Channel 4's Comedy Gala, O2, London

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The Independent Culture

Post-punk icon and inveterate grump Mark E Smith was recently asked what makes him most depressed; his answer was "all UK comedians". With a considerable number of tonight's 21 acts on poor form, partly due to over-runs, this charity gala could be admissible as evidence to support Smith's scything comment.

The often ambivalent 15,000-strong audience must have wondered if the evening was going to be as diabolical as the queues for refreshments were during the long-awaited interval. It took two hours to get to the break, but at least the special dispensations to over-run in the first-half were given to bankable stints from two hyperactive greats of observational comedy: Lee Evans and Michael McIntyre.

Evans signed off with a routine on how he has become an overprotective father to his 17-year-old daughter and distrusts all her suitors ("'Hello Mr Evans?' What kind of disgusting language is that?") while McIntyre spoke of his younger children vexing him when they run off in opposite directions, forcing him to opt to choose a favourite to save.

Elsewhere, a post-Bafta buzz was not enough to make Jo Brand that interested in proceedings and her deadpan punchlines hit a duff note. Mark Watson, Shappi Khorsandi, Alan Carr and Jon Richardson felt incidental while both Welshman Rhod Gilbert and Irishman Jason Byrne came in with a bang but ended up in contrived messes.

Videos involving Miranda Hart, members of the Glee cast and Whoopi Goldberg bombed. Some of the remaining live acts, including Sarah Millican, Kevin Bridges and Jason Manford, could be said to have played a straight bat, while the star turns came from Micky Flanagan and, in particular, Sean Lock.

While Lock's double-edged charm can grate, he was truly great tonight. Mentioning Ryan Giggs, Lock suggested that the ash cloud was not, in fact, down to volcanic activity, but down to the Welsh footballer "burning every newspaper he can get his hands on."

Lock went on to berate Twitter as "for people who can't shut up even when they are on their own" and said that he would at least try and make his tweets interesting, for example: "I am off to the council tip to suck the gas out of old fridges."

Ludicrous, loopy and exactly what this lacklustre evening needed. Even Mark E Smith could have fallen for this clown.