REVIEW: FAT PENGUIN IMPROV

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For several years Fat Penguin Comedy Club has run in the Patrick Kavanagh pub in Moseley.  It now has a younger brother, hosted by stand up comedian and improviser Ben Hall, which is run with a focus on unscripted comedy.  Each night includes a range of acts, including a different headline every month, and is all funded on a pay-what-you-can basis.  This provides the widest range of laughs in the Midlands.

The show started with short sketches from the in-house group.  The style here would be familiar to regulars of improv comedy nights, where each scene has rules explained to the audience which the performers must then follow.  This also included some styles of sketch I’d not seen before such as Two Headed Stand-Up, where Zahida Ali & Ben Hall took turns saying alternate words to create jokes based on an audience suggestion.  These two combined to give the cleverest moment of the night, a “Doctor Doctor” joke about knitting and needles.  Each other member of the group (Ross Golightly, Melanie Bradley & John Guelke) had their moments to shine.

Next up was Mike Brown from New York, who performed with Ben in an extended series of scenes based on the word “elephant”.    The bulk of the action revolved around two elephant brothers, the elder with a loud trumpet call and the younger who failed pathetically whenever he tried.  I was impressed at the skill involved in keeping the scenes simple and on track, as we explored how the simple difference in trumpet skills affected the relationship between the brothers & how it reflected their wider family ties.

After a break, the headline act The Same Faces filled an hour with comedy goodness from a strong team of performers.  After a quick introduction to everybody by being interviewed as experts on topics suggested by the audience, we moved into a mixture of longer scenes covering silly situations, music and gags.  At a wildlife sanctuary we met one employee (Tom Young) explaining to the other (Dave Gotheridge) why it made perfect sense to serve hedgehogs for Christmas dinner.  In a bar we overheard a depressed customer (Kierann Shah) singing about what it was like to only fall in love with people who had the same name as you.  And tuning into an infomercial, we heard Jen Kenny, Safia Lamrani & Tom Young sing “Songs of the sex workers”, a fake history of the music that surrounds the oldest profession.  It was a treat to be there for the world’s only performance of “You’re not Richard Gere”, along with all the other musical creations composed by Douglas Deans.  This section was funny and engaging without being coarse, building on the audience suggestion and avoiding making weak or obvious jokes.  A fine showcase for all the talents on stage.

 

 

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