Kids’ comedy is harder than you’d think. Aside from the challenge of keeping young bums on seats, there’s the jokes themselves to consider. Even if you’re successful in maintaining the children’s attention, what about the parents? If your material’s too simplistic, you’ll alienate the section of your audience that controls the purchasing power. Worse still, if your material’s too risque, there’s the risk of disgruntled parents storming out, dragging their nonplussed children in tow. Moreover, even if you do succeed in getting the parents onside, you’ve still got those pesky kids to win over; what’s funny to a 12-year-old may not amuse their six-year-old sibling. When you start to think about it, kids’ comedy seems less like a lark for stand-ups tired of drunken hecklers, and more akin to tight-roping across the Niagara Falls while suing for peace in the Middle East.
That James Campbell should leave the stage with nothing more ominous than vigorous applause aimed in his direction is a testament to his appeasement skills. His Comedy 4 Kids show contains something for everyone. He delivers a sketch about radioactive lollipop ladies being melted down and turned into highlighter pens before recounting a wicked anecdote about the number of badgers he’s spotted sleeping on the motorway. When the scripted material dries up, Campbell switches to impro. Bodily fluids appear to be the default topic for all comedians who are forced to think on their feet. With children’s comedy, this inevitably involves jokes about pees and poops; with adult comedy, other fluids are also permitted. Campbell keeps it clean though, exploring the endless amount of fun to be had with the Nintendo Wii. Even a power cut halfway through the set can’t daunt him – he just laughs it off and carries on regardless.
You can please some of the kids some of the time but you certainly can’t please all of them all of the time. That said, James Campbell comes pretty damn close – and he didn’t even need a mic to do it. Powerful stuff.