ did go uphill from here, albeit with the occasional stall.
Opening the show, Cockney boy John Mann was an immediately likable presence on stage. Though not particularly experimental – mainly dealing with the tried and tested subject matters of the British class system – his observational style was nonetheless thoroughly entertaining and inoffensive. Mann was particularly adept at building up a good audience raptor and successfully bounced jokes off the audience to optimum effect.
This is something less true of the Manchurian comedienne Haley Ellis. One couldn’t help feeling that her unrelenting interrogation of an embarrassed and bewildered audience member about his past role-play exploits, was possibly pushing the boundaries of enjoyable audience participation; temporarily dampening the mood. In spite of this, Ellis did manage to haul it back, and proved intermittently hilarious, although her appealing comic mannerisms perhaps carried her anecdotes more than their actual content. The emphasis on her own lack of sexual appeal was also in danger of being more awkward than amusing – a description of her boyfriend mistaking her for a kebab tragically went down like a lead balloon.
One immediately felt safer in the hands of headliner Rob Rouse, whose conversational style and humorous comments on family life, pleasing in their familiarity; made for an enjoyable, though not exceptional, act. Though his descriptions were sometimes verging on the crude, he certainly managed to give shrewd and amusing insights into the toils of parenthood. Ultimately, he dealt deftly with what was probably a fail-safe premise.
Stefano Paolini was undoubtedly a favourite, and his beat boxing, though admittedly not particularly funny, was an unexpected highlight of the show. Indeed, his talent was sufficiently remarkable to make one briefly wonder whether he’d accidently stumbled in the wrong stage door… However his set proved him worthy of his place in the comedy night, delivering an amusing and original act, peppered with an array of hilarious and sparkling impressions. Being born in South London to Italian immigrant parents, the trauma of grappling with a resultant identity crisis proved a particularly effective subject matter.
Jesterlarf was a satisfyingly amusing evening and did at least prove that one should not judge a comedy night by its ill-advised title. However, on a final note, I would advise the comedians to identify the author of the ‘Jesterlarf Comedy Club’ name, and to ensure that they are forever denied membership.