Lemonheads... Oasis... The Beautiful South. Scott Bennett's trademark dad taste in music ain't the only thing that is flawless.
The closest thing Bennett's pre-show playlist gets to alternative is the KLF! And that's about as near to abrasive or specialised his entire 90 minutes gets. He is the perfect host on the Glasgow leg of his tour show. His crowd work is fully committed... Whatever the opposite of "throwaway" is? He is mixing it with the audience throughout, happy to stir the pot or go off-piste without ever losing sight of his set list.
Nobody is going to make an argument that Bennett isn't the epitome of mainstream. He has been a showstopper on Live At The Apollo. He'd make a perfect guest on the rebooted Blankety Blank. If the BBC wanted to recast Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, they have the Britpop generation equivalency right under their very noses.
Bennett is that mythical act your 13-year-old niece and 75 year-old dad can enjoy in the same breath. And if, next year, he got nominated for Best Show at the Fringe, every act on the 'mortgage and double-up circuit' would think some kinda justice has finally been served.
Bennett's got that post-Covid tension. The type we can all relate easily to. Anxiety! His smart meter is a grass. As is yours! Storm warning names are wet rather than scary. He worries about his pensioner dad joining in with the long overdue establishment toppling riot. Every home truth is amplified by layered writing, very little doesn't ring true. There's nothing teased that doesn't spring from a mind adept at turning the universal into the ridiculous. His kids dissolving in their rented hot tub is a punchline so vivid he knows to stretch out his drink break to accommodate the response.
It is a set so fidgety with angst at the state of the world, his career and our shared daily reality it borders on early Johnny Vegas in terms of voice and tone. Just a lot slicker, cleaner cut. And, somehow, we remain upbeat and feelgood throughout.
Youngest siblings' childhood rooms come in for an energetic prosecution. Bennett's tales of being the only daddy in the nursery group have the rhythm and bravado of classic Tom Stade. There are blast off lines about slow cookers, the parking situation at other religions' temples and even the ending of JFK. Every reference point coddles our shared experience and is wrung judiciously.
There must be plenty of multiverses where Scott Bennett is already the biggest name in comedy on these little islands. Our future just needs to catch up with them.
And a wee side note about the Glasgow Glee. I usually like my comedy down and dingy but I've always had a banging time at this newi-sh venue. I was here watching Sean Lock on opening night, and it was a pleasure again doing the 80-mile round trip to see the perfect act in the perfect setting this autumn. Decent range of beers and the best vegan dirty fries that have ever tingled my taste buds. Comfortable, fantastic service, nobody gets a bad view or an awkward spot. If this is the corporate high end of UK circuit comedy, then please sign me up.
Marcel Lucont has to be the only character performer confident enough to get a guaranteed around the room laugh for purposefully not having a punchline.
Confident? Arrogant? Superior? His greatest hits tour show, Marcel Lucont: Le "Best Of", is so packed with incontestable gems that he has every reason to be bull-ish. The finest character act to emerge on our scene since The Pub Landlord... and much like that long standing creation, a comedy persona seemingly purpose built to interrogate the British psyche. If Al Murray is our mouthy familiar, Lucont is the disdainful L'Étranger. One whose withering assessments of our isolated nations we yearn to hear.
Sophisticated like burgundy and with plenty of bleu (a dichotomy acknowledged in his subtle interval costume switch), this is cabaret, old chum. Song-wise he has the goods to fall back on. The jaunty A Great Time To Be A Pessimist ignites the show - incongruously high energy compared to all that follows. You wouldn't consider him a musical act, yet the erotic Continental Breast-fest could hold its own against any dirty old ditty a dedicated song-and-pun artist might end their show with.
Alexis Dubus' alter ego allows him to play the long game for laughs. He knows his audience hangs on Marcel's every word so he can patiently build up to some both massive and subtle punches. His cadence is measured and insouciant. It means even the gentlest dropped syllable can garner grand rewards.
The audience of the Edinburgh Stand lapped up his spoof poetry. I'm less of a fan but Wine In A Can was definitely a unifying set piece. I guess having a few of these spoken word readings in a show means you might start to notice the innards a bit too much. I recognised the similarity of the format too markedly by the third time the notebook came out. I doubt many others were all that bothered, these poems are filled with smart and raunchy lines. Personally though, less is more.
We get revealing readings from Marcel's now battered copy of his autobiography, Moi. Keep your eyes peeled for his inventive choice of bookmark. And how delightful was it to see the triumphant return of his 'variations on the classic 69' number cards. That, and 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, were like being reunited with old, long lost yet beloved friends.
Alexis seemingly has no pre-determined route through his reams of tried-and-tested gold. He selects quite a few routines through straw poll or bounces off the audience and then resurrects something apt from the memory banks. It must be a pleasure to have so many retired shinies to fall back upon. This jazzy route through his finest cuts means the pleasure is all ours. Une tour show par excellence... if you pardon my French.
Nice surprise of the month was Billy Kirkwood. I have not seen him for maybe 15 years, back when he was grinding away on the "room above a pub" circuit. He proved an overqualified opener for a Friday night at the Monkey Barrel. Other acts struggled in his wake.
Romping on stage in loose Converse, a baggy Haunted Mansion sweatshirt and Badger from Wind In The Willows' reading spectacles, he does not stop for punctuation, let alone breath. He bounds through a barrage of short burst material; hack and sublime, physical and anecdotal, erratic yet definitive. The whole twenty minutes screamed sensory mish-mash.
Some of it is pretty hoary. Antiques Roadshow could make a valuation on some of his set-ups and toppers. The clichéd stuff might be dated but in his hands they are cheekily priceless. Maybe enough time has passed and a lot of the over familiar wrinkles to me have come around full circle and seem box fresh to this crowd who have never been near a Jongleurs or a Laughing Horse.
Whatever works. Kirkwood's like a street performer on fast forward. His little toy hand prop comedy slays but isn't kicked to death. Maybe his greatest strength is the fact he has chiselled every bit down to its very bare bones. There's no real space for scrutiny, he goes straight for the next joke before the last laugh is even close to being rinsed. My taste enjoys stand-up a bit more marinated, fleshier, but the overall result is satisfying. He kicked the doors off the gig and partly it had to do with an unguarded throw anything against the wall mentality where so much stuck.
Who can hold their nose up or be snooty about this sort of thing on a Friday night? Kirkwood excelled at the job in front of him. The tourist-y / stag-gy / student-y crowd all came along for their first taste of Scottish Comedy. Kirkwood at least had the chutzpah, selflessness and mania of Billy Connolly. All he was missing was the stripey suit and the storytelling chops. The Big Yin was what many were no doubt hoping for. He's as close as these kids are going to get to the legend without a time machine.
Chris Forbes headlined the same show. His voice was more organic and his sense of calm, almost hypnotic. This man is the king of the soft sell. His under cranked stylings are very seductive.
Walking up on deck, he eyes up his prey with unhidden glee. He is happy to spend time with the crowd. Follow the haphazard nature of a weekend interaction without relying on the old staples to put them down. It is inviting rather than dominating.
Forbes' material is where he shines though. A very chilled lesson on how to deal with a Redback Spider, his childhood jealousy of nodding dogs, his English wife. His musings have the warmth and lure of a fireside chat. Yet they build up heads of steam, all roads lead to raucous laughter. His callbacks and beats are phantom threads, stitched in for the observant, there for comedy aficionados. While there is nothing alienating to the general audience you never once feel you are watching someone sacrifice their art for the drunken faces in front of them. He's the kinda headliner the audience come to, not meet halfway, as they were soon fully on board with minimal baiting.
I've seen Forbes a few times closing the Barrel since Lockdown eased and each time he has been an outstanding headliner. The look is Jim Carrey goes rockabilly and he wears it well. The attitude and inflection remind of Dave Allen. He really is that good, all he is missing is a stool and a lit Rothmans International. For my money he's the finest homegrown closer in Scotland currently. A best kept secret well worth travelling north of the border for.