Comedy Festival 2009, Michael Fowler Centre
May 9 | Reviewed by Alexander Bisley

NOTED 2005 television poll The Comedian’s Comedian gathered three hundred top comics’ all-time favourites. The excellent, versatile Steve Coogan clocked in at seventeen, ahead of Ricky Gervais, Charlie Chaplin and Larry David! There’s no doubting Wellington’s round of Steve Coogan Live was well entertaining, but I was a bit disappointed.

“Yeah, but have you given a blowjob on the logflume at Rainbow’s End?” Unsurprisingly, Northern slapper Pauline Calf kicked off proceedings. When her starry career ended, Pauline boasted of dedicating herself to — Princess Di-style — “work for spastics or mental people”. Ah, the nobility! The Little Britainese continued with an overview of her lascivious romantic activities, before Pauline’s funniest segment, reading from her novel She Shat Herself, about her time working for MI5 going after Osama Bin Laden.

After a video interlude with the geeky Duncan Thicket, Pauline’s brother Paul Calf, the archetypal 80s Northern lad hit the stage. About fifty, single, unemployed and with no prospects, ‘Ole Paul was a bit down. “It’s not my fault there’s no vacancy for a netball coach.” His righteous, peeved, laddish observations (and physicality) amused. “They say, ‘Oh, David Beckham-he’s not very clever’. Yeah. They don’t say, ‘Stephen Hawking-shit at football’.” Paul finished in trademark style. “I’ve got two bad habits: smoking and masturbation. I’m a twenty-a-day man; and I smoke like a chimney.”

Portuguese entertainer Tony Ferrino, Coogan’s weakest creation, delivered a very average, unfortunately extended set. After halftime Alan Partridge, reinvented as a motivational seminar presenter, got the show back on a funny keel. Hilarious moments included Partridge gesturally reading an endorsement letter from Samuel L Jackson and counselling Radio Norwich callers like Wendy from Sleaford. Interactively, Partridge hauled Fishing Manager Tim (“Not a sex offender”) up on stage, kicked Fishing Manager Tim off the stage (“What are you applauding him for? He didn’t do anything...I’m not a healer. I’m Alan Partridge”) and berated audience members who yelled out “scales” and “batter” when asked to describe a fish’s unique qualities.

Steve Coogan Live concluded with Steve performing a musical number ‘Everybody’s a Bit of a Cunt Sometimes’. Tommy Saxondale, Coogan’s most textured and contemporary character, and the one Coogan has said he most identifies with, was oddly (and sorely) missing in action in Wellington. The 70s roadie turned pest-controller, with his idiosyncratic, memorable analysis of modern times and mores, would have been the ideal way for Coogan to go out.

On Monday energetic, affable Wayne Brady gave the crowd the interactive musical improv they wanted (with flashes of the wicked wit that made him notorious on Dave Chappelle). His day in the life of nebulous, coy government worker Erin — with rap/RnB songs like ‘Get Your Dress On’ a la Missy Elliott’s ‘Get Your Freak On’ — was a high note.