REVIEW: Just The Tonic, Saturday 11th May

Following last week’s great entertainment, I couldn’t wait to get back to Just The Tonic this week. And with Joel Dommett, of Russell Howard’s Good News and Impractical Jokers fame, on a bill headlined by the reputedly hilarious Roger Monkhouse, along with circuit regulars Tom Toal and Susan Murray, I held equally high expectations as the previous week.

The night was compered by Tom Toal, a comedian who I did not know much about before the night. At first, he seemed promising with his pleasant, affable manner. However, as the gig progressed, he seemed to lack the wit needed to turn crowd interaction into engaging comedy. He would repeatedly ask questions of the crowd, but then fail to create a joke out of the responses he received, stagnating the gig into a question and answer session.  He summed up his contribution to the night when he quipped, ‘I’m going to have to tell you a joke before I bring the last act on, the atmosphere seems to have gone a little flat.’

The first comedian Toal introduced was Susan Murray. As the first female comedian I had seen live, I hoped that she could go some way to dispelling the stigma which surrounds them. I found her act to be something of a mixed bag. Murray had some funny gags, which pleasingly veered away from stereotypical female comedian material. Despite this, she suffered regularly with flawed delivery, and often attempted to eke out extra laughs with multiple punch-lines, blunting the comedic value of her jokes.

Next up was Joel Dommett, who had a large task in raising the atmosphere. As he starred alongside Paul McCaffrey on BBC3’s Impractical Jokers, a comedian who impressed me last week, I hoped that he would improve the standard. True to reputation, he soon had the night firmly back on track with his effervescence and abundance of energy. His natural campness was always evident, yet not continually exploited, as he showed that his manic vivacity was not a front for a lack of wit but rather an infectious enthusiasm for making people laugh.

Headlining the bill was Roger Monkhouse. He cut an enigmatic figure as he walked out in khaki shorts and sandals, swigging from a bottle of Carlsberg and declaring to the crowd that he looked like a ‘German sex tourist’. It was soon clear why he was the headline act; his laconic delivery portrayed his perfect timing, and his rambling monologues combined eloquence and wit to leave the audience in stitches. His whole demeanour showed the ease that he felt on stage – something which the first two acts could have done with studying from backstage.

All in all, a mixed performance from the night’s comedians, but the loveable Joel Dommett, followed by the brilliant Roger Monkhouse, ensured that I still had another very enjoyable night.

Andy Donley

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