Starting your hour of stand up with an audio recording of a very sweet sounding child called Albert introducing you on stage might be considered cheating. How can your audience not love you after that? Regardless, it works and it’s the perfect way to be launched into Ed MacArthur’s optimistic and energetic set.
A joyful hour that is sure to lift your spirits.
Bouncing onto the stage and beginning with a lively welcome song, he quickly got the packed out Voodoo Rooms clapping and singing along. This high energy and goodwill lasted throughout the hour, with MacArthur even bringing audience members up on stage to form a spontaneous band called the Danny Churches. I’m not sure they’ll ever reach number one in the albums chart, especially as the triangle player could barely stop laughing long enough to play along. Luckily, MacArthur’s musical ability and clear vocals are strong enough to carry any tune.
MacArthur keeps the songs short and sweet, allowing him to fire through a whole album’s worth. Some are straight up parodies – such as Sky News Fall which imagines Rupert Murdoch as the next Bond - and others are humorous takes on everyday life. Dreams, cleverly set to a more melodic version of a popular iPhone alarm tone, discusses the boredom of having to listen to other people recount their endless dream escapades. And yes, as a Radiohead fan, I did giggle at his skewering of Thom Yorke’s overly earnest lyrics and wailing vocals. Another particular favourite was the wedding band song filled with random words and rude comments about the wedding party giving truth to the fact you can get away with almost anything (even a foot piano solo) if you set it to a swinging rock ‘n’ roll tune.
As his day job, MacArthur is a music teacher. It was his young music pupil Albert who provided the introduction and we hear recordings of some of his other music students throughout the show as they tell jokes, attempt to play tunes and mock MacArthur. They are the emotional heart of the show, tying together what could otherwise have simply been a loose collection of songs.
Sure, there was nothing particularly original about these gentle musical parodies. Poking fun at Bond, Bear Grylls and living in London won’t ever be the type of material you’ll hear at an edgy late night show. However, it’s refreshing to spend time with a comedian who doesn’t rely solely on cynicism. MacArthur genuinely seemed to have great admiration for his young tutees, even if he does envy their success in Child Prodigy. The show’s final set piece could be seen as a little emotionally manipulative, but this tribute to the imagination and optimism of his young students worked for me and ended the hour on a sweet and sensitive note.
Ed MacArthur is certainly a comedic and musical talent. If you’re looking for a bright moment in this regularly gloomy world then Humoresque is a joyful hour that is sure to lift your spirits.