Comedy: Here's one loser worth backing

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Indy Lifestyle Online
If comedy hype is "iffy" sparkling wine, then quaff gingerly from the cheap cider fermented by the Edinburgh Festival. Or so Johnny Vegas, the pot-throwing showman with a penchant for tortuous analogies, might put it.

Not even failure to win the Perrier Award took the fizz out of Vegas's triumph in Edinburgh, but nothing can bring on a career hangover faster than a Festival rep gone flat. Judging by their not entirely convincing Radio 4 show, even this year's winners, The League of Gentlemen, are finding the transition to mainstream success a tricky one.

In his favour, Vegas hit 1997 running with a fully-formed act. His washed- up showbiz has-been was by no means a new concept but, while the dreadful 1970s suit was familiar, his skewed aphorisms and frequent, bizarre resort to a potter's wheel got the laughs. Vegas's abuse of the audience was second only to his savaging of the Queen's English as he raged against the dark heart of light entertainment: "Comedy is like marrying your cousin," he roared, drenched in lager. "Do you listen to your critics or your heart?"

The Perrier Pick of the Fringe showcase brought Vegas to a wider audience, but it remains to be seen whether Pennington will develop his compellingly seedy creation, or simply take pot luck.

8pm, The Talk of London, New London Theatre, Drury Lane (Parker St), WC2. pounds 12.50 plus pounds 1 service charge. 0171-494 5494. Touring from 30 Jan 1998

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