For this year’s Refreshers Josh Widdicombe headlined SUSU’s Laughter Lounge, supported by Ivo Graham and compere Adam Vincent. Selling out very early on, expectations were high.
Adam Vincent was the night’s MC. An Australian comedian living in the UK, Vincent has previously written for Josh Widdicombe’s TV show The Last Leg. The night began with forced laughter in reaction to Adam Vincent’s jokes which, to some, were particularly tasteless. A couple of comments on the suicide rates in Bedford were followed by gasps, awkward giggles, and muttered disappointment from a crowd used to the more politically correct comedy of the headline act. It seemed as though Vincent was attempting to pass the time through awkward pauses, bouncing off hecklers in the front row.
Despite this, Eton and Oxford alumnus Ivo Graham set the ball rolling in preparation for the headline act as the forced laughter transformed into hearty chuckles. A man who has previously sold out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, Graham is a rising comedic star and his set was both riotous and fulfilling. Touching on such subjects as love, going to school at Eton and holidays with the parents as a 25-year-old, Graham’s set was well-structured and certainly worthy of the enthusiastic whooping and applause at the end.
Finally, the anticipation was at breaking point once Widdicombe was called on stage, but it was clear from the beginning that Widdicombe was not in his usual stomping ground. Having had his own sitcom air recently on BBC Three, and appearances as a regular on various shows such as The Last Leg and Insert Name Here, he had the air of someone slightly too big for his boots despite his 5’5″ stature. However, he knew his audience, ticking off all the things a comedian might be expected to do at the start of a set. Commenting on how unimpressed he was by the staging and picking up on the age of the audience, it was evident this he s a man nearing his peak. He touched on technology, the pains of having to sleep in a single bed and, despite repeating jokes from television appearances, he successfully used heckling and audience participation to ad lib his material. What seemed phenomenally clear throughout the set was that Josh knew that all of his jokes would get a laugh, not because he was the funniest man in the room but because people were ready to laugh, expected to laugh. Merry on a few beers, lads laughed heartily and audience members at the front would comment from time to time in the hope that such a big (figuratively speaking) comedian might pick on them.
The night was a roaring success, for both Widdicombe and for SUSU; it was a pleasure to watch a man of his stature and his experience perform a triumphant set. The more times you’ve been on TV, the more impressive it is to a student that you’re doing a gig at their university.