You might expect the last night of the Greenwich Comedy Festival to finish with fireworks, but Mark Watson's Big Night Out wasn't fueled by pyrotechnics.
For a slightly gawky comedian constantly overflowing with childlike enthusiasm, who has become most famous for his appearances on Mock The Week, his marathon 24 hour Edinburgh Shows and - as he reminded us from the outset - that Magners commercial, Watson has somehow attracted a fairly leery following. Before the show was even due to start, the sell-out crowd were slow-clapping the empty stage. Jo Brand managed to pacify them as compere, with some belly laughs for good measure - frequently laughing about bellies, but also men, motherhood and everything you'd expect from any pre-conceptions you may have about her. The sweetly bashful and disarmingly potty-mouthed Sarah Millican went on to tell tales of self deprecation and relationships, frequently taking seemingly innocent material into dark and filthy territory which seems jarringly out of character, and is all the more funny for it. The audience was completely won over.
And then there was Hans Teeuween.
The Dutch comedian is renowned for his divisive style, but even this forewarning could not prepare you for what was to come. The otherwise eloquent and intelligent character (resembling Nick Cave on Speed) delivered a set which would have stretched the dark imagination of even David Lynch. A slightly bemused audience were invited to participate in a segment climaxing (literally) in hand puppets engaging in anal sex, before Teeuween managed to incite sacrilegious accusations despite cleverly not actually making any offensive comments. A rousing rendition of a song in praise of female genitalia was the final straw for many, and by the end of the set - as he was writhing around on the stage wrapping himself around a chair - half the audience were calling for him to leave. More tellingly though, the other half were begging him to stay.
Following that, Mark Watson's ponderings on drinking water ("Filtered through ancient rock - as if there is any other kind of rock"), his impending fatherhood, and whether it would be possible to make the world a better place if chasing was still acceptable beyond Primary School age (putting a rather disturbingly graphic image of how Gordon Brown should have livened up the recent G8 summit into my head) seemed to lack the impact it would otherwise have had. But the ex-Footlight managed to keep the attention of an audience already depleted by the previous act and conscious of having to negotiate the late night DLR replacement service, bringing back a lighter note to the evening’s entertainment.
Judging by the success of these events, the Comedy Festival will be welcomed with open arms when it returns to Greenwich next year. Whether Teeuween will be though is another question altogether.
By Ruth Lang