22 Mar 2013 in Highland
Ironworks, Inverness, 21 March 2013
ANDY Parsons is a familiar face on TV with regular appearances on Mock the Week and other game shows.
DESPITE having seen him on the box for a number of years I was curious to see how he would perform live on stage as I can’t recall ever having watched his live set. Although not full to capacity, there was, never the less, a good turnout for Parsons at the Ironworks on a cold Thursday night. Despite the fact that the music venue is not best suited to stand up I’ve seen some great gigs there over the years and was looking forward to seeing Parsons in the flesh.
Walking on stage he appeared relaxed and confident and was quickly at ease with his audience. The first half of his performance was a fairly gentle and relaxed middle of the road set which covered the standard comedian’s topics of incidents in hotels, visits to the doctor and conversations with call centre operators. I had expected him to take more risks as a performer and found his material in the first half a little bland. Despite this he was quick-witted and his sharpness in handling the few heckles that this fairly reserved audience managed was clearly evident.
I was also a little surprised by his frequent and rather unnecessary use of the “F” word which seemed to punctuate every other sentence he used. I don’t think there is any problem with performers using obscenity but it was noticeable in the first half of Parsons’ set just how often he resorted to expletive and that didn’t seem to fit with the gentle material that he was delivering.
This is probably the last review I’ll write for Northings, due to its funding demise, and this led me to recall some of the highs and lows of my years reviewing comedy for the site. A definite low point were the battles I, and other performers, had with early Hootannay audiences who saw stand up as some kind of verbal war between the performer and the crowd. I can remember a mystified Mike Thombs, on meeting a solid barrage of heckling, pleading with the audience, “I’m actually here to do some comedy, if you’ll let me get a word in.”
Another Manchester stand up ended his act with, “Thank you for being the toughest audience of my career,” this, of course, was greeted with rapturous applause. I was there when Phil Kay tried to get the attention of the Hoots crowd back after the interval by dropping his trousers and mooning at them. It didn’t work, we’ve seen plenty of arseholes in Inverness.
I was there when Sarah Millican did her first gig as a professional comedian in Hootananny’s upstairs bar. Before she went on she turned to me and said, “I’ve just given up my day job, you know.” “Bloody hell,” I replied, casually, “You better be funny.” I won’t relate her reply but it contained a number of the “F” words of which Mr Parsons seems so fond.
I was at Inverness Sports Centre when Ed Byrne got so tired of looking at a particularly miserable git in the audience and paid him to leave. I was also at Eden Court when Jerry Sadowitz played a five minute hard core porn video on the screen on stage just because he could and being banned from another theatre would mean he had less travelling to do.
I was also at Eden Court when it just came right for Bill Bailey and he performed the best stand up set I’ve ever seen to an audience so receptive they deserved to enjoy a comedian at the peak of his game. I was there at Hootananny when Davey the Ghost went on stage and got a laugh, although thinking about it for a minute, I may have imagined that.
There is now an audience for stand up in Inverness that didn’t exist five years ago with the number of folk willing to turn out on a bleak Thursday night to watch Andy Parsons bearing testimony to that. What remains unusual in the Highland capital is that there is still no consistent audience for stand up with each TV comedian attracting a crowd of his own devotees who probably wouldn’t come to watch other acts.
Crowds in Inverness are still reluctant to come and see comedians on their way up who have yet to gain TV exposure. This despite the efforts of Bruce Fummey, who continues to offer top class circuit comedians at his Just for Laughs nights on the first Thursday of every month at Hush night club. Hopefully Highland audiences will become more willing to take risks as one of the joys of seeing stand up is watching little known comedians, in small venues, who go on to become major stars just as Ms Millican has done.
Parsons’ performance really began to take off in the second half of the show when he turned to more politically oriented material which seemed far more polished. In this sharp, well-honed and extremely clever material he displayed his real skills as a comedian. There were fewer “F” words and the audience appeared to enjoy his material more having “warmed up” in the first half. I had to leave before the end of his show so if someone jumped on stage and stabbed Parsons’ I missed it. This seems unlikely though, unless it was Boris Johnson, for who Parsons reserved a particularly potent form of vitriol. Parsons’ was entertaining and, at times, very funny even if the set he performed was a little “safe” or conservative. No one in the audience can have gone home disappointed even after Parsons returned to his shed, which, very loosely formed the theme for his night’s set.
These have been Northings comedy reviews. I’ve been John Burns. You’ve been a lovely readership. Thank you and good night.
© John Burns, 2013