Bus-ting to Laugh

Mon 20th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Rivkah Brown

at 11:14 on 21st Aug 2012

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1disagrees

Upon arriving at ‘Bus-ting to Laugh’, we discovered that the show had suffered a last-minute location change, moving from - you guessed it - a bus, to The News Room, and a rather poky performance space underneath a bar. This unfortunately rendered their brilliant titular pun useless.

Joe Bains, who advertises himself on the show’s flyer as ‘a London Sikh with aspirations of working in an Indian call centre’, is what you might call the warm-up act, although his efforts leave the audience tepid at best. He had clearly misjudged the (largely female) crowd, upon whom his cracks about w*nking and anal sex fell decidedly flat.

Bains’ tone with the audience is far too conversational - rather than using questions about the audience’s background as a springboard to red-hot improvisation, Bains maintains a low-level small talk with the audience members, in this case missing out the easy target of Italian visitors. Nor does routinely calling each audience member’s hometown a ‘s**thole’ feel like an ingratiating tactic.

It must be said, however, that despite the general atmosphere of hostility (and a torturous number of awkward silences), Bains is incredibly persistent with his comedy, never once turning or giving up upon his unresponsive crowd. He did eventually manage to crack two particularly game audience members, who generously became the sole victims of audience participation.

Bains’ co-comic is Diane Fitton, a charming if slightly motherly performer, whose style of comedy, like Bains, is more living room than theatre, more sit down than stand up. There seems a worrying imperceptibility of punchlines in Fitton’s set, with jokes which seem to lack confidence, and mumble themselves into collapse. The gags themselves were too strung-out (a particular joke about internet dating held us in its grip for a full ten minutes), and the resulting lack of variety leads the audience to stop paying attention, and disengage from any participation Fitton attempts vainly to invite.

My main issue with Bains’ second set are its casual references to rape. Whoever has read Tanya Gold’s recent Guardian article on this very topic will know what a viral problem rape jokes are at the Fringe. I felt that Bains was jumping on the sexual assault bandwagon with the hope of juicing the now flagging show for all its comic worth; but this misguided tactic just embittered the audience further. My advice to ‘Bus-ting for Laughs’ would be to work on enlivening their potentially good material, and kill the non-starters.

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Lise McNally

at 11:55 on 21st Aug 2012

0agrees

1disagrees

I went into ‘Bus-ting to Laugh’ bursting with hope. Having received a lovely warm welcome through the door by Diane Fitton - one half of what seems to be a genuinely nice comedy duo - I really wanted to enjoy the show. Sadly, I just I couldn’t. Sweet they may be, but stand-up comics they ain’t.

As a compère, Joe Bains was acceptable: welcoming us to the show with energetic friendliness, he tried his best to get the audience warmed up by engaging in some preliminary banter. This was interesting, and did serve to break down the fourth wall, but it fell short of actually amusing. Bains failed to utilise the audience’s responses to create funny and new material, instead simply repeating their answers back to them - it felt less like a stand-up show and more like a coffee morning. After the first few minutes I knew everyone’s names and where they came from, but had yet to hear a single joke. As a stand-up comedian and improv performer, however, I’m afraid to say that Joe is a little bit awful. While I’m sure that he did not mean to be deliberately offensive, his repeated references to gang rape are unfunny and frankly uncomfortable. Similarly, his 'Family Fortunes' game deploys an unsophisticated humour which is several decades too old to be anything other than misogynistic: “What’s the first thing men do after sex? Pay”. Of course, because all women are prostitutes...

As the second and last performer of the afternoon, Fitton was marginally better. She is an engaging conversationalist with an infectious smile and expressive face; however her comic delivery needs quite a bit of work in order to make the transition from anecdote to actual joke. In particular, Fitton displays a tendency to rush her endings, speeding her potentially funny tales of girl guides or blind dates to the point that the actual punchline flashes past without giving the audience time to register the humour. Instead, each tale was met with a somewhat baffled silence. As one man from the increasingly uncomfortable crowd so astutely observed; “it was painful, roll on”.

In fact, the only proper laughs to be had from ‘Bus-ting to Laugh’ were provided courtesy of the audience: a truly witty bunch, and the sole redeeming feature of the afternoon. Their participation and witty comebacks really show Joe and Diane how it ought to be done: stylishly, slowly and without causing outright offence. As a result I really can’t recommend ‘Bus-ting to Laugh’ - even as free fringe it isn’t value for money.

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Comments

joe bains; 23rd Aug 2012; 11:04:53

This review was done badly.

you are not supposed to turn on your high horses and announce during the show that you are there to review the show.

your supposed turn up like any other member of the audience.

your supposed to be invisible. you can tell us at the end.

we don't need to know you are there.

when you announced during the show that you are the reviewers and there to review the show, you panicked us - we are not professionals and this is the first time somebody has announced that they are there to review the show.

we ran around like headless chickens panicing.

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