Paul Sinha, Glastonbury, Elf Lyons, Weirdos - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

Paul Sinha

Unfortunate news if you come to this column looking for recommendations on what live comedy to go see: for this edition, two of the shows we're reporting on were being performed for the very last time.

That's the case for Paul Sinha's Once Sinha Lifetime. Naturally, the big talking point surrounding him currently is his Parkinson's diagnosis. It does feature in the show, though you could hardly accuse him of going for the sympathy vote. If he pushes emotional buttons, it's only in the very closing moments of the show, when you've already come to the conclusion that it's fantastic.

The result is a five-star show. You'd go as far as to say he's on bolshy form - there's a well-argued section questioning why he hasn't ever been booked to appear on The Last Leg, the suggestion being: are they only looking to book younger, photogenic disabled people...? Elsewhere, there's excellent throwaway moments mentioning what Phillip Schofield and Howard Donald have been up to recently, as well as pleasingly catty commentary taking aim at Giles Coren, Peter Kay, Priti Patel, The Sun newspaper and Ricky Gervais.

It's fairly traditional stand-up, but the jokes are clever, easy-going and a substantial cut above nearly all of his contemporaries.

From what he's said so far, the follow-up to this show will be in a similar vein, but maybe even more so. "I just want to enjoy myself and not give a shit about who I upset in the process" - he recently told this website. You have to hope, meanwhile, that Once Sinha Lifetime will at least come out on YouTube at some point, if not somewhere more prestigious. If it doesn't, it will be an injustice.

Adam Larter

We're big fans of the Weirdos comedy collective here at British Comedy Guide. Their shows tend to be slightly ramshackle affairs - 'charmingly shambolic' is kinda the brand. The advertising industry provides the inspiration for their latest venture. Weirdos founder/benevolent overlord Adam Larter's day job is in the industry, and he's built a show around those meetings where marketing companies pitch their advert ideas to big brands. It's slightly like Dragon's Den, then, except the people doing the pitching are comedians and their suggestions just so happen to be absolutely ridiculous. The company being pitched to, meanwhile, is us, the audience.

Larter conducts a straw poll: a sizable minority of the crowd work in advertising themselves. They'll have really loved this show: there's definitely industry in-jokes aimed at them. Some of these can still be appreciated by the whole audience, some of them get subtly explained to the rest of us, and some just fly clean over our heads. One of the central jokes of the show, for example, is about Latin placeholder text. Latin placeholder text! There's a big karaoke number about 'amends'! Absolute madness. Elsewhere, the usual joyful, surreal Weirdos humour is present and correct, this time mixed in with a welcome splash of anti-consumerist sentiment.

For this show, the guest comedians have written five-minute advertising pitches they'll never perform again, which - for the most part - are also great (Bec Hill provides the highlight this time round). It feels as though the overall result is a format that could run and run, should they fancy toning down the in-jokes slightly and advertising it to a wider comedy audience.

Elf Lyons

Clown comedians were already going through a bit of a fashionable moment before Viggo Venn won a certain major TV talent competition. His win sparked an outpouring of joy from fellow clowns, including Elf Lyons, who commented on what an important moment it was for this style of comedy.

Lyons describes her show Raven as "horror comedy". What does that entail, exactly? She quips: "It will be funny for those of you that don't find me scary, and scary for those of you that don't find me funny".

Horror-comedy is a decent description, though. You could also call it fearsome, artsy, bold, strongly feminist, sexually provocative and angry. "If you've not seen me before, you can talk about this in a session", she advises at one point.

Mime features fairly heavily throughout the hour - she performs an overly sexual dance as a 9-year-old, chastising the audience for objectifying her. Elsewhere, she acts-out her fantasy of going on a murderous rampage after suffering harassment during a morning commute on the Jubilee line.

A love of horror shines through on this, also the last performance of the show. There's a good number of Stephen King references throughout. There are lighter moments too: Lyons is great company in between the setpieces, holding our hand as she guides us through the darkness. The show certainly works for people that aren't Stephen King fans. Overall though, this brilliant show feels like it was particularly made for women who are fed up with 'being nice'.

In an bit of scheduling innovation, after that wild free-for-all (and an interval), Lyons 'showcases her range' by coming back on stage for 25 minutes of conventional storytelling stand-up. It largely centres around her various (not exactly unremarkable) sexcapades, and, in short, is also superb.

James Acaster

Finally, some chitchat about Glastonbury. Don't worry, I'm not here to bore you with my thoughts about Elton. Comedy-wise, the offering at the long-running mega-festival has historically been pretty crap. This year's lineup was a little better, but they could still do with lavishing far more attention on the art form.

From what we saw, there was an okay long-form interview with Kerry Godliman, and Spencer Jones did the same greatest hits set he performs every year (it must be said, some of the sight-jokes really don't work for people towards the back of this large tent). Then there was Nish Kumar interviewing James Acaster about his music side project.

The last time we reported on these two in this column, Kumar interviewed Acaster whilst he was in character as detective Pat Springleaf, with thrilling results. It's difficult to offer such a full-throated recommendation for Acaster's music, and this in-conversation session is also more intermittently-great than the one that came before. Special shout out, though, to one particularly clever audience member who randomly shouted "poppadoms or bread?" at one point. Now there's a comedy genius they'd do well to book at next year's festival.

Read previous editions of this column

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter (where he will be clarifying to anybody who asks that he actually hated that heckler at Glastonbury).

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