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The Lancaster University Comedy Institute (which, I should stress, I am an executive member of) staged their biggest event yet in Week 3 this term. LUCI managed to secure Gary Delaney, a professional stand-up comedian, for a performance in the Minor Hall. Gary has had several successful tours and has been on the BBC’s Mock the Week several times. Needless to say, this was a big deal for LUCI. Fortunately everything came together to produce a great evening that seemed to leave the audience in hysterics.
LUCI members filled the role of warm-up acts for the show. Dave Duncan, Andrew McKendrick and Jack Maidment are a familiar sight to attendees of the County Comedy Club, a bi-weekly standup night organised by the comedy society. The acts’ confidence didn’t suffer in the face of the daunting task of preceding as big a name as Gary and both Maidment and McKendrick delivered their strongest material like naturals. Dave Duncan also performed a stellar job as compere, keeping up the audience’s energy as they eagerly awaited what they’d really all been waiting for, the main event.
I saw Gary Delaney many years ago at my local comedy club back home. He wasn’t as hot a property back then. He hadn’t been on TV yet and he didn’t even have a beard. To be honest, I didn’t care for him but I’m pleased to say that with his rising popularity (and facial hair) Delaney has risen to be a witty and breathlessly sharp one-liner comedian.
It’s an odd thing, ‘dark comedy’. To a lazy comedian a joke that makes the audience uncomfortable is a shortcut to success. It’s not. Just because someone makes a joke about peodophiles or racism doesn’t mean that they’re ‘edgy’ or ‘progressive’. You need some substance behind it. It would be a shame, I feel, to label Gary Delaney as simply a ‘dark comedian’ as some do. It does a disservice to the quality of his writing. Delaney’s set is filthy, of course, but it’s also very good.
Delaney must have stormed through over a hundred jokes in his fifty minutes on stage and for every one that didn’t land with me there were at least nine others that did, and no joke fell flat with the audience. It would be a pointless endeavour to try and repeat his jokes here. They deserve to be told properly. Most of them aren’t suitable for repeating in a public newspaper anyway.
Delaney knows how to read an audience. When a joke’s punchline is obvious he lets the audience work it out for themselves, waiting for the laughter to wane before topping off it with a wry flourish that rarely failed to have the audience in stitches. He told us we were one of the smarter audiences but I bet he says that to all the crowds. Nevertheless, his roman numerals joke was much appreciated.
As well as performing the highlights from his tour Gary made use of the pliant audience to try out some untested material, all of which went down very well.
As is always the case with one-liners, not quite every joke got me. Some provoked a weary groan, which is no bad thing now and then. It allowed for a little breathing room between the great ones. Some of the targets of his other jokes felt a little easy however. I can’t help but feel that Jeremy Clarkson and tourette’s syndrome have already been thoroughly mined of the comedic value they had. Some of the darker jokes did also, perhaps unsurprisingly, feel a little lacking in substance.
These are very minor complaints however. Gary Delaney delivered a cracking performance full of lines I’ll remember for a long time to come. His stage presence was superb and he had the audience along for the ride the entire time. What a great start to what I would gladly see become a Lancaster tradition.