Monday, 29 July 2013

Christian O'Connell - Edinburgh show review

The Comedy Cottage is a peripatetic comedy night run by the redoubtable Sajeela Kershi, which seems to have found its home at The Harlequin Theatre in Redhill.

Cottage night is the last Friday of every month, and has a loyal band of comedy fans (known, inevitably, as Cottagers) who have doubled in number over the last couple of years.

I find it hard to get down there, because it's a 40 minute drive away, it finishes late and I have to get up at 4.20am to present the Saturday Breakfast show on BBC Surrey. But when I do get the chance, I love it.

When I heard Christian O'Connell was performing a preview of his Edinburgh show at the Comedy Cottage last Friday, I couldn't resist, especially as Brendon Burns (a previous IF.comedy winner) was topping the bill with his Edinburgh 2013 preview.

I like Christian a lot. I think he's very funny on the radio and you can hear how hard he is working to maintain the quality levels every day. I also like him personally - I've interviewed him a couple of times at the Sony Radio Awards, and found him very good value.

I was originally going to just go along on Friday for a bit of fun, but given I had a professional interest in what Christian is trying to do (and so probably wouldn't fully switch off), I offered to review it for a couple of outlets. 

Getting on stage and doing a routine in the first place is difficult enough, but making it good enough to take to the Festival is another matter entirely. Writing and finessing an performance to grace Edinburgh whilst doing a high profile national breakfast gig will, I should think, have tested Christian's reserves somewhat.

Afterwards I was chatting to Sajeela, and she said Christian's set was far better than many other established comedians' first hour-long shows. I enjoyed it a lot and it felt good to be there.

A more radio-industry skewed review will appear in the eRADIO Radio Today email later this week, but here is the one that went up on the Surrey Mirror/Dorking Advertiser website today:

"REVIEW: Radio DJ Christian O'Connell warms up for Edinburgh

Monday, July 29, 2013 Surrey Mirror
By Nick Wallis

What: Christian O'Connell - This is 13 (preview)
Where: Comedy Cottage, Harlequin Theatre, Redhill, July 26

Dorking's Christian O'Connell has built a name for himself over the past few years as one of the funniest and most committed radio presenters in the country. His breakfast show on Absolute Radio is an an honest, and often hilarious window into a world inhabited by men resolutely refusing to grow up, despite the increased responsibilities of age.

It is this world which Christian mines for his first Edinburgh Festival show, previewed on Friday 26 July at Sajeela Kershi's Comedy Cottage night at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill.

The show hangs on the discovery of a list written by Christian when he was 13 year old, describing things he wanted to achieve before he was 40.

Examples include playing Bryan Robson at Subbuteo, dating Kelly Le Brock, "kicking Darth Vader in" and having a day off like Ferris Bueller. For men of a certain age, these references will press buttons. It also makes for a very good evening's entertainment.

Although on paper the two disciplines may look similar, making people laugh on the radio is very different from making a room full of paying customers laugh. For an hour. On your own.

Christian achieves this fluently. His strengths are his script and his confidence in his material. His description of hunting through bushes for hidden porn mags as a teenager ("in the 80s we didn't have Google - we had to forage") were a delight, and various meditations on swearing, radio, marriage and family responsibility felt properly honed. 

Be warned, Christian is dealing with grown up subject matter, and he was using the sort of language that would get him carted out of his radio studio before you could say "David Cameron", "p***ing" and "t***" (which the Prime Minister did on Christian's show in 2009, replayed to the audience's general astonishment during the set).

There were only a few moments when the pace flagged, but it was disappointing to find the tone didn't vary much - the woman sitting next to me went long periods without laughing, presumably because she'd never been a 13 year old boy, and therefore unlikely to share many of Christian's preoccupations.

But for someone like me, who was a 13 year old boy and who also turned 40 this year, the material rang far too true, far too often.

If you like what Christian does on the radio and you are going to Edinburgh, make sure you see this. There is no doubt a career as a very successful stand up awaits, if he wants it.

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