Review: The Comedy Academy, The Shack

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While it may be easy on the eye, playing a small Scottish comedy gig to a front row comprised mostly of young Australian girls is a toughie, particularly when much of the rest of the audience also hail from other countries.

There go the BA Baracus jokes (The A-Team being somewhat before the front row’s time), the local political banter and, most importantly, the interactive audience involved patter – compere Chris Conroy’s strong vowels eliciting more shrugs than laughs from the Aussies. Off-putting to say the least.

Soldiering through their sets, the mix of amateur comics and pros perfecting their new material managed to muster up an engaging and diverting night.

Opening the first act, an Iggy Pop-styled John Purvis explored some magnificent material, including the uses of unnecessarily cruel onomatopoeia and nuts in everyday life. Like many of the stand-ups, his delivery needs a great deal of development but there were kernels of genius within his observations.

Following on, Gemma Flynn provided some interesting angles on celebrity death texts and weight loss, her nervy and unconfident delivery doing more damage to her set than her forays into the territory of ubiquitous female comic observation.

Eric Hammond’s arrival on stage divided the audience, while his Tourette’s-like character didn’t always work, his witty, Alternative-meets-Python material brought unbridled tears of joy to the eyes of some and induced confused silence in the rest.

Failing to capture the international flavour in the room, The Sensational Alex Salmond Gastric Band put in an admirable turn with a set of ballads dedicated to Hurricane Bawbag, the Krankies and that “incident” on the train at Linlithgow.

Taking the stage for the beginning of the second act was “Alex”, an American interloper who had volunteered his services only that afternoon. With a ranting style reminiscent of Denis Leary, Alex had the swagger but not the direction or material to convince the punters.

Owen McGuire’s opening pitch to the audience immediately warmed them to him and kept up the jovial momentum of his riffs of teaching drama in Larkhall.

Liam Withnail’s meander into intimate role play was equally enjoyable.

Headliner Ro Campbell’s politically incorrect comparisons of Australian and Scottish life ended the evening on a sublime high – well, unless you count the one about the Shetland Mounted Police.

Every Thursday.