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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are you having a laugh?It turns out I was wrong about 'Best of the Fest'. From the apparently unambiguous title, and the fact that each of the three weeks of the Paramount Comedy Festival end with such a show, I naturally assumed it was going to be a compilation of the best of that week's fest. I feel a fool now. In fact, Friday night's show featured a total of five comedians, three of whom weren't performing solo until the next day, while the remaining two didn't feature at the festival at all. It was like watching an EastEnders Omnibus made up of clips from the following week's episodes, mixed with footage from an entirely different show.

But I'm not complaining (for a change), because unlike an Eastenders Omnibus, it was actually very good. Leading the famous five for the evening was Irish comedian, actor, voice of the Carphone Warehouse and former boyfriend of Letitia Dean (what was he thinking), Ed Byrne. Ed's got a new hairstyle these days, which is a vast improvement on the old one and makes him look more like a skinny Hugh Grant, and less like the woman from Ring. I was hoping to find details of the transformation by visiting his website and clicking on 'Ed's Blog', but unfortunately he hasn't posted anything since November last year. Frankly he makes Lisa look like a regular blogger.

But in common with Lisa, Ed's remarkably funny and I love him. He might look a bit like a geek at a chess convention, but he's also one of the finest comedians I've ever seen. Having started the evening on a high, we moved on to Simon Amstell, current presenter of 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks', former presenter of 'Popworld', and the man who made Britney Spears cry. Of course that was in the days before her life fell apart and she had something to cry about. It wouldn't be such an achievement now.

The biggest revelation of Simon's act was that he talked about his previous boyfriend, leading me to work out (finally, after about ten minutes) that he's gay. I can't believe I didn't know that. He should wear some kind of badge so that people like Lisa don't waste their time fancying him.

It's David O'Doherty TimeAnyhoo, despite being heckled by a woman in the front row who pointed out that he had notes written on his hand, Simon was very good. He was followed by the only one of the five performers that I've never seen on TV: David O'Doherty. Which is ironic, because he was probably my favourite. The man specialises in "very low energy musical whimsy" (or 'VLEMWy') played on a mini electronic keyboard sitting on his lap. And if you can't visualise that, click here.

The man was brilliant (in a low energy way) and deserves a bigger audience. Making it all the more ironic that his solo show on Saturday night clashed with the rugby. I can't wait for his autobiography, which he plans to name 'Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Book of Sudoku' in an effort to sell more copies.

David was followed by the interval, during which I bought Lisa a thimble-full of ice cream for two quid, then it was on to Chris Addison. Chris is one of the stars of The Thick Of It, but with Chris Langham in prison, that now seems unlikely to stretch to another series, so Chris (Addision) has just finished filming his own sitcom instead, poetically entitled Lab Rats. You heard it here first.

Chris wasn't bad, though if someone has to get my vote for least favourite act of the evening, it would have to be him. The man does a decent dinosaur impression though, and I liked him on 'Have I Got News For You'.

The final act of the night was Mark Watson, who I've seen a couple of times on 'Mock the Week' without ever getting that excited about. In person, however, he was great. Ordinarily I'd hate with a passion anyone who at the age of 27 has read English at Cambridge, published two award-winning novels, been nominated for a Perrier Award, and done a two-week run at the Sydney Opera House, but oddly I found him immensely likeable and very funny. I must be mellowing in my old age.

Unlike David O'Doherty, Mark Watson's solo show on Saturday didn't clash with the rugby. It was on immediately afterwards. So I bet his audience were in a good mood.