The Birmingham Footnotes: Don't Mind Me

This is just what you want from an evening of student stand up. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out some new comedians, but without the uneasy feeling that you may be wasting your time. Compared to other stand up shows curated by university sketch troupes, the whole atmosphere was more relaxed and confident, helped in no small part by the able compère Josh Nash, who maintained the energy throughout. There’s nothing like feeling comfortable to help you appreciate a good bit of humour.

It sets a high standard for university standup at the Fringe, and would even be worth seeing over some of the professional acts available.

Daniel Ayeland kicked the show off nicely with some good and quite clever comic ideas, delivered with confidence if not absolute ease. His David Attenborough impression sadly is underdeveloped, but his comparisons between comedians and porn-stars is great.

He was followed by Dory Wainwright, cheerful and engaging, who makes excellent use of his degree in politics (“the science of misery”), with some great material on the Azerbaijani elections and the meaning of ‘neo-conservative’. Much of his set was not strictly political, but he kept it hovering around that area. He is still a little rough, and not quite comfortable interacting with an audience yet, but I would expect him to be very good in future.

Ellis Tucker brought a rather different style into play: the increasingly fashionable low-energy, deliberately underwhelming delivery, a kind of character comedy for people who watch a lot of stand up. He immediately began to elaborate the logic behind his opening remarks, somewhat in the manner of Stewart Lee, assuring his audience in a soft, slow voice that he was not genuinely revealing the secrets of his act, since this too was a part of the artifice. It is a difficult and rather risky approach, but he pulled it off, and to good effect. Reasonably funny material was improved by being so completely undermined, and the result was good fun. He even managed to deal very well with the slightly difficult audience, some of whom took to delivering his punchlines, and one of whom made it his personal business to shout ‘helpful’ comments from the back in a way which considerably interfered with the delicate balance which Tucker was trying to establish. These unrequited comments simply demonstrated the extent to which this gentleman had missed the point. Tucker managed to respond, however, without breaking character, which was entirely admirable. His style will not be to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed it.

The evening was rounded off by Alice Weliminski-Smith, whose set rested in large part on her Jewish birth. This material was rather disappointing, reflecting as it did the common attitudes of outsiders to Jewishness, without seeming to offer any of the insight which makes the insider’s perspective interesting and enjoyable. I was uncomfortably reminded of jokes I remembered from school, which if not actually intolerant were at least culturally naive. Beyond this her jokes were cut from pretty common stock: her first boyfriend, her first kiss, not wishing to use sexual language around her parents, etc. It was all competently delivered and amusing, and I am sure she will develop a more distinctive voice over time. At the moment, however, she seems to offer little that is new.

All told, Don’t Mind Me is an enjoyable and at times really very funny hour of comedy from a very likeable group of young performers. It sets a high standard for university standup at the Fringe, and would even be worth seeing over some of the professional acts available. The Citrus Club is hardly centrally placed, but for this bunch it’s worth the walk.

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The Blurb

Best in up and coming stand-up talent from the University of Birmingham. Expect a different line-up every night, with a rotating cast of 12 comedians as part of PBH’s Free Fringe.