Bill shows (where the show is made up of several guest acts) can be a mixed bag especially when the format is to showcase one venue’s acts from across their programme. Another difficulty can be when your afternoon show is marketed as being family friendly but many of your acts have shows that are far from that description.
Afternoon Delight could be held up as an example of how to get it so very wrong.
Things start well enough, compere Keith Carter is wonderfully surreal with well thought out banter and a great way of working the audience. He’s all bizarre train of thought and blue sky asides and the family audience warms to him instantly. By the time he introduces the first act, we’re cheering heartily as instructed.
The first act is Kate Perry, a character comedian portraying a precocious six year old who engages us in a one-sided conversation on a plane. It’s a sweet performance and she delivers the character well but it’s a weak opener for a cabaret. It’s enjoyable but lacks impact and laughs.
Things start to really go wrong with the second act. Tom Ward is a BBC Radio New Comedy Award finalist and his material is delivered with a confident awkwardness but unfortunately no-one seems to have told him that this is billed as a family friendly cabaret and his jokes don’t just fall flat; they cause downright offense. Gags about quantifying “gayness” and a bit about phone sex in a public callbox lead to a few families walking out whilst loudly expressing their disapproval. Ward, either determined not to concede or oblivious to the situation, continues with his set to the bitter end.
Things are looking up with the third act, The UCL Graters sketch comedy troupe bring the laughs with an original take on dating, a funny superhero skit and a short Shakespearian routine that shows they understand the importance of setting up a joke for a much bigger pay-off later.
It seems that things may have definitely settled back into the safe zone with comedy duo Norris and Parker who, obviously aware of the earlier stooshie, make it clear that they won’t swear and will keep it clean. Their first routine plays well to this with lots of veering away from obviously ruder punch lines and incorporating a fun spoof of Disney’s Part of Your World but a couple of sex references including an unsubtle reference to anal sex leads to the family nearest me packing up and making for the door.
Stephen Bailey is the next comedian to take the stage and he’s not only aware of the walk-outs and the offense already caused; he’s determined to offend everyone else and openly hopes he can make someone leave. Bailey clearly doesn’t care that his material is unsuitable for a family show and, after checking that the only children left are too young to understand, launches into a set more suited to a late night, minimum drink gig. He’s very, very funny but he really shouldn’t be on the bill.
Finally, it’s time for the last act. George Zach is a Greek comedian and his material is self-deprecating and self-aware. He has the easiest job as the previous acts have cleared out the families and all he has to contend with are a one year old and a fourteen year old with whom he clears it before dropping the C-bomb. Zach is likeable and gets some of the strongest laughs of the show.
As I said at the beginning, bill shows can be tough to programme but, if you advertise as family friendly, you really have to ensure that the bill is suitable for all. Afternoon Delight could be held up as an example of how to get it so very wrong.