As the students rolled back into town comedy night kicked off the new semester in an impressive style. There was a big turnout for what was to be easily one of the best gigs of the whole year.
Lincoln regular Dan Nightingale was M.C. for the evening, and on top form. Always at his best when he throws the script completely out of the window, Dan's off the cuff lunacy hit all the right comic nerves. There are few comedians that can find the funny side of Rohypnol and drink spiking. Dan is one of them.
Up next was Gary Delaney, who was also a real treat to watch. His starched one-liners were a complete change of pace from Dan’s conversational approach, but the contrast in comic styles worked to his credit and kept the audience on their toes. His elaborate and sophisticated wordplay proved that punchline based humour can still be fresh and interesting. Witty, intelligent and extremely offensive, perhaps Delaney is the man Jimmy Carr tries to be.
He bulldozed headlong through just about every contentious subject you could care to think of and, at times, seemed to purposely bate the audience. There was something in Delaney's show to offend just about every demographic group imaginable, but he was funny enough to get away with it. This carefree antagonism coupled with a tongue in cheek was a winning formula. This was an all round class act, and went down a storm with the crowd.
After the interval Dan was on again, indulging us with more of his unique brand of unrestrained nonsense. There's something liberating about the anarchic way his sets are thrown together - a mispronounced word or unexpected event can take his entire set on a completely unplanned tangent. Dan can tease the funny angle out of even the most boring audience 'contribution'. It lends something very genuine to his act - he can be funny with whatever's thrown at him, not just within a narrow range of planned gags.
Just before the headline act was John Robins. His set went well but I couldn't help but feel he was slightly overshadowed by the two previous acts. It didn't help that a lot of his material had been covered by Dan and Delaney... he had to think on his feet, though managed it well considering. He pulled things round by the latter half and there was something fresh and original to Robins' style, once it had chance to flourish. He had a relaxed, charismatic air and a youthful sense of humour that chimed with the student crowd.
Headliner for the evening was the unforgettable (read what you will into that) Ian Incognito. Loud is the word that immediately springs to mind to describe his set - in every sense.
About as subtle as a punch in the face, Ian was another act that demonstrated that strong freedom of speech ethos that exists within the comedy scene. He was able to approach the absurdity of religion, terrorism and other touchy issues without coming across in any way racist or ignorant. In fact one of the most striking things about Ian's set is the underlying wisdom and well articulated understanding of current affairs that anchors the coarseness of his act.
His ability to perform away from his microphone as much as into it, and to snap the audience attention back onto him at will demonstrated a real mastery of stage craft, and a confidence that only comes from a true veteran. Ian transcended the generation gap without appearing like he was trying to be a new, 'hip' comedian - he used his age as a comic asset, not a barrier.
The word outrageous doesn't do him justice (just ask the people who were at the front of the audience when he was doing star jumps whilst 'going commando' in a sleek, black women's dress). You get the feeling that Ian's act is just one big up yours to anybody who tries to tell us how we should behave. Either that or he is just genuinely vile. Either way this was a top headline act, and the perfect end to a diverse and gratifying night of comedy.
Hopefully this was a taste of what's to come at 'Avin' a Giraffe this semester.