Having recently been a judge at the Newbury Comedy Festival's Wise Crackers competition for 12- to 15- and 16- to 18-year-old comedians, I was prepared to be pleasantly surprised by 12-year-old Eros Vlahos. I was not disappointed.
This blond, curly mopped comedian lies somewhere between Bart Simpson and a "chillaxed" Little Lord Fauntleroy. He knows we're thinking that we might have to spend 50 minutes in the company of an obnoxious brat and says we are absolutely right, but it's a far more agreeable experience.
Rather than his limited experience of life being a barrier to humour, he turns it into an advantage. During his opening banter, he finds out that a woman in the front row works for the Association of Charity Shops. "Great, awesome, I know nothing about that," he ripostes, before asking: "Is anyone here on their own? No? Great. No paedophiles then."
Calm and assured, Vlahos, a graduate of the Comedy Academy 4 Kids set up by the comedian James Campbell, enjoys what he's doing, and seems confident enough not to think that he's doing anything out of the ordinary. Vlahos's mother, sat next to me, seems the more nervous of the two, though she must be confident enough in his ability as she's given me a press ticket on the first day of his run.
In a carefully structured show, complete with projector, Vlahos goes through the territory you might expect. He likens some teachers to Star Wars characters and wonders if one of them is angry because she's over 50 and still not married, a line delivered with cheek but no sneer.
On the subject of his parents, he pushes the cliché of toys costing an arm and a leg far enough to show that his comedy antennae are well developed: "When you buy a house, does that cost a whole grandfather? Is that where he's gone?"
Inevitably, there are unfinished ideas and shorthand phrases, such as dismissing various adults as weirdos. However, after dealing with politicians in this fashion, he goes on to liken them to school bullies "picking on littler countries to nick their oil". Simple, but effective from a child. The register is right; not preachy, just cheeky.
With no extensive preview schedule to build up to his 50 minutes, Vlahos has been adding five minutes of material at a time over the four years he has been doing comedy. In that period, he's had no more than monthly opportunities to gig because of school and licensing laws.
Vlahos's Fringe debut is as effective as some comedians twice his age – and he's done it in half the time it takes most of them to get their first hour together.
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