Laughs in the Park, Verulamium Park, St Albans
Where the jokes come naturally
Laughs in the Park's claim to fame is that it is the UK's first purpose-built outdoor stage for comedy. Tonight, ivy, bamboo and other plants formed the backdrop for a contrasting bill of some of stand-up's hardiest perennials: Ross Noble, Tommy Tiernan, Eddie Izzard and a surprise appearance by Frank Skinner.
Host Ross Noble kicked things off, inevitably commenting on his backdrop ("What's with all the foliage?") and riffing on those members of the 5,000-strong audience taking their seats late. The compering role did not prove ideal for his trademark experimental frenzy and so blind alleys about urinating on squirrels stuck out more than they normally would. Fortunately, the curly-haired japester had better luck later with a routine about Bono's penchant for rock'n'roll poses and their suitability for high-fiving dwarfs.
Still energetic, though heavier-set these days, Noble gave way to the pixie-like theatrics of Tommy Tiernan. Raffish, demonstrative and conspiratorial, the lithe, sharp-suited Irish star has a disconcerting yet absorbing presence somewhere between Father Ted's Mrs Doyle and Billy Connolly. Despite the ever-present threat that Tiernan might lose his thread or wander off into something too esoteric, he has an impressive knack for cutting to the quick of a subject. On his football fanaticism for example: "You've not sung 'You'll Never Walk Alone' until you've sung it to 11 millionaires in suits."
After the interval, Frank Skinner made an impromptu appearance and showed plenty of flashes of form in a 10-minute set that included his take on the plus side of scripted reality shows like The Only Way Is Essex: "One of the terrible things about being stupid is having nothing to talk about."
Headliner Eddie Izzard, fresh from his Hollywood Bowl gig, reprised his Stripped show in which he crams the history of the world into an hour or so. From a banjo-playing T-Rex to the wonders of Apple products, the 49-year-old roams through the ages bending their story so that a mammoth killed by a stone prompts the reaction: "This could be the beginning of an age."
Now in its second year, Laughs in the Park has yet to show that it is the beginning of a new age in outdoor comedy but it is certainly a sign of the growing appetite for stand-up. Tonight, that was sated perfectly adequately without the palate being totally tickled.
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