Lembit Opik: Stand up if you're funny
Stand-up comedy is enjoying a boom along with the rest of the live entertainment sector. New festivals, clubs, awards and open-mic nights are springing up faster than... a lot.
They are hungry beasts that need vast quantities of comedian-fuel to keep them going. Which means just about anybody is welcome to give it a go, even former Lib Dem MPs for Montgomeryshire. Stand up Lembit Opik.
Last night, in front of a small but supportive audience in a subterranean central London bar, Lembit gave it a go. Not for him some low-key rural outpost where he could hone his skills in relative obscurity. No, he went straight into the West End as the headline act with cameras rolling and a dozen journalists (me included) with pens poised.
Politicians have a reputation for being cleverly cunning, all meticulous planning and elaborate strategies. I suspect Lembit handed in his cunning chip along with his desk keys and Parliamentary pass when he recently left the House of Commons.
Why else would he make such a schoolboy error as to appear on the same bill with not one, but two outstanding professional comedy acts? A wise man would have rounded up his five least funny friends and paid them all handsomely to go on before him.
OK, he might not have known quite how funny Josh Widdicombe would be (very), but a quick glance at his CV would have told Lembit that here was a young pro with a big future. But to allow an act as funny, polished and professional as Nina Conti to immediately precede you is simply silly.
She was good and finished her act with a new puppet / mask which she strapped around the face of a poor unsuspecting audience member who then found himself possessed by a demonic Jack Nicholsonesque hedonist determined to show the audience his best dance moves.
And then Lembit came on. Here's a review of his show. Sitting down with the other comedians afterwards, it was clear they all admired him for giving it a go. The word brave was used frequently. And they all genuinely felt that he could make the grade if he really worked on his set.
But as one said, if he was going to build his show around his own story - perfectly reasonable in the circumstances - he'd need to make a bit more out of the whole Cheeky Girls episode. Not doing so was like "Neil Armstrong doing stand-up and not mentioning the Moon."
From Parliament to stand-up; it's a funny old world.