Less than ten minutes into Stood Up In Oxford and my cover had been blown. Reviewers can’t help but stick out in stand-up audiences, their pads and pencils replacing the pints clutched by the other audience members, and a tentative snicker replacing the easy guffaw. I could, to the trained eye, have been rumbled long before then, as I admired the deft transformation of the Burton Taylor Studio into an underground comedy club, complete with garish blue and red lighting and a microphone which characteristically refused to stay at its required height. You might equally have recognised my over-enthusiastic laugh at the well-placed joke at Rob Bristow’s (the BT’s manager) expense from Ryan Sarsfield, the show’s compere.
The jokes themselves seemed at first to be rather conventional. No one would describe Jamie Carragher’s hipsters-at-the-Turl-Street-Kitchen routine as ground-breakingly original, but it was definitely kept the audience (no doubt mostly composed of Turl-Street-Kitchen-Hipsters) laughing in all the right places, with only the occasional lapses in timing which are to be expected on a first night. As conventional as his opening material may have been, Jamie also made one of the night’s most dangerous choices, imitating the infamous bard of Salford in a John Cooper Clarke inspired poem with which he closed his set. Dangerous, that is, when Mr Clarke turns up to show Jamie how it’s done next week.
Rory O’Keeffe’s offering, next in the programme, contained equally conventional routines (including the mandatory women-making-a-sandwich joke and a tale about his ex-girlfriend), but these were offset by a brilliantly sarcastic reading of a Cherwell review. Whatever the Cherwell’s opinion may or may not have been, the Oxstu loved it. Tim Schneider followed his comic other half Rory, expertly developing his jokes despite opening with a challenging routine about testicular cancer which seemed to confuse the audience somewhat (perhaps, reassuringly, leaving them wondering whether cancer is really all that funny). Louis Fletcher’s set took a different approach, rounding off the evening with an interesting take on the self-depreciation routine which, when coupled with an inventive costume choice (and impressive sparkly hat) had the small audience in stitches.
Stood Up In Oxford is conventional, then, but no less funny for it, and perfectly matched with a soundtrack which included The Cure, The View and The Killers. Because much like the show, Mr Brightside is a bit cheesy, but we still love it.
**** (4 STARS)
Stood Up In Oxford is on at 7:30pm at the Burton-Taylor studio from now until Saturday of 2nd week.