There was a curious mix of something old, something new, something borrowed (such as BBC stars Catherine Tate, Rob Brydon, James Corden and Ruth Jones) and plenty of blue for this mammoth charity gig housed by a venue that was once itself a standing joke when it was the Millennium Dome.
Billed as "the biggest live stand-up show in UK comedy history", the gala was produced by Open Mike, the broadcast arm of the Off the Kerb management agency, and was therefore dominated by Kerb acts. This gave the show a Janus-faced nature best embodied by the contributions of kindred spirits Michael McIntyre, the current observational darling, and Lee Evans, a retro hero with a long established die-hard following.
McIntyre closed the first half with a sumptuous tapestry woven from the sloth-inducing ads for Snuggies and the gaudy ones for Cash My Gold that populate morning television, while Evans, who closed the show looking evermore a cross between Norman Wisdom and Mad comic's Alfred E Neuman, proved that some oldies are goldies. In one routine, Evans asks a "village idiot" for directions and has to endure the man acting out where the car journey would take him; on his second imaginary circuit of a roundabout the man admits: "sorry, I missed my exit."
These two giants presided over a relentless conveyor belt of comedy that resembled a Secret Policeman's Ball, but one where the cause (Great Ormond Street Hospital) is taken for granted; so rather than conscience-pricking, the accompanying short films were "quickie" contributions from the people that couldn't be there (in this instance they included Ricky Gervais and Kevin Bishop). It was also a gig that, again in comparison to The Secret Policeman's Ball, lacked the glue of a consistent MC, either on stage or over the PA. Perhaps more use might be made of the popular E4 announcer Peter Dickson next time.
While no one really had the time to build up a momentum, they didn't have the time to die either. Only the people used to introduce the acts could be considered as having underwhelmed, including a stiff David Mitchell. Those that acquitted themselves well included Rich Hall who, among his gags, took the words out of my mind by suggesting that Iggy Pop's car insurance ads must be a sign of an impending apocalypse. Meanwhile, relieved of Mighty Boosh duties, and sporting a new peroxide-blonde hairdo, Noel Fielding pleased with his surreal whimsy: "I'd like to get some bread in the shape of a question mark and make everyone a 'What?' sandwich."
Popular Edinburgh Fringe comic Mark Watson perhaps rather stepped on his act by playing up his awestruck persona but was ever likeable, even when rebuking a telephone salesman: "I am not interested in watching TV on my phone in the same way as I am not interested in taking a shit in my tumble dryer."
Channel 4's Comedy Gala at the 02 goes out on Channel 4 on Easter Monday, 9pm.Reuse content