REVIEW: Surreal ideas, quick-fire gags and bracing irreverence from Barnstormers Comedy

Zoe Lyons
Zoe Lyons

Barnstormers Comedy, The Capitol, Horsham, Sunday, January 18

“You haven’t been dulled by the January blues here, have you?” asks compère Kevin Precious, as he greets a packed studio at The Capitol.

As soon as he’s onstage he’s making fun of the comfortable and allegedly affluent audience members. “Wahey! It’s Sunday, I couldn’t care less. I might not even get up tomorrow if I don’t feel like it.”

Maybe it doesn’t accurately describe the Horsham work ethic but Kevin gets a warm reception nevertheless as he talks to audience members and gets some amusingly pedantic replies. “Have you been before?” he asks one audience member. “What, here?” the man replies.

During his three appearances this evening Kevin talks about the dangers of picking on loners (and alpha males) and muses about whether the concept of ‘the dole’ exists in Horsham. He also wonders if Horsham residents travel further afield to spot dole recipients in the wild.

It’s high energy stuff and Kevin mixes in some puerile jokes about Cardinal Wolsey from his ‘Not Appropriate’ show. These gags still get healthy laughs but Kevin’s interpretation of the Shelley Fountain as a symbol of something rather rude is met with more puzzlement than amusement this time around.

Anyway, Kevin explains that he likes to dig a hole for the opening act, which is oddly fair tonight seeing as the opening act is self-described ‘giant’ Luke Benson. The comedian refers to his height (6’7”) immediately, getting his first big laughs by describing the problems being tall can cause.

The merriment continues with a chucklesome story about playing a troll in a Norwegian advert.

The second act, Quincy, manages to get a laugh before he’s even onstage by phoning Kevin (who’s busy compering) to say where he is following train problems.

It’s pretty much hilarious from start to finish with Quincy. The laid back, irreverent comic talks about having Christmas dinner with religious family members and explains the real reason why it’s emotional when a parent’s child finally turns 18.

It’s a refreshing set, mainly because Quincy has a bold ‘tell it like it is’ style and doesn’t take any prisoners. However, he keeps his comedy fair by making himself the butt of more than a few jokes.

The final act of the evening is Hove-based stand-up Zoe Lyons, who gets the audience on her side quickly by congratulating people for not having a ‘dry January’.

Zoe is an excellent headliner who combines surreal ideas about everyday situations – aggressive shopping, eating too much at Christmas – with sharp, seemingly throwaway lines that stick in the mind for hours after she’s said them. Her muddled, middle class confusion about society goes down well as she balances pretend snobbery with witty self-deprecating remarks.

The hits come thick and fast as Zoe jokes about subjects as diverse as boxes of wine, Co-op Funeralcare and gay marriage. Even an audience member’s phone going off is worked into her routine effectively, as she frantically acts out the nightmare scenario of trying to get a touch-screen phone to shut up in a hurry.