After being canceled for two years, Roger Daltrey’s Teenage Cancer Trust concerts are back. Later this week, Daltrey’s own band The Who, Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran are among the musical attractions, but last night’s comedy had smiles dancing on the faces of the audience.
Companion Joel Dommett has warmed everyone up by revealing some insider secrets about animating The Masked Singer. Not only does he not know who the masked celebrities are, but sometimes he doesn’t even know who they are without the masks. He had no idea who ex-MP Alan Johnson was even after the big reveal.
Dommett was safer to introduce his fellow stand-ups. The first was Suzi Ruffell, who summed up a significant portion of her life story in fifteen minutes, from coming out and getting married to becoming a parent. The highlight was Ruffell’s gloriously cartoonish portrayal of his Portsmouth clan, with mum hilariously waving at Ruffell’s surprise marriage proposal.
Judi Love isn’t so much a comic, more a force of nature, getting positive response via her powerful personality. There were gags she got confused with — “On a good day, it’ll be Beyoncé” — alongside jokes about dodgy knees, expensive shoes and skinny men. Direct but undeniably effective.
In contrast, Romesh Ranganathan sounds conversational but is more elaborate. He was particularly funny when he joked about how his second son is inferior to the first: “if you did a cost-benefit analysis, you would abandon the project”. He has a deft way of presenting himself as both misanthropic and charming, a difficult trick to pull off.
TV regular Tom Allen got the biggest roar of the night, mixing spontaneous crowd work with polished storytelling. It takes talent to talk in the front row of Albert Hall like you’re in a club, but Allen made it seem effortless, channeling his inner game show host. Combine that with a brilliant history of tacky suburban recreation centers and you’ll see why it’s in such high demand.
Seann Walsh is arguably best known for being caught on camera kissing his Strictly dance partner. Too bad because he’s a distinctive comedian, with an eye for life’s absurdities. He was very clever remembering the early lockdown rules when supermarket security looked like nightclub bouncers and also demonstrated what an inventive physical comic he was. You won’t see a better impression of Henry Hoover.
Rob Beckett is the ultimate ordinary man, exploring mundane situations for every laugh. Here he focused on working-class weddings – “one every week, often the same bride” – and holidays. The best was his routine of trying to climb a pontoon on a Slovenian lake. The image of Beckett floundering was a memorable end to an evening that turned out wonderfully.
Teenage Cancer Trust Week continues through Sunday, teencancertrust.org