Review: The Golden Gods’ Smoker

Matt Songi 14 May 2012

The Golden Gods’ Smoker

Pembroke New Cellars, Fri 11th May, 8.30pm

Friday night found the pleasant and welcoming atmosphere of Pembroke New Cellars full with an eager audience looking to be entertained by some of Cambridge’s finest comedy offerings.

The show kicked off well with a strong performance from Pierre Novellie who appeared calm and accomplished in a typically tricky slot and successfully got the audience going. Joining him in the first half was Bhargav Narayanan who was particularly notable for his clever one-liners. Setting up his jokes with often awkward and potentially offensive subjects in a way that created tangible tension, his punchlines were always surprising and less controversial than feared, diffusing this tension in roars of laughter. As for Bhargav’s comedy persona, he set himself up as arrogant and complacent, supposedly doing old material; yet he proceeded to check the notes on his hand after every joke, giving off a great sense of misplaced confidence which kept the audience laughing even between jokes.

This night wasn’t just about stand-up however, as sketch comedy also featured in the smoker on either sides of the interval. Tom Powell and Jack Gamble showed great chemistry on stage with a ‘Fry and Laurie-esque’ presentation of their sketches. Gamble was especially adept at playing an intelligent and knowing straight man in a way that indeed seemed to take influence from Stephen Fry. The surrealist subjects of Powell and Gamble’s sketches were extremely enjoyable, although the writing could have introduced these concepts quicker. A pair of sketches from Matt Lim heralded the second half of the evening’s entertainment; however the audience was mostly unresponsive as Lim’s sketches, which had some good ideas, appeared under-prepared and suffered for it.

The stand-up also struggled to get going again after the interval. Simon Norman was not helped by obscure references to car adverts that did not drive home, whilst a few attempts at audience participation and once forgetting his lines saw the audience go cold. The evening got back on track however with performances from Marc Shalet and Kit Holden. Shalet was charismatic in a style reminiscent of Ben Elton, with his glasses, swaying hips, and a comparison completed by an opening joke comparing the London Underground to closed northern mines. Kit Holden also had impressive stage presence and jokes to match. He made good use of a call-back joke that ensured consistent laughs throughout, as he complained bitterly about losing the election to be the representative for Pembroke Players.

The show came to a crescendo of laughs with fantastic performances from the final two acts, Ben Pope and Phil Wang. Pope was witty, confident and charming, capturing the audience’s attention throughout his set ups and paying off their concentration with excellent punch lines. As expected Phil Wang was a brilliant end to the show with a very professional set that displayed his experience. Employing his great ability to use his mannerisms to convey to the audience what he has in his mind’s eye, his portrayal of himself as a pervy man at the gym was hilariously convincing.

Overall this was a strong smoker with a great finish, and with half of the profits going to the British charity Reprieve, the night certainly earned its 3 stars.

Matt Songi