Leicester Comedy Festival review: Jo Brand and guests at De Montfort Hall

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Review by Olivia Maclaughlin

Tonight’s line up featured Eshaan Akbar, Arthur Smith, Ivan Brackenbury, Hal Cruttenden, Jo Brand, a barking dog and a man in the front row who came to watch, and ended up on stage.

In a night supporting the Big Difference Company, the charity behind the comedy festival, the entertainment didn’t stop right from the moment the host Phil Nichol stepped on stage.

That isn’t to say there weren’t moments that weren’t planned. Like the dog, making an unplanned guest appearance by barking at the back of the room. Thinking on his feet, Nichol made it part of his act.

He made connections throughout the crowd, whether four-legged or not, especially a man in the front row, who became a running gag whenever Nichol returned to the stage.

By the end of this two-and-a-half hour fundraiser, Neil had been lured on to the stage, and was singing while the audience chanted for him.

The line-up all brought their own different styles, ensuring there was something for everyone.

Akbar was first on, and brought political commentary and self-deprecation to stage which appealed to the younger members of the audience, but brought a tut from one woman near me.

She was keener on Arthur Smith, the godfather of British comedy, who came pre-armed with crowd-pleasing puns and a comedy poem. But at the end he recited a poem about kindness which allowed for moments of sincerity and added another level to the show.

Sometimes using using a gag over and over again doesn’t work, but with Brackenbury it did. His hospital radio DJ act has been around for a few years, but his songs and simple one liners got us back in the swing of things after the break.

After this came Cruttenden, immediately confessing to looking like Mr Tumble. Well, the crowd was thinking it too. His routine mined a rich seam of gags from marriage and turning 50.

Last up was Brand, who appeared from behind the red curtain to thunderous applause, and commanded the room from joke one.

Never one to shy from cheek-blushing comedy, she tore into topics about weight and the menopause, along with her life with her husband and two daughters.

She’s a natural storyteller, and showed just why she has lasted so long in comedy.

A perfect way to end an hilarious night.

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