Up The Arts Comedy: Isy Suttie & Ginger and Black, Edinburgh Previews – 4 stars

I was looking to seeing this show. Isy Suttie needs no introduction to anyone following the current comedy scene, or indeed any fan of The Peep Show (in which she plays Dobbie). And Ginger and Black are an act around which there has been quite a buzz at Edinburgh the last couple of years. So this double bill of hot comedy property – trying out their acts for this August’s Ed Fest – promised a guaranteed evening’s entertainment. Unfortunately, due to over-running filming commitments, Ginger and Black had pulled out at the last minute and were replaced by Paul Ricketts, who runs the comedy nights at the Old King’s Head. But more of him in a moment.

Firstly, mention must go to the unbilled yet quite brilliant MC, Mitchell Anderson. He bound onto the stage exuding confidence and a wonderfully controlled energy, maintaining it throughout his entire set. His command of the audience was masterly; engaging them in odd snippets of conversation and dealing easily with hecklers and backchatters, but never in a way that turned you off him. After he had done his stuff, it felt like you’d just had a few drinks and a chat with your mate down the pub.

And your really funny mate at that. His material was varied and never failed once. Simple gags and one liners (including one about having sex with his guitar which the king of one-liners, Jimmy Carr, would have been pleased with), a blues song “constructed from lines of other old blues songs” which was set up brilliantly and executed perfectly for maximum comic effect, through to stuff about existentialism which lead to a monologue about dating himself and taking himself out to the cinema. Essentially just one gag, but beautifully surreal and delivered with complete conviction, it held the audience’s attention for the whole experience and had them in stitches. If he chooses to pursue seriously his stand up career – and I sincerely hope he does – Mitchell Anderson is certainly a name to watch out for in the future.

And speaking of just one gag, Paul Ricketts’ set was pretty much that too. A show loosely based around the different hairstyles he had sported over the years, this was one of those semi-autobiographical anecdotal shows which, when done well, can be pant-wettingly funny and incredibly moving at the same time. Unfortunately, this show was neither.

It must have been difficult for him, and I sympathised; he was filling the vacant Ginger & Black slot at the last minute and, he told us, “this will be the last time I ever perform this show”. On tonight’s evidence, this is a very good thing. The anecdotes were long and meandering, with not enough laughs and not at all funny pay-offs. The few decent gags that were in there were completely thrown away; it was almost as if he wasn’t comfortable performing the show and didn’t trust his talent. Which is a shame, because in the couple of moments where he strayed from his script and genuinely interacted with the audience he really came alive. In these moments he was warm and engaging and, yes, funny.

His billed appearance in this series of Edinburgh warm-up gigs is in a few weeks time, and I suspect that that performance will be much better in every respect. So this critique is perhaps more for the show itself rather than the performer, and he is very wise to be putting the show to bed.

The evening certainly ended on a high, with Isy Suttie treating the audience to an hour of brilliant beautiful randomness. Actually a well thought out and superbly constructed show, very clever in its apparent slightness. Amy Winehouse trapped down a well, songs about penguins and English/Polish translations, and various readings from her diary all contributed to the most joyous and entertaining hour I’ve spent at a comedy club in a long time.

Her energised and slightly scatty performance is perfectly pitched. She displayed a proficient command of her material and her guitar – as well as her audience, who were transfixed and hugely vocal in their laughter throughout. The bottom line is, Isy Suttie is very very very funny. And boy can she belt out a song! If you’re in Edinburgh this August, go see her.

(originally posted 25 May 2010)

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