Stand up comedy

Jaspre gets down to the London Comedy fest, and profiles Charlie Cheese

This month we look at no less than two London comedy festivals. The Man in the Moon Theatre hosted its own post Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival last month, and this month sees the second London Comedy Festival at the Riverside Studios.

I caught four shows at the Man in the Moon - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (in a fishtank) , An Evening With Roberto Baggio , the excellently named Oops Vicar Is That Your Dick and The Improfessionals - the standard of each was extremely high. Credit must go to Cliff Kelly and Simon Gilman for side splitting performances in Oops Vicar, the cast's sure fire timing and comic experience held the audience enthralled. An Evening With Roberto Baggio provided a humorous romp through the world of sport, as seen on BBC's Aunties Sporting Bloomers. While The Improfessionals just seemed to be making their whole show up as they went along, and asking the paying audience to help them as well, I mean the cheek of it. Couldn't suppress my laughter during either of them though. The high point of the whole festival for me however, was 20,000 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (in a fishtank). The cast of thousandths comprised comic actors Rowe and Jordan whose unerring comic characterisations whisked us through this adaptation of the Jules Verne's classic. Helped as they went by staggering (not !) special underwater effects, all enacted in the much vaunted fishtank, an exploding Volcano carried out with bicarbonate of soda and a sparkler, and naked native dancing girls culled from pressganged members of the audience. The script by John Random was a subtle blend of Radio 4's old The Burkiss Way and The Day Today. John, who is probably one of Britain's best unsung comedy writers, was on top form here.

Not to be missed and still to be seen at the London Comedy Festival, currently underway, is a whole plethora of comic films and live stand up shows. In the way of live entertainment don't miss Parson and Naylor's Brand New Pig Bag. Henry Naylor plays Bough to Rowan Atkinson's bumbling master spy in the Barclaycard adverts and Andy Parsons describes himself as 27 and podgy. It's in Studio 3 at 8.15pm on the 13th. Don't whatever you do miss Ken Campbell's Choice Chunks, a rambling retrospective through some of the most outrageously comic moments of the madcap maestro's one man shows. Kill to get a ticket, its on in Studio 1 at 8pm on the 14th. And finally there's the chameleon like vocal talents of Spitting Image's Kate Robbins. The evening promises a Mary Poppins from Hell, an intellectual Barbara Windsor and surprise surprise a Bach recital from Cilla. Be in Studio 2, at 7.45pm on Saturday 16th. Film wise you mustn't let slip the opportunity to catch Jim Jarmusch's phenomenal Night on Earth, starting at 8.50pm on Thursday 14th. And one last date for your diary is the Richard E Grant kicking off at 7.30pm on Sunday 17th, this comprises Peter Capaldi's Oscar winning comedy short Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life and the cult Withnail and I.

This month's comic legend to be is Charlie Cheese. Charlie, the invention of comic actor/impresario Paul Crook, is the ultimate family entertainer from hell. Charlie, a favourite of children and old people everywhere, can turn his hand to every angle of show business. From the world's only completely clean radio show strip tease. To his very own quiz show The Wheel of Cheese, whose best moment comes when placing a fatherly hand on the shoulder of a female contestant he asks her in sincerest tones, "Do you know the meaning of the word 'patronise' Deidre" ? Following a highly successful one man show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year Charlie has been the subject of a lot of industry attention. A close personal showbiz friend of just about everyone (living or dead) in the business, he hosts the Wibbly Wobbly Cabaret at McMillan's in Deptford every Wednesday. Like all perfect comic devices, the idea behind Charlie Cheese is simple but brilliantly effective. Unfailingly well observed and bitingly satirical of the whole of light entertainment, Charlie Cheese is one of the single most consistently funny comic inventions of the nineties.

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