It was immediately evident upon walking into the jam-packed Cabaret Bar that I was significantly changing the demographic awaiting the arrival of radio and television legend and national treasure, Nicholas Parsons. With the exception of five year old Maria in the front row, happily occupied with consuming the smarties Parsons gave her, my 21 year old self was the youngest person by at least a decade, with the average audience member having reached the happy age of retirement.
An hour’s light and humourous entertainment in Parsons’ unique and gentle style
Nicholas Parsons, slightly wobbly on his legs but his wit as firm as ever, entered to uproarious applause: the audience clearly comprised of people who, like me, had been listening to his Radio 4 comedy show Just A Minute (which he first piloted 50 years ago, and has never missed a show of since) for years. The Happy Hour, now in its 16th sell-out year, is a nice and civilised way of spending an evening, listening to Parsons talk about his own experience and deliver charming jokes, interspersed with interviews with other comics, who were given the opportunity to plug their own shows. The line up changes every evening, but tonight featured improvisers Suki Webster and Richard Vranch, musical comedian Adam Kay, and stand-up comedian Patrick Monahan. Suki and Richard chatted about their shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, and about the improv shows they do weekly at London’s Comedy Store.
Adam Kay, a former doctor turned musical comedian, played some of his own medical material, staying safely clear from his iconic London Underground song, due to the fact that the audience ‘was not his usual demographic’ (he’s a bit sweary), and performed some adaptations of Tom Lehrer’s songs instead, including one about nuclear oblivion, which took the audience and Parsons aback. Kay was funny in his own right, coming up with some funny one-liners and quips, exhibiting his own dry sense of humour, but there did appear to be a slight generational clash for your average retired Radio 4 listener.
Finally, comic Patrick Monahan was invited to talk about his own experiences growing up half Irish, half Iranian, making some very quick and funny remarks that both Parsons and the audience enjoyed immensely. After plugging his own show, he left to large applause. Nicholas Parsons then ended the show with some very funny jokes and anecdotes, before playing his very own pop record as the audience crowded around for autographs.
The Happy Hour did what it said on the tin: it provided an hour’s light and humourous entertainment in Parsons’ unique and gentle style, leaving the entire audience feeling entertained and that little bit happier than when they came in.