Daniel Kitson, John Kearns, Josie Long, Stewart Lee - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

John Kearns. John (John Kearns)

Former Taskmaster star Jamali Maddix had a fun joke in his Edinburgh Fringe show last year, about the aftereffects of appearing on the hit Channel 4 series: "that show ruined my life. You're looking at me confused, waiting for me to do something whimsical".

A similar concern may have crossed John Kearns' mind when he agreed to appear on the programme. Since winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2014, he's done well to cultivate a committed fanbase for his offbeat, artful, melancholic approach to stand-up. The kind of fans who like to drink Beavertown Neck Oil and talk at length about their vinyl collections. So, whilst all those Taskmaster fans will generate plenty of additional ticket sales, how will they react to the slightly more idiosyncratic John Kearns live show experience?

He tackles the issue head-on at the start of the show - and is certainly funny about it - before then diving into some material (about The One Show and Sunday Brunch) that everyone will be able to enjoy. With such topics, he's usually still taking a sideways look at events, never going for the obvious joke. It's a skilled intro to his on-stage persona. From there, things gradually get a little more abstract, but there's also tender sections on new fatherhood, and a section on boiled potatoes (genuinely the show's highlight).

It's probably not quite an essential show - his 2019 effort was a little better. You don't imagine every newcomer will return for subsequent tours, but if they don't, they certainly won't feel as though they've wasted their money either. If you're in the mood for a comedian that's committed to doing things their own distinctive way, Taskmaster have done well with this suggestion.

Daniel Kitson

Over at the Bloomsbury Theatre there was a fundraising gig hosted by genuine comedy legend Daniel Kitson. If you're the type of comedy fan to speculate on why he's returning to indoor performance after three years, his discussions of being in debt might offer something of a hint. It's certainly a pleasure to have him returning to stand-up, however, and seemingly fully back on form after a slightly underwhelming tour of outdoor venues last summer. His audience interaction segments have always been amongst the best in the business, and they are a particular pleasure tonight.

Elsewhere on the night, Ania Magliano was the best act on a bill where, truth be told, most comedians underwhelmed. Not much to complain about with headliner Stewart Lee though, save for the random humour-free tangent where he went off on attacking fellow comedian Matt Forde - after all these years it appears Lee still prefers indulging a grudge over making his audience laugh. It's the only low point of an otherwise great set - one that finds Lee buoyant, relaxed and up for having fun.

Josie Long

Speaking of buoyant fun, Josie Long is having a great time playing the large, beautiful main room at Hackney Earth. "This is so big! I think this is where they filmed the moon landings!".

In the past, Long has sometimes tended to favour performances that were more lightly amusing than consistently funny - there's always great storytelling and campaigning, but occasionally a little less focus on the humour than you'd maybe like. Here, that balance is much better.

It's still not a show that shies away from its politics - Long is a socialist who jokes "I would be a communist but I've not done the reading". You're always, then, going to get some heartfelt social campaigning in a Josie Long show, and she's particularly good here on that somewhat lesser-discussed stand-up comedy topic of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act 2021. There's also rock-solid humour throughout nearly all of the show (if the second half could possibly lose 15 minutes, that still leaves a full 90 mins that's thoroughly recommendable). When a surprisingly aggressive-sounding heckler seems to object to her politics, Long handles it very well. As ever, it's a pleasure to be in her company, but particularly here, when she's producing some of her best work yet.

Read previous editions of this column

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter, where he'll shortly be issuing an apology to John Kearns' fanbase.

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