James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids

Holding the attention of a room full of six to eleven year olds armed with nothing more than a microphone is quite some feat, but for James Campbell – widely acknowledged as the creator of stand up for kids – this is safe territory.

After all, there really isn’t that much difference in the skill of managing an audience of notoriously unpredictable children and a room full of drunken adults. Both are prone to incomprehensible heckles and both are reduced to fits of giggles given the right material.

After all, there really isn’t that much difference in the skill of managing an audience of notoriously unpredictable children and a room full of drunken adults. Both are prone to incomprehensible heckles and both are reduced to fits of giggles given the right material. Obviously you replace the adult knob gags with punchlines that involve the word bum, but it’s essentially the same.

Comedy 4 Kids is fundamentally observational, but observational from the point of an eight year old. Grandmas and poo are inherently funny when you’re eight. Pointing out that grown ups make noises like ‘ahhhh’ when they sit down produces shrieks of delight.

Campbell’s delivery is unpatronisingly child-like. His understanding of the things that kids find hilarious is innate, moving from scooters to lollipop ladies and the Nintendo Wii as though these are the things as important in his life as they are to his excitable audience.

Although, it has to be said, Campbell’s been doing the same routine for many years, the execution is so expertly woven into interaction with his temporary charges that it feels spontaneous and unique to this performance. Elizabeth sitting in the front row is allergic to nuts; Ethan further back in the crowd has a dog but he doesn’t know what breed; Mabel has three pet rats. All of these subjects inject space for ad-libs that help Campbell move his set along rather than derail him into a blind alley.

Comedy 4 Kids occupies a niche often imitated since Campbell came up with the idea, and although this isn’t exactly the cutting edge of stand up, it’s definitely a good solid hour of family entertainment in the hands of a man who knows his craft.

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Stories old and new for anyone over six who enjoys stand-up comedy without rude words from the man who invented the genre.

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