Review: The Wolfson Howler

Hazel Lawrence 29 April 2014

Image Credit: Karlos Brown


The Wolfson Howler made a great return to form last night, where true professional finesse meant the LOLs were deep and hearty and contentious topics were navigated expertly.

Admittedly it was not a perfect evening of comedy; some of the jokes went awry, or some were just plain missing. The Howler generally holds a lot of genuine respect for the warm up acts and newbies can find a lot more goodwill than at most comedy open-mic nights, including Cambridge student smokers. However sometimes comedians just don’t find their audience (as the last TCS Howler episode proved…) and a couple of the warm ups certainly received a lot of silence during their onstage moments. Matt Lim probably felt the effect of the self-confessed 9 month gap between the Howler and his previous comedy outing; his flip-pad was perhaps attempting to be a little bit too clever — the leaps of thought processes were more confusing than humorous and the conclusions not solidly funny enough to justify the extensive ‘bear with me’ feeling. There was an excellent hat joke though, which even he was surprised by, so at least his dedication paid off.

Rosalind Peters, on the other hand, had a great evening, garnering the evening’s first and most boisterous applause for her performance. Dealing with Facebook’s rapacious reach into modern life through the medium of song deserves a mention for the successful rhyming of “hiatus” with “status”. However the loudest laughs were received from her song about a child’s confusion on encountering pornography and included possibly the best take-home thought of the night: ‘Don’t let a porn star tell you who you are’. Preach it, sister.

Obviously the unique strength of any Howler is being able to blend comedic muscle-flexers alongside professional, experienced comedians so you are still likely to see some good comedy, even if a few short sets fall flat. Ed Gamble as compere was reliably on form, playing with audience members sitting in subject groupings, using suggestive positioning of stage microphones as an opportunity to ad-lib a dialogue with his penis and later throwing out comedic gems like “my spunk is so jaded”. It was quite clear from the cheers and wolf-whistles when headliner, Sinha, mentioned chat up attempts on Ed, that Gamble’s returning trips to Wolfson are growing his Cambridge fan-base, and deservedly so.

Top billing was Paul Sinha and it seemed that his talents know no bounds. A qualified GP and the 10th best quizzer in the UK (you might recognise him from The Chase), he is equally, if not more at home in stand-up mode and his set was well developed, as well as bloody funny. For a taste of his style there is no better phrase than his self-diagnosis as the ‘huggy bear of gaysians’ in tandem with announcing that 5 minutes into any television appearance he receives twitter notifications from people discussing his “shit neck”. His observational stance started with addressing his personal non-conformity but included brilliant remarks on anti-gay marriage arguments (Can lexicographers really cope with a dictionary redefinition? Well they did with ‘Brazilian’), the homophobic Daily Mail comments on educational indoctrination (What on earth is ‘Gay Maths’? Calculating how long it takes 10 gay men to watch a box set of Glee?), and religious fundamentalism, introducing many to a new insult: “fuck knuckle”. All of these topics were surrounded with personally honest anecdotes. Some, like having his geometry set stolen in a library aged 13, and finding Countdown Octochamps a massive turn-on, connected particularly well in the Cantab collegiate audience.

Overall it was a fantastic evening of fun in what we all know is going to be an intense term. The Howler was stimulating enough to be interesting but funny enough to not in any way resemble a revision group. Perfectly, and hilariously, distracting.