Venue: Roger Kirk Centre
Since taking up comedy in 1998, Paul Chowdry has risen from the depths of dark open mic nights in London to play at Live at the Apollo, feature on shows such as 8 out of 10 Cats, and host Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week.
Friday night, the well-known face bounded out to a packed Roger Kirk Centre under the blaring tune of Dr. Dre’s Still D.R.E, composed of expletives too bold to repeat here.
It was a strong start, and indeed the crowd were ready. Chowdry followed the little known Ian Smith and the Mock the Week guest Romesh Ranganathan, who both had great sets that focused heavily on audience interaction.
Smith, going by @Iansmithcomedy on twitter, was the host filling in for Henry Paker. He carried the show, warming the audience before introducing Ranganathan and later Chowdry himself. After climbing the stage with a beer in hand, he asked the audience to stand with their hands open. The picture he took would be used to “prove he had a standing ovation on twitter”. It was very funny.
Ranganathan, perhaps a more recognisable face, was akin to Chowdry – his deadpan humour mirroring that of the lead act. He spent time moaning about the burden of his children and the unacceptable behaviour of old women in queues. His re-enactment of a conversation with an unhelpful woman on the train in a deep Indian accent was particularly funny.
Chowdry very much carried the crowd interaction on with the topic almost positively centred on race. He walked out under Dr. Dre and uttered his first line, “have they sat all the Indians at the front?”
Now, don’t get me wrong, it was funny, and Chowdry certainly dished it out to every stereotype of every race, gender and sex present – but there was just too much of it.
He addressed the Chinese, Indians, French, gingers, Northerners, gypsies and even conversed with the homosexual crowd, or as they shouted back to him “the whole row of us at the back!”
It was funny, and the crowd liked it. Famed for his deadpan and, at times, plain depressed delivery, Chowdry carried it well. His conversation with an unknown student on the front row was picked up from the previous two acts, and his inability to understand her and play on her accent got laughs.
But it was just too recurring. Too often did he return to pick on her, and while initially funny, it began to have hints of desperation.
He did better to veer off from the topic. The crowd loved his Northerner impression, with a strong Jonny Vegas tinge, and likewise did his Michael Jackson rendition get a laugh.
The bit on ‘negging’ as a blonde-haired girl walked to the bar was atypical of Chowdry, and it got a strong prolonged laugh from the audience, as did his bit on ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ using the microphone as a prop…
Yet he returned too often to the racist gags, and while they were met with laughter, as said earlier there was just too many of them. It was a decent performance from Chowdry, but I was expecting better. If it was not for the impressive warm-acts of Smith and Ranganathan, I would have left disappointed.