LAUGHNow Comedy Club review – gremlins mess with the joy of jokes | Stage

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LIVENow has streamed “a string of successful live concerts”, blared the publicity, by the likes of Dua Lipa and Ellie Goulding. So an hour’s comedy would be plain sailing, surely? Alas, no, on the evidence of this first edition of LAUGHNow, a live standup series launched on Friday. For a 10-minute period mid-show, the video stopped and started, and the sound vanished completely – problems briefly solved before rearing up again to thwart headliner Russell Kane’s big finish. And so, in an hour intended to reconnect us with the joys of live comedy, these alienating “technical issues” left me missing it even more keenly than before.

But what am I missing? The vigour, certainly, and incandescent wide-boy charisma of Kane’s contribution, reprising gags from the Covid-themed set I saw him perform last November. But not so much the workaday club comedy that characterised the rest of the bill. MC Jarred Christmas joked about his new lockdown job “wanking blokes in Swindon”. Jo Caulfield made cynical noises about lactose-intolerant people and middle-aged parties. Even before the technical issues, LAUGHNow (performed to a small in-person audience interspersed with screens showing viewers at home) was not transporting us to the most rarefied heights of comic creativity.

It may do so in the weeks to come: scheduled acts include Spencer Jones and Nina Conti. Tonight, the job fell to the expansive Essex man at the top of the bill – or “Kane saves the day”, as one onlooker summed up in the live chat. The spike in energy was palpable as the 45-year-old flounced across the stage, reeling at comedians’ reduced status in the age of Covid, anthropomorphising British versus German vaccines, and mapping the bizarre contours of our “new normal” – while denying it’s anything of the sort.

“We’ve gone so far into weirdness,” he argues, “but we won’t stay there.” It’s not just a big-hitting topical standup set, it’s a rallying call for that moment when we can laugh together at close quarters (or “literally eject spores of whatever is in your body”, in Kane’s words) once more. After this gremlin-haunted hour, I look forward to it more than ever.



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