The Comedy Store's 30th Birthday, The Comedy Store, London


The old ones are still the best

With the run-down economy and political upheaval of the world outside, revellers inside the Comedy Store were ready to party like it was 1979 again.

In the spirit of retro, Paul Merton, the first to take the stage, reprised his first routines including the gag: "During the war, my Dad said you didn't have to worry about the Blitz – the only bomb that would get you was the one that had your name on it. Which used to worry our neighbours... Mr and Mrs Doodlebug."

Safely ensconced in their comedy bunker, the charity gala audience were guided through three one-hour acts by three MCs, including the still sublime John Moloney, introducing 18 other acts performing seven-minute slots. Well, six minutes if you went on after owner Don Ward's overlong birthday speech. Still, it was his party and he could talk if he wanted to.

After Paul Merton, the dextrous, ever-reliable Paul Tonkinson upped the tempo with his energetic observations on the evolutionary origins of Wayne Rooney, "the first Scouser". Alan Carr followed with an air of casual camp, pondering the agonising choice of Ryanair customers: deciding whether or not to pay the new toilet charge or upgrade their journey to farther afield. From Channel 4 stalwart Carr to E4 rising star Jack Whitehall, who, while a strong presence, showed up the values of some of the new generation (thrown into sharp relief by the older comics present); that is to say he was fast, hectoring beyond what the punchline required and signposting his intelligence in a shouty way.

Meanwhile, Marcus Brigstocke, whose smugness and intelligence have matured to make a fine whine, lamented that the Lib Dems could only muster a trouser press as their contribution to the expenses scandal.

Phil Nichol provided a perfect high-energy punctuation point to the first act, and Phill Jupitus a thoughtful start to the second. Rhod Gilbert picked up the pieces and the pace with his manic Fawltyesque rants against trivial hurdles, while Lee Mack, Ian Stone and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin were solid.

The final hour saw Jack Dee look as comfortable with old material as he does in a suit, remarking "there are so many people to thank... and it's at times like this when you wish you could remember their names."

The crowd-pleasing Stephen K Amos followed in his energetic, if, to my taste, erratic-neurotic, style. Among his rat-a-tat-tat of one-liners, Jimmy Carr remarked how chimpanzees were given peanut butter so their mouths would mimic human speech on adverts, adding, with aplomb, "and that's how they make Hollyoaks." And top of the bill was the physically and vocally dextrous Terry Alderton, giving us a bonus comic by way of a Lee Evans impression as well as his trademark audience participation. Weird and, like the evening as a whole, mostly wonderful.

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