Island Life by David Slack


Drinking is easy, comedy is hard.

I have chosen a new drink for the comedy festival. Because I am trying to lose 10 kilos, the beer is off the list. Wine’s okay, but I have a habit of drinking too much of it, falling asleep and being roused awake afterwards by the star of the show and sent home in a cab. I have even once fallen asleep watching the comedian I was about to interview. You can click here to hear what I sound like when I have been woken up in a bar to do such a thing.

It should be apparent that I am only a few days into the 2008 comedy festival and I have already drunk deeply of the spirit of frank, candid, intimate confession.

The drink that goes well with this, I find, is scotch on the rocks. I like a good single malt as much as the next snob, but when I sit down in a bar to watch someone sing the blues or wail in the Hank Williams style or make everyone laugh, any old whisky strained through clinking ice cubes is just fine for me.

Guy walks into a comedy club to see Ben Hurley, asks for a scotch on the rocks. Which one?, the bartender asks. As rough as you like I say. Grants? she asks. Perfect. Ben Hurley is playing all this week upstairs at the Classic Studio. His audience banter is showing the benefit of his recent years in the UK. He hears every fine detail his audience gives him, and before your eyes spins it into a fine golden thread of wit.

The Festival began with the Gala, and Juha may not forgive me for this but I’ll say it anyway: it also began in fine farce traditions when my host for the night left his tickets in the taxi cab and we had to stand outside the Civic as the bells rang, waiting for the driver to return from Herne Bay. It was worth the effort. The theatre was on fire and the acts were almost all, to my taste, terrific. Only one or two left me cold. That still leaves a feast to choose from. I especially liked Arj Barker, and Jason Cook.

I can also recommend the Lady Bunch (Transmission Room until Saturday) where I was slugging my Scotch on the rocks last night. Irene Pink likes to use her ample frame to freak out the snooty women who decide whether you are worthy of trying on their Zambezi range. Justine Smith has some excellent advice on the connection between your choice of footwear and your prospects of being fellated and Michele A’Court is in marvellous form. There once was a time years ago at Kitty O’Briens when I was startled by how angry she seemed. But that was long ago. She has the deft touch of saying how lovely someone is once she’s finished giving them a thorough bagging.

I’m pretty sure she actually means it, too. The comedians I warm to are the ones who have a generosity of spirit. They mock, they prick bubbles, but they don’t hate. They have an affection for our flawed humanity.

This afternoon I will take Mary-Margaret and a friend to get a share of the fun.This year the kids get stand up. I know the girls will love it. Jamie Noone hosts it, and there will be Al Pitcher, Paul Tonkinson and Mike Boon. Next week they will have the marvellous Janey Godley.

I fully expect to remain awake for the whole thing.

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