Mild Friends comedy is “only eleven months old” according to the enthusiastic press release put forward by creator and sometime-performer, Patrick Turpin. In this regard the ‘club’ is still very much in its foetal stage; the resident compere, Jack Barry, continuously insists that he is “getting worse at this” while performing to an audience that may or not be made up mostly of parents. But this infantile set up should not dissuade punters, for, behind the relatively simplistic premise lurks a comedy diamond (admittedly in the rough).
Presented to performers as a space to try out new content, off the London ‘circuit’ – circuit appearing as a loaded word in comedy as Turpin insists he does not want to get “stuck on it” – the results are a mixed bag.
The first act, Cambridge graduate Ahir Shah truly exemplifies this discrepancy. While his early material was extremely funny, with
what is certifiably the “best Ganesh joke you will ever hear” juxtaposed with observational comedy on the nature of Twitter, graduate life and much more, his later extended routine (which, he repeatedly reminded us, “I wrote on the bus this afternoon”) is disappointing: “True stories don’t always have a satisfying comedic conclusion,” apparently.
Headliner Eric Lampaert was excellent – from being caught out on an interview (for Oxford Brookes University radio) that he stood up, to attempting to read out my notes on his performance (which, shamefully, were mixed with ‘notes to self’) his quirky reactionary comedy made the most of the intimate nature of the space. With repeated reference to an advert he was on – which, despite his young Iggy Pop-esque appearance (not pre-drugs) was not, apparently, that car insurance one – he managed to weave through an act that was, in his own words, a case of “saying what comes into [his] head and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not”. Mostly it was.
It is worth noting that participation-shy attendees should steer clear of Mild Friends as the small room below The Library pub does not bode well for anonymity and, despite lurking at the back, I was promised a review on my own conduct from Lampaert. Alas, despite frequent Twitter assurances this gem is coming, he seems to have let down another Oxford student media establishment.
Turpin himself is amusing in a ‘my mate that’s funny way’; nothing he does is particularly exceptional, but the performance as a whole is very impressive. Following an opening that cast him as part letch, part nerd, his character comedy slowly declines throughout the act and is replaced by a far more likable view into his own world. Using PowerPoint and John Legend as starting points, Turpin’s comedy is more sophisticated than the cheap jokes of the compere.
Harriet Kemsley was a late addition to the bill, and unfortunately was not as successful as her peers. Her character is, despite Turpin’s assurances that he’s “seen her do gigs that have smashed it”, extremely disappointing. As a female comedian she embodied the worst of both worlds; not only is she not particularly funny (relying on undeveloped gags on Hackney, for the most part), but she also makes jokes about rape. This year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival was awash with discussion on whether rape is a suitable subject for comedy and I have to say, I agree with Tanya Gold’s The Guardian article that it is not. Kemsley’s assertion, therefore, that wearing a rape whistle was “a bit presumptuous” did not induce laughter but feminist reproach.
Mild Friends is definitely neither mild nor bland, and, at £4, is undoubtedly one of the best ways to spend a Monday evening. I will certainly be returning to ‘my old friends’ (Turpin’s pun, not mine), but with the expectation to laugh and wince in equal measure.
Mild Friends is on at The Library pub on Monday 22nd October for £4.