Stand Up For Slapstick – review by Katie Jarvis

Stand Up for Slapstick: Top comedians, including Marcus Brigstocke and Rory Bremner, performed stand-up routines at the Colston Hall in a special fundraiser for Bristol’s Slapstick Festival. Katie Jarvis (who writes for Cotswold Life – Ed) laughed until she fell over. All photo’s © Adam Johnson/Slapstick Festival.

OK. So here are some of the things that make me laugh:

1. Our friend James tearing the ligaments in his shoulder during a judo session. (Not funny in itself, except that he did it bowing to his opponent.)
2. David Cameron’s Big Society. (Nice to be able to share a giggle with Rowan Williams every now and then.)
3. Slapstick. (See James, above.)

I’d so love to be an intellectual. And Woody Allen philosophising about life (“full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly”) is seriously funny. But the sad / happy truth is, it doesn’t come close to him slipping repeatedly on a giant banana skin before beating a man senseless with a strawberry. Or Laurel and Hardy chimney-sweeping, mainly by means of accidentally shooting up and down the chimney themselves. Or, perhaps the most famous clip of them all, Buster Keaton being (almost) flattened by a falling house.

Graeme Garden must think so too. He and his fellow Goodies have fallen off trandems; sleepwalked on double-decker buses; fallen fully dressed into rivers; been multiple-y blown up; and plain tripped over.

He’s also patron of Bristol’s Slapstick Festival, inaugurated in 2005 and dedicated to celebrating the humour of slapstick and silent comedy films. And he’s far from the only comedian who loves the genre. For seven of Britain’s funniest performers stood up and told gags at a special fundraiser in a bid to keep the festival from falling flat on its face: Slapstick costs £90,000 to run and difficult economic times are catching up with it.

So enter, stage right, Marcus Brigstocke, Arthur Smith, Lucy Porter, Barry Cryer, Ronnie Golden, Boothby Graffoe and Rory Bremner for an hilarious evening: Stand Up for Slapstick at Bristol’s Colston Hall.

Firmly denying rumours that this was a benefit event for Gary Barlow, Brigstocke – an incomparable compere – greeted the diverse members of the audience. “Any Greeks? PAY YOUR TAXES! Any Londoners?” (Small cheer.) “Well done! That’s the closest you’ve ever come to speaking to someone you don’t know.”

Alongside taxes – including (several) a tax on the altruistic bent of Jimmy Carr – senility was a recurring theme. Arthur Smith explained how he was now at the age (57) where he was able to convince younger people he’d fought in WW2: his nephew did a whole project on his heroic exploits. Whereas Barry Cryer, three years from his 80th birthday, revealed that sex at 77 was fantastic. “Unfortunately, we live at number 75. I don’t know how much longer I’ve got but I don’t even buy green bananas nowadays.”

What an inspired line-up it was. While Lucy Porter, mainly glad to escape her children for the evening, read out Argos reviews – “White bread bin; only buy this bread bin if you are looking for a white bread bin” – Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden altered the pace with music, including Peace and Quiet, a song that lulls you into restful silence by the simple expedient of shattering your eardrums. Boothby Graffoe shared his horse-drawn wedding – “We should have had a photographer” – and Rory Bremner satirised the whole of politics and most of Britain in style, with Prince Charles on Jubilee Day declaring, “I wish this rain would stop”. Awkward.

Brilliant stuff. Graeme Garden – one of the inspirations behind the event – must have felt chuffed. “My comedy hero,” Marcus Brigstocke called him.

I’m tempted to say: Let Slapstick’s financial needs perpetuate because, if this was a fundraiser, it was a very funny way to do it. But, of course, I really wish it financial stability and a custard pie in the face.

• For more on the 2013 Slapstick Festival, taking place in Bristol during January, visit www.slapstick.org.uk

All words Katie Jarvis, all photo’s © Adam Johnson/Slapstick Festival.

More photo’s from the evening can be found on the Slapstick Festivals Flickr page.

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