Boothby Graffoe With Nick Pynn, Riverside Studios, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Boothby Graffoe's Yuletide show is usually an intimate affair, so moving from the Old Red Lion in Islington, where he's previously resided, to the comparatively large Riverside Studios is something of a challenge.

The 42-year-old comedian's Christmas audiences may be modest (and certainly loyal), but the scale of his show this year in terms of musical accompaniment has been aggrandised with the inclusion of Nick Pynn. In the past, Pynn has worked with another comedy musician, Rich Hall's creation Otis Lee Crenshaw, as well as stints with girl band B*Witched and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, both of which could arguably fall into the comedy category for entirely different reasons.

The effect of Pynn's virtuoso performance on violin and guitar is agreeable but, ultimately, his worthy contribution unnecessarily elongates Graffoe's compositions, including "I Saw Your Face on the Telly", a ditty about celebrity stalking ("I sent you letters, did you get all those letters? / I sent you pizzas, did you get all those pizzas?") and old favourites such as Bungee Girl ("There are some things that you do that you never do again / One is break the heart of the man who drives the crane").

So involved are the solos and instrumental medleys of Pynn and Graffoe that the thread of these simple but enjoyable songs is lost somewhat. Graffoe's songs are like doodles, often relying on a bluesy repetition of chorus lyrics, so they don't need a symphony to convey the point. Furthermore, the resulting "soundscape" means that Graffoe's silly banter and absurd one-liners are sidelined.

When Graffoe puts down his guitar, he delivers some under-par tales about camping, and a long-winded one about how in Denmark there are more road signs warning of deer than there are deer, a tale that allows him his trademark animal personifications. For the most part, it's all a bit cutesy but there are flashes of a sharper edge with one-liners such as, "I've been accused of being a misogynist - but only by girls", and a nice routine about recycling.

Graffoe's talent isn't given free rein tonight, and his darker songs seem incongruous in the jam-session ambience. It's harmless fun but a mere mirth-glow, insufficient to keep out the cold. Graffoe is a craftsman of jokes and songs, but when it comes to incidental music - no more, maestro, please.

To 14 January (020-8237 1111)