Non-Smoker: a Stand-Up Show

Wed 9th – Sat 12th May 2012

reviews

Bara Golanova

at 01:35 on 10th May 2012

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Non-Smoker at the ADC, featuring Pierre Novellie, Ali Lewis, guest performer Lowell Belfield, and Ahir Shah, was like an average film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It had its brilliant parts, which were brought by Pierre Novellie and Ahir Shah to what otherwise would have been an overall mediocre show.

Its concept as such did not greatly differ from what you would call an every-day stand-up comedy show (if there even is such a thing). Pierre Novellie served as the presenter of three other comedians, with him coming in between the individual acts as well as at the beginning and end, and entertaining the audience.

Novellie owned up to his role brilliantly, though with one problem - him being so funny that one did not really want other acts to come up in his place. In his casual presentation of observations on a variety of subjects, such as computer games or old Welsch law, Novellie managed to "keep everything going". He even succeeded in using cultural and national stereotypes in a not necessarily new, but not hackneyed way, which resulted in hilariously funny comments on them. He seemed very confident and comfortable on stage, which also showed in his skillful engagement with the audience and in the way the audience responded to him.

Ali Lewis and Lawrel Bellfield were slightly weaker parts of the show, with Lewis' rather cliche remarks on dating and relationships, using quite obvious innuendos and Bellfield's disorderly kind of "throwing the jokes out there" without a clear context. Lewis' stage-manners were very different from Novellie's confident tone, tinged rather with insecurity and diffidence. This was clearly a part of Lewis' act, but it gave-off a rather shaky impression after Novellie. However, Lewis did manage to make good reference to his jokes throughout his performance, which, at times, was quite funny. Bellfield seemed to have built-up the image of a cute, red-haired, puzzled teenager. His act had quite a strong beginning with many good jokes and an overall good use of them, but slipped into a sort-of "I have no idea where you're going with this" impression of the viewer towards the end.

The star of the show obviously was Ahir Shah. His performance was witty and hilarious at the same time, which is not such a common thing to be seen in stand-up comedy. Shah clearly has very good rhetoric and acting skills, and even when he was not making jokes at the very moment, he managed to keep the audience's full attention. Shah brilliantly connected political and social issues with an original use of humour, which made his act unique and definitely worth seeing again. His characteristic self-presentation as someone who seems to talk too much at first, but at the end actually gets somewhere, made his performance stand-out. Shah's phrase "OMGanesh" could be used to fittingly summarize his act.

Overall, Non-Smoker is definitely worth seeing. Like an average film starring not at all average actors, the show involved some performers that were nothing less than outstanding and brilliantly funny.

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Evie Prichard

at 10:31 on 10th May 2012

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In the real world, Non-Smoker would almost certainly merit four stars. Really quite a few laughs, a good atmosphere and a receptive audience made it a very pleasant place to be for an hour or so on a Wednesday night, and there’s no denying that we were being tended to by four of the best comedians in Cambridge.

If this praise sounds a bit faint, that’s because it is. For me Non-Smoker was a solid three stars at best. That’s because I, like a sizeable proportion of an audience willing to turn out at 11pm in the rain for an hour of comedy, have been to a few smokers before. And as a result I, and the rest of this sizeable proportion, could probably recite word-for-word at least a third of the material in the show.

The only completely blameless character in this orgy of recycling was the special guest, Lowell Bellfield. Charming, gawky and very funny, Lowell was making only his third stand-up appearance but completely failed to give this away. His routine was short but compelling, mixing viscerally awkward anecdotes with potent self-deprecation and the odd completely unfounded assertion.

Compere Pierre Novelie was another high point. Although one person I talked to said she recognised several of his jokes, I hadn’t heard any of them before and would probably have forgiven him if I had. His complete ease with the audience and a smile that has you yearning to invite him down the pub make Pierre an utterly likeable host. He was also generally agreed to be the funniest of the performers by some way.

Ally Lewis’ routine was characterised by his shuffling demeanour and the assertion ‘I can’t talk to girls’. It began and ended with a lot of laughs, but could perhaps be accused of lagging in the middle. Then again, this could be because a large chunk of it depended on his truly excellent puns, which I’ve just heard one too many times to find funny. These are really his forte, and the performance would have been a lot better for a few more one-liners and a little less time spent discussing his penile insecurities and difficulties with women in the context of a whole load of anecdotes in which he attended clubs and had a lot of sex.

Headlining the show was Ahir Shah, a man with a lot of comedic experience. In terms of delivery Ahir really can’t be faulted – he’s very professional and his energy is perfectly pitched to carry the audience along without becoming annoying. Yet the actual things he said didn’t exactly live up to their delivery. A tendancy to provide extremely long build-ups, often full of semi-philosophical or political description, fell flat a few times when the punchline didn’t live up to the time invested. The poignant and slightly earnest conclusion could have been fantastic if it had provided pathos after a crescendo of hilarity. As it was, it meant that things just sort of petered out.

Ahir still gets laughs because, well, he’s telling you to laugh and he seems to know what he’s talking about. And absolutely, there are a few moments of brilliance there. Really though, and particularly when you’ve seen exactly the same routine twice at Clare Comedy, once at a Downing smoker and once at the ADC already, much of the material just isn’t worth the minutes of deliberation and hyperactive repetition which precedes it. That said, had the set been half as long and unfamiliar to me I would have thought it was genius.

And that’s the thing about this show, really. If you haven’t seen much of these comedians before then it’s an absolute no-brainer. Go see it, and you won’t be disappointed. If, however, you’ve been to a few things featuring these gentlemen over the last year and are expecting a new and surprising comedy show, you should think more carefully. This is largely the same stuff in the same setting, just with a new poster.

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