Charity gigs are often ramshackle affairs and this show, in aid of children's charity NCH, was no exception. Jessica Hynes (formerly Stevenson) put the Daisy into lackadaisical, exhibiting all the neurotic characteristics of the role that made her famous in the sitcom Spaced, but to no great effect.
Aside from a previous warm-up spot for Simon Amstell (also on tonight's bill and still a delight despite a sluggish performance), this show was supposed to be Hynes's first proper stand-up gig. For someone who admits that she'd like to build a set by doing some "under-the-radar" gigs it was a curious decision, charity work notwithstanding, to make this her "coming out" gig. More curious still was that she chose to MC, a much harder task if you only have a few minutes of material.
Over-demonstrative and bravado-heavy, Hynes looked every inch the actor trying stand-up for the first time and realising that projection can only take you so far. "Leave you troubles at the door," she urged the audience; why worry about the credit crunch when it "sounds like a cereal?" Later she mused on Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's lovemaking and how his gentle persona might be counterproductive in the bedroom. Sex is a fail-safe for stand-up; it was no surprise, then, that Hynes returned to it with a meek tale of how she gullibly accepted that her mother's sex aid was a massage stick. The payoff was deft, though: ultimately the sex aid "was like a father to me".
I've seen people who I never expected to shine polish up nicely, so any criticism here is premature. But my advice to Hynes would be: lose the stagey hectoring, be yourself, and find your stand-up voice.
Also on the bill was Stephen Merchant. The Office co-creator seems to be honing his nerdy stage persona nicely, and ever more regular gigs suggest that he's working up a touring set. Merchant has a lovely series of gags about his height, 6ft 7in, and how he only has "Peter Crouch and the BFG" for company.
Among the uneven sets from Michael Smiley (who played Tyres in Spaced and who was meant to MC tonight) and Josie Long was the equally uneven (but all the better for it) Mighty Boosh collaborator, Rich Fulcher. The dishevelled American told the audience of getting so drunk that his body got franchised: "I got a Nando's coming out of my spleen!" he exclaimed in horror. Finally, newcomer Miriam Elia may not have the confidence of Hynes, but looked like she might come up with a good set given time.
Ultimately there was plenty to be charitable about, even if the main draw made a faltering start.