REVIEW: This year’s final feast of strange stand-up

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Danny’s Comedy Club, The Birch Hotel, Haywards Heath, Friday, November 29

With Christmas coming up Danny Kington decided that last Friday’s comedy night would be the final event of the year.

However, the performers made sure that the club finished in (characteristically strange) style.

The audience probably wasn’t expecting such a soulful voice to come out of Jessica Marshall, with her punk-tinged appearance. However, her version of the Etta James classic At Last, complete with old school vocals, was a powerful start to the evening.

The first stand-up of the night was Rosie Wilby, a self-described “gay” who talked about coming out to her parents on April Fool’s Day and her “Darwinian theory” about lesbians getting taller. Her deadpan, throwaway delivery definitely suited the often outrageous content of her jokes.

Next up was Ryan Fry, performing literally his first ever gig, which he claimed he hadn’t prepared for. His performance was shambolic but funny with an undeniably likeable style, as he talked about acting like an idiot with his mates.

Scruffy oddball Tommy Barnes, on the other hand, had a very well planned-out set, delivering extended one-liners that planted a variety of amusing images in the imagination. He claimed to suffer from a form of OCD, which involved him making sure everything was placed the right way up. Then, he revealed that he couldn’t leave the house because someone had given him an egg timer.

After the break Jessica Marshall returned to perform the theme to the latest Bond film, Skyfall. Her voice was strong, but her interpretation was quite loose and I couldn’t help thinking it might have worked better without a backing track.

Stu Turner brought the stand-up back with his “magical” performance, which involved several amusing jokes in the guise of failed illusions. However, his incompetence was a clever deception, as his last trick got laughs and applause for being a genuine head-scratcher.

Danny Hurst, outdid Rosie Wilby as far as ‘diversity’ was concerned by being an “orthodox Jewish, bisexual, left-handed, vegetarian Manchester City fan”. He got a good response with some gangsta rapping but his comic power seemed to stem from the fact that his unique minority status meant he could get away with as many un-PC jokes as he liked.

Malcolm Head, the creation of writer Jack Stratten, seemed an unusual choice for a headliner. Holding a ring binder full of poetry, short stories and responses to hecklers, Malcolm created an odd mood but eventually won the audience over once they began to “get” the character. His story about Fluffballs The Homophobic Cat was a definite highlight and so was his beat-poetry, complete with pretentious bongo drumming. It was too offbeat to get universal applause but for fans of awkward observational comedy it was a treat.

It was also a strangely appropriate end to the year for a club that has consistently offered up a bizarre mix of hilarious eccentrics and outsiders.

By Lawrence Smith