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Romesh Ranganathan afterparty, Josh Pugh, Patti Harrison, Ivo Graham play - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

Romesh Ranganathan

Live comedy is littered with examples of comedians using the medium, you suspect, in order to indulge their true dream: rock star fame. It can be baffling to sit at a show, watching a well-known comedian overrunning because they've decided to intersperse their stand-up comedy with three or four songs, despite the performance of said songs not aiming to be funny, or at least serve a narrative purpose. No, they've helmed their show exactly how they'd dream of helming it, and you - an audience that has paid actual money to see this - will regrettably just have to grin and bear it.

Does the same apply for Romesh Ranganathan's regular forays into the world of hip-hop? This column has, after all, been very complimentary about his previous experiments in this direction.

This show, Romesh Ranganathan: The After Party, is, however, a seemingly one-off clubnight immediately after one of his tour dates at the Millennium Dome. It telegraphs his deep, lifelong love of the genre, but also works well as just a good old-fashioned night out: a warmup DJ spins peak-of-the-night hip-hop crowd-pleasing classics. There's guest appearances from the likes of Brit Award winner CASSISDEAD (underappreciated by this audience, which in turn makes him grumpy), then Jaguar Skillz, who is an extremely effective party DJ booking. Ranganathan ties proceedings together with interjections, skits and the occasional showing off of his actually half-decent rapping ability. If it is self-indulgence then it's easy to forgive when the end product is actually good.

Patti Harrison

It's fair to say Patti Harrison's show My Huge Tits Huge Because They're Infected NOT FAKE goes to some dark, warped places, but there's skill in gradually dialling up the weird throughout the performance, so the audience stick with you for the journey, frog-in-boiling-water style. It's probably reasonable to imagine that some of the material here would truly scare the shit out of a Comedy Store audience watching a 15 minute set.

The show opens with a whirlwind 20ish minutes of energy, interactions and quality lines. Harrison parodies 2024 self-care talk, then tries to convince us that she's not a mean comedian, before immediately confronting a woman on the front row by saying "I'm not like 'how much do you weigh?'". After this phenomenal opening section the show settles into a steadier pace - it's billed as a 75 minute show and ran over by another ten, which you'd stop short of saying it needed. But Harrison still feels like a thoroughly exciting talent, perhaps a darker version of Sam Campbell. Not for everyone, maybe, but deserving of stardom - as well as genuine adulation in alternative comedy circles.

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh is making himself out to be the responsible guy. The safety lad. Dependable Pugh, coming down from the North of England to deliver some sensible realism to the Londonfolk. It's a great show: there's a nod - surprisingly unusual in 2024 live comedy, this - to the great cultural phenomenon of our times: air friers. His whole section on taxis is observational comedy par excellence. He also has a neat line in offering up a sincere-sounding, thoroughly respectable 2024 opinion on a subject such as, say, the climate crisis, then undercutting it, invariably to gales of laugher.

What you get from Pugh is an extremely high hit rate. There's a vague attempt to pull the show together cohesively at the end which is the only part I could take or leave. Otherwise, this hour is another treat. Dependable Pugh, indeed.

Ivo Graham

In the live comedy game, as in life, usually the point of marketing is to persuade you to buy the thing. Rarer, then, to see the approach Ivo Graham took when he staged an early version of his play at last year's Edinburgh Fringe:

"Ivo Graham dips a greedy toe into the theatre/therapy section, poring over the usuals (relationships, responsibilities, regrets) without any promise of logic or laughter. It takes a meaty whack of self-absorption for a comedian to book an extra slot at the Fringe just to gaze further at his navel without punchlines: please only do come if you can forgive such indulgence."

It should be noted that there's far less apologetic expectation management in the updated blurb, but still, there's a significant portion of comedy fans that despair of the recent trend for including serious sections in live comedy shows. They may wish to thank Ivo: many a comedian would take ideas like this as a framework for their 'main' comedy show, possibly in the hope of gaining positive reviews from a few broadsheet newspapers. Ivo instead opts to clearly delineate this as a 'theatre' show. Perhaps a place for creative experimentation, away from the need to make an audience laugh every 20 seconds.

So, given the effort that's gone into both expectation management and clear separation between this and his live comedy, it might come as something of a surprise for you to learn that this show - Carousel - is actually pretty consistently funny. Enough to be classified as a very funny theatre show, or a passably funny comedy show.

With any of Ivo's shows you're invariably going to get some of his trademark wonderful turns of phrase, and that's certainly the case here. He also mines marathon running and filming Taskmaster for emotional depth, which - fair play - not much theatre is attempting in 2024.

There's a strong possibility that you need to already be a fan of Ivo in order to really enjoy this. It's a theatre show so expect extremely high levels of introspection and rumination that frequently strays into self-laceration, though none of this is to a problematic extent. If all this sounds like it appeals, I can confirm that this is definitely the comedy/theatre show for you.


Read previous editions of this column (featuring Fawlty Towers: The Play, Sarah Keyworth, Phil Wang, Jessica Fostekew and Rhod Gilbert).

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter. He'd probably mine watching Taskmaster for emotional depth, tbf.

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