Attention! All comedy performances at this year’s Latitude were flagged with a BBFC-style content rating by some poor soul with a placard standing outside of the tent, as if advertising some kind of obscene golf sale. Well, the children of Latitude’s famously middle-class audience have sensitive ears, don’t you know.
The festival has a unique history of attracting the biggest names in British comedy, and this year was no exception.
To cope with the sheer volume of people attempting to pile into the comedy tent, a giant outdoor screen is erected at either side to service the crowds.
If you are lucky enough to get inside, you have to battle pushchairs (containing toddlers whose parents have deemed obscenity to be suitable for their developing minds) and share rugs with the punters who’ve camped there all day. It’s part of Latitude’s reputation for being a bit posh, and it’s one that Stephen K Amos mentions as soon as he walks out on Friday afternoon.
Greeted with huge applause, he touches on everything from race to Australia’s penchant for politically incorrect cheese. It proves to be a refreshing improvement upon his appearances on the box: freed from the horrors of panel shows and Top 100 Of Everything compilations, he’s an original and provocative comedic voice. The highlight comes when Amos is talking about deadly mercury being used for fillings in the old days, and is heckled with a cry of “it’s only poisonous in its ionic form.” It’s a brilliant, unplanned comedy moment that leaves Amos in stitches and gives him stacks of ammunition for the rest of his set.
While there were few surprises from TV stalwarts such as Jo Brand and Sean Lock, a genuinely subversive furrow was ploughed by a handful of thoughtful left-wing comics; the banking crisis providing rich pickings indeed. Lapsed Socialist Worker Mark Steel balanced the politics with hilarious attacks on the everyday bugbears of call centres, processed foods, excessive consumer choice and TV property shows. And Mark Thomas, mid-campaign as ever, shared “Mark’s Manifesto” with the audience, which involved (predictably) getting rid of the Royal Family and (less predictably) invading Jersey. Why? To get some of our offshore tax money back, of course. Preaching to the converted? Possibly, but fun nonetheless.
If the two Marks are a raging success, then 24 and West Wing actress Janeane Garofalo is a massive flop. Highly anticipated by many, she squirms and splutters her way through ten excruciating minutes before promptly announcing that she’s going to leave the stage. “It’s not you, I blame myself for this,” she says, and so she should. Given that it’s a comedy tent, you expect some jokes, or at least some witty observations. Instead, we’re given some fairly rudimentary thoughts on airport security, flip-flops and British men’s toes. To make matters worse the warm-up comedian isn’t ready to come back on so Garofalo has to eke out another few minutes as the crowd collectively squish their fists into their mouths.
Luckily, Ed Byrne is next up and he opens with a joke at Garofalo’s expense; “If I do an hour, can I have Janeane’s money?” The crowd lap it up, desperate for anything to break the tension. He does do an hour, which is good of him, but also bum-numbingly long and slightly repetitive as it goes on. For the most part, though, his observations are spot on (snoring sounds like “a cat drowning in porridge”) and the extended section on married life is a definite highlight.
Late on Saturday night in the poetry tent New York’s Jessica Delfino is telling the seated audience that she doesn’t like war and that she has written a song about it. You can almost hear the sighing of an audience already weary from the worthiness of it all. Luckily, Delfino’s war diatribe opens with the line “you don’t lick my pussy right” and it quickly becomes apparent she should actually be in the comedy tent, which she is on the following day.
Unfortunately a few lesser comedians, who shall remain nameless, fall back on tired – and frankly unforgivable – gags about malignant chavs and the sexual proclivities of the gays, but with your TwatNav in the ‘on’ position, you can be sure that Latitude will fulfil all of your comedy needs.
More Latitude: Day 1
More Latitude: Day 2
More Latitude: Day 3
More Latitude: Theatre, Poetry and Dance