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Hannibal Buress at Soho Theatre

Accolades and endorsements are much sought-after commodities in comedy and right now there is one person who’s hogging the lot. That person is Hannibal Buress. He’s been heralded as a future leading light by some of comedy’s biggest names – Louis CK, Tracey Morgan and Chris Rock are all fans. He also possesses a short but sweet list of well extolled writing credits, having worked on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. On top of this, it was announced late last year he was developing his own sitcom project with Superbad’s Jonah Hill. But while his superstar support and writing may be second-to-none, how will he fare when he steps on stage at the Soho Theatre? Perhaps unsurprisingly, he does pretty damn well.

In London with his first UK shows since his ‘Best Newcomer’ nominated run at Edinburgh in 2011, he makes an interesting start. Opening with some quick gags about the incompetence of British police before segueing into a routine on air travel is usually to be left in the compartment above your seat marked ‘American-comic-abroad material’ (Use Only In Case Of Emergency). However Buress is able to build a story and anecdotalise in a way that many can only dream of and it’s a quality that stands out throughout the evening.

There’s certainly no great plot, theme or message to his stand-up, just a collection of simple tales well told. What he has in his favour is a chilled-out attitude that belies some meticulously crafted material. On paper they don’t look like topics that are going to set the night on fire – the clichéd things that people say, trying to get a girl he meets in Edinburgh back to his apartment, a J-walking incident in Montreal. There are comics who would take this potentially lumpy subject matter and serve it up cold, but Buress can spark it into life and create something really captivating, seemingly possessed by the ever-questioning slacker spirit of Mitch Hedberg.

But it can’t possibly be all so perfect, can it? Well, occasionally he falls back on material from his 2010 album My Name Is Hannibal. Not a grand criticism – it’s excellent stuff and doesn’t disappoint – but those who have been following his career, especially since that album marked him out as a name to watch, will have been pretty familiar with his pieces on YouPorn and the fact he shares his first name with a very famous, fictional serial killer.

He’s certainly a different proposition to his major name cheerleaders and his delivery and demeanour are in no way as sharp as some of his contemporaries like Aziz Ansari. This is a man who has perfected his writing and lets the delivery just go with the flow. Some comics are rightly lauded for making much of their material seem totally improvised. Buress isn’t much different, only his skill is making us feel like he’s so laid-back that he doesn’t really care – he makes it look like an art form. However his audiences certainly do care and he can add tonight’s crowd to his ever-growing army of fans. Whether it’s as a writer or performer his name’s going to be known for a long time to come, and for all the right reasons.

(Originally published on spoonfed.co.uk)

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Things To See & Do

Thought it would be a good time to flag up a lot of the comics who’ll be touring and performing over the next few months – one, because it’s nice to recommend things and two, so I can keep tabs on where my disposable income will be going. To start with The Soho Theatre’s line-up between February and March is mind-bogglingly impressive with everyone from Kevin Eldon, Paul Foot, Colin Hoult, Seann Walsh and Elis James all getting a chance to shine. They’ll also be keeping up their habit of hosting the best alternative US superstars as Aziz Ansari makes his UK debut in late February.  Another American star making a UK return will be Doug Stanhope who’s playing the huge Hammersmith Apollo, it seems like a big show for a relatively underground act with such a cult following but it could be a real must-see. There’s also Jerry Seinfeld but as he’s charging about £90 for tickets it’s hard to really care.

Now’s also the time for try-outs, warm-ups and dry-runs and one of the most hotly anticipated will be the return of Simon Amstell who’ll be popping up at The Invisible Dot testing new material. Meanwhile Stephen Merchant has also been performing in a string of reasonably high-profile try-out shows. It’s difficult to review a preview but having caught one of Merchant’s run-throughs it looks as if he has the stand-up skills to surpass, as Merchant calls him, ‘you know who’.

In terms of tours, the near faultless Daniel Kitson is taking his …Gregory Church show on the road. Alternative veteran Simon Munnery will be embarking on his first full show tour with Self-Employed. And if you’re after something a little different Robin Ince is touring with his Uncaged Monkeys a.k.a. his supergeek superteam of Brian Cox, Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh. And by the time you’ve worked through all those it’ll be time for Edinburgh again. Woo!

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A Good Year (Part 1)

The original plan was to write a review on the year in comedy but to be honest it made me give far too much thought to Jason Manford and his saucy tweeting, which we could all do without. Instead as it’s de rigueur in December, I’ve decided to list my Top 10 comedy…things…of the year. So that’s the stand-ups, shows, films and TV programmes that have made 2010 great for comedy. In order to not totally overload the blog it’ll be broken down into three sections, positions 10-6, 5-2 and then number 1. Oh the suspense.

 

10. Bill Hicks retrospective

This year saw the cinematic release of American: The Bill Hicks Story, plus the mammoth compilation of recordings that made up the Bill Hicks Essential Collection. For Bill Hicks completists there may not be much that hadn’t been dug out and seen already, but there were plenty of rare treats and as a compendium of the great man’s work, for the old and new generations of fans, it was a treasure trove and a timely tribute.

 

9. Daniel Kitson: It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later

To condense my feelings for this show into one paragraph are not going to be easy.  The simple charting of two lives, a man and a woman but, as Kitson is keen to point out, they could be anyone. It’s Always Right Now… is one of the most beautiful pieces of comedy theatre and was another staggering reminder of what a wonderful creative Kitson can be. An Edinburgh highlight and, should the opportunity present itself again, a must see.

 

8. Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening

Released at the beginning of the year, it could have been easy to overlook but Intimate Moments… has become one of my favourite comedy albums of the year. A simple and free flowing but utterly daft performance it’s also a perfect marker of Ansari’s career ascension on both stage and screen. To top it off he’s just announced he’s bringing his current Dangerously Delicious Tour to the Soho Theatre in the New Year. Woo.

 

7. Tom Basden

Perhaps not the most obvious choice but I’ve made no secret of the fact I think Tom Basden is a serious talent. He bought his plays Party (though technically it debuted Edinburgh 2009) and Joseph K to London and he’s now working on writing his second sitcom. All of that and he continues to be an increasingly strong stand-up. Sickening really.

 

6. Greg Davies

If you’d ask who out of the cast of uber-hit The Inbetweeners would have be the shows first serious break out star, Greg Davies may not have been the obvious choice. A behemoth headmaster ‘Mr Gilbert’ became the main source of genuine hilarity after the show descended into a week-by-week stream of scat and piss jokes. Outside of this he’s notched up an ever growing number of TV appearances, seemingly endless 5 star reviews for his Edinburgh show and sold-out shows across the country. He’s quickly becoming one of UK comedy’s biggest stand-up stars.

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