Review originally appeared on Bristol24/7
Southville’s Comedy Box is fit to burst with Saturday-night revellers, tables overflowing with wine, excited anticipation and awkward work parties. But our compere for the evening, former Bristol Uni student Fin Taylor, instantly puts the crowd at ease with his absurdist observations, self-deprecating humour and uncanny ability to weave his own surrealist material into some more traditional compere schtick. Balancing a gentle mocking of the crowd with, well, a gentle mocking of himself, Taylor keeps the audience on side and wanting more.
The same cannot be said for Northern Irish comedian Michael Legge, who begins his set by aggressively encouraging the audience to join in on a skewed version of the alphabet song. His increasing faux anger at the audience as they stop participating is meant to serve as an introduction to his brand of comedy: a bile-filled, catch-all annoyance at the world. But his fury is never quite big, or ridiculous enough, to leave the audience anything but confused.
This bum note derails the rest of the set, and Legge seems consistently distracted by the behaviour of the front row, whom he forcibly moulds into stereotypes in order to fit into some slightly tired material about class wars. However, his set gathers some speed when he voics more risqué thoughts, or directs his hate towards something we can all get behind – namely, people who go and watch Mrs Brown’s Boys live.
Headliner Stuart Goldsmith, who regards himself as looking somewhere between “a children’s TV presenter and your friend’s brother,” is renowned amongst comedy geeks for his cult interview podcast The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast. In recent years, he’s also become something of a regular on the Bristol comedy circuit. This may be due in part to his fiancé, or ‘pre-wife’, a local girl whom he proposed to just two weeks ago.
This announcement kick-starts a charismatic, energetic set focused on the delicacies of relationships, filled with acute observations on the invisible war between couples and singles, the correct way to handle dating websites, and a brief guide to how to tell children when things have died.
While Goldsmith may not choose the most original of topics his confident delivery, slow-burning asides and well-timed and seemingly improvised ad libs keep the material feeling consistently fresh. His upbeat attitude also allows for brief forays into darker, and more intimate tangents, including a confession that he “finds it difficult to experience happiness,” without leading to a dip in proceedings.
Rather, his genial nature and infectious dynamism on stage make him an engaging, warm presence – or, as he puts it, the kind of guy you’d always give the benefit of the doubt. Let’s hope those upcoming nuptials mean we get to see a lot more of him round these parts.
Stuart Goldsmith played the Comedy Box at the Hen & Chicken on Saturday, February 21. For more upcoming Comedy Box line-ups, visit thecomedybox.co.uk/site/index.asp