Nygel G Harrot’s Uninterrupted Jollification (Banshee Labyrinth, 16.20 until 24 August) is described as ‘old school comedy in the style of Ken Dodd, Morecambe & Wise, Les Dawson, Frankie Howerd, Peter Sellers and The Goons‘. Couldn’t be any clearer you would think but there were still members of the audience who looked a bit mystified. Happily though – those who like their humour not so much retro but positively prehistoric were laughing like drains. I have to confess I am partial to the genre and I’m glad to say I was suitably jollified. But if I can offer the teeniest, tiniest suggestion – I would have loved Nygel to have been more of a cheeky chappie and a bit more animated, winning the naysayers over by sheer force of will. You know – like the old adages: ‘keep moving so they can’t hit you’ and ‘if you don’t like that joke there will be another along in a minute’. Nygel must be familiar with those ones!
The major influence is definitely Ken Dodd (I’ve since learned Nigel writes for him) and visually that is very apparent, with maybe a touch of Edward Scissorhands. The thing is – and I’m sure Nygel knows it – this kind of comedy was born out of grinding poverty, the horrors of two world wars and having to face audiences who had experienced those things themselves. The humour may have appeared jolly but the gritty influences gave many of the classic performers a manic, sardonic – even dangerous – edge. They wouldn’t have stood for any puzzled passivity in their audience.
Nygel seems a really sweet and gentle man – and he’s undeniably talented, spookily channeling some of the comic greats – but I think he has to show the audience who’s boss. Perhaps borrow his mentor’s tickling-stick and beat his audience into submission with it? That would be the way to do it!