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Theatre and Dance

Simon Pegg (photo: Paul Gilbey)
Simon Pegg on stage in Wells

Review: Simon Pegg in Wells

John Higgins
Shaun of the Dead creator Simon Pegg performed his first standup routine in a good few years at the Long Paws Comedy Club in Wells on Sunday 28 May, 2006. BBC Somerset reviewer John Higgins went along to check it out.

Compere for this event was curly haired northerner Jon Richardson.

What can I say about him? He was faultless throughout the evening, immediately breaking the ice with the crowd and delivering laugh after laugh. He was on the attack from the offset, verbally sparring with individuals, but in a good-natured way which made the audience feel relaxed from the start.

Jon Richardson (photo: Paul Gilbey)
Jon Richardson

No matter what was thrown at him, he had an immediate witty response with perfect timing and delivery, showing a man well-able to think on his feet.

In particular, there was one discourse with a heckler who was adamant that Bangor was not in North Wales, but in Liverpool. This was later returned to in the show with hilarious effect, as the heckler once again tried to outwit Jon with disastrous (for him) consequences.

Another heckler earned the name Moody Steve, which was made funnier by the fact that despite this being a guess on Jon's part, he was actually called Steve, prompting more hilarious ad-libbing. 

Judging by tonight's show, I'd suggest this man has a great comedy future ahead of him.

Dean Burnett

Dean Burnett was up next. He announced himself as South Wales' premier comedy neuropsychologist. I guess there isn't much competition as to be perfectly honest, his material is decidedly patchy. 

Dean Burnett (photo: Paul Gilbey)
Dean Burnett

From the offset, he exuded an air of nervousness, appearing uncomfortable playing to a packed-out theatre.

He advised us that his first job following graduation was in a medical school embalming corpses, where bantering with his clients was discouraged. However, I expect if he had given it a go, he would have received a similar reception as he did tonight.

There was material about how he is startled by tall buildings and homophobia in his home town. He is engaged to be married, but is banned from planning the wedding - he wants Eye of the Tiger as a hymn, and a wedding cactus rather than flowers to make catching the bouquet more interesting.

Although this wasn't the best act I've seen, he has only been performing for about a year, so there is much scope for improvement. 

Hal Cruttenden

Hal is a seasoned performer, having played all over the world, as well as being a prolific comedy writer and bit-part actor.

From the off, he had people virtually rolling in the aisles with laughter. He described himself as having a posh, camp voice which sounds like Tony Blair, though I felt he sounded more like Rory Bremner mimicking Tony Blair - he even looked slightly like him.

Hal Cruttendon (photo: Paul Gilbey)
Hal Cruttendon

His material was well-observed, including the hilarious routine about heterosexual and homosexual stereotyping, discussing how as he sounded camp and acted slightly effeminate, often people assume he is gay, which he finds offensive (to gay people).

He then went on to discuss marriage, the obnoxiousness of traditional weddings and how his six-year marriage is going down the toilet.

He argues incessantly with his protestant Northern Irish wife, to such an extent that they should have their own channel on Sky Sports. Although she once beat him at Scrabble three years ago, she still marches round the house on the anniversary of that victory!

Wes Packer

The penultimate act was Wes Packer, the second Welshman of the evening.

This self-deprecating comedian admittedly likes Wells and the surrounding countryside, as, in particular, it has the potential for good dogging country!

He went speed-dating, and found it soul-destroying to be turned down by 24 women in one night. He talked about his lack of self respect, falling in love with a transsexual who looked like Dannii Minogue, as well as someone trying to sleep with his wife behind his back. 

A discourse about cigarette-smoking highlighted how, as he smokes 40 a day, of which £3.50 from each packet goes to the treasury, he should have preferential treatment from the NHS, if not a platinum membership card to get emergency treatment in any A&E department in the UK.

This is another young comic, who has apparently only been performing for a year. With a bit of fine-tuning of his material, I think he could do well in future.

And so to the final act of the evening - Simon Pegg.

Simon Pegg

Simon had taken an hour-or-so off from the hectic filming schedule in and around Wells of his new movie Hot Fuzz - the tale of a London police officer relocated to the sleepy imaginary Somerset village of Sandford, where nasty things start happening.

I was a little dubious that he would actually turn up for the evening's show, because last Thursday he was observed in Wells market place being shot by a vicar.

He appeared to have made a miraculous recovery, however, and bounded on stage full of enthusiasm, predictably wearing a Star Wars T-shirt, and looking a bit battered from being thrown through plate glass windows during the day.

Simon Pegg (photo: Paul Gilbey)
Simon Pegg

His presence was the reason the theatre was totally packed out. Judging by the rapturous reception he received, I expect he would have been able to fill the venue if it had been advertised that he'd be vacuuming the foyer for 20 minutes at the end of the show, rather than headlining the gig.

Tonight's performance was only Simon's second standup routine in eight years, and to be perfectly honest this did show. His material was as rusty as his wife's sheriff's badge, to which a little too much attention was paid in his overtly scatological routine. In fact, he stated that the only reason he married her was because he wanted her ring on his finger.

His on-screen comedy material has in its own right been highly variable, from the excellent Shaun of the Dead, and the superlative Spaced sitcom, to the decidedly patchy Hippies and almost unwatchable cringeworthy Big Train, so I was expecting this to be less than a perfect act.

Indeed, there was very little substance at all. His audience banter was not funny, and he tried an alleged eight-year-old joke from his old routine about Geri leaving the Spice Girls, before deciding to repeat his groom's speech from his wedding.

He enjoys being married as he was shy and not good at chatting up girls, as outlined by the tale of when he approached a girl in a bar, tapped her on the shoulder and delivered the following chat up line: "Excuse me, did you bruise your wings when you fell from heaven?" Then she turned round, and he realised she'd landed on her face!

Global warming was tackled as well as predictive texting, in particular the T9 dictionary which refuses to accept the existence of some (swear) words. Also a trip to Australia incorporating a fling with a koala (he had to get rid of her for being a bit clingy), and the likelihood of being eaten by a shark while surfing, being less than being killed by a drunk driver.

He ad-libbed a piece about Big Brother (a group of feckless, desperate people offering themselves up in front of a nation of hatred-fuelled people in the vain hope of selling an exercise video at the end of it), before finishing with a brief piece about the power and magic of swear words.

To be brutally honest, if Simon had been an unknown comic he would have fallen flat, as he struggled to make five minutes of quality material last 20. Although in his defence, he did admit that although he had been asked to do this show three months ago, he had paid little thought to it since.

last updated: 30/05/06
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Caroline Clifford
"unwatchable cringeworthy Big Train" !? Big train was utter genius!

Nicci Watson
This was a fantastic show, although I must say I totally agree with your reviewer that Mr. Pegg's set was pretty much unrehearsed and lacking substance. Sure pretty much everyone was laughing along with him, but I feel this was simply a case of Simon Says, and I'm saying that as an admirer of the man! Hal C was without doubt the highlight, but the 2 Welsh boys need to define their acts somewhat. Well done Long Paws - and please bring Jon back for a full set (and get Nick Frost in support).

Philip Payne
Another suberb comedy night at Wells. Simon Pegg & Hal Cruttenden deserve special praise for both being very funny comics.

John Blackburn
I thoroughly enjoyed Simon Pegg's performance, as did the 8 other people in our group that night. Everyone knew he had not done stand-up for 8 years or so, bur were very pleased that he took time out from filming to spend a little time with the people of Wells.

Matthew Hall
I have seen Hal a few times now and it is no surprise to see him reducing an entire audience to tears of laughter, and indeed if he had been headlining the event then he would have certainly sent everyone home very happy on his own. However I was exceptionally excited to hear that Simon Pegg would be appearing for the first time in eight years and I think his routine whilst a little rusty demonstrated quite clearly what a talented man of comedy he is, for he commanded the stage from start to finish and had everyone laughing. A good commedian will leave you thinking afterwards about the things they said which made you laugh and for me as well as everyone I met who was there the biggest laughs were reserved for Simon Pegg and Hal Cruttenden. As for the other two performers (Dean Burnett and Wes Packer) it was clear to see that neither had been doing their routine for long, but Wes Packer was by far the weaker of the two as I felt he was balanced on the precipice of losing the audience completely and I think under a sterner test and without some serious revision of style he would lose most audience with a series of crudely manufactered gags that were not witty enough to cross the line into bad taste but funny. In this sense Dean Burnett seems to have more potential, as he didn't lose the audience in the same way and at least presented intelligent and interesting material that had most people laughing. Jon Richardson was also fantastic and I do think his returning to the Bangor issue was hilarious. What made the show come alive though was the performances of Simon Pegg and Hal Cruttenden and though I have been to a number of comedy nights I cant remember laughing quite so hard as I did at this one, and I believe Ben deserves a great deal of praise for putting together such a fine array of performers, so thank you to Ben and looking forward to the next one

Ed Davis
I think the review is pretty fair, although I enjoyed Simon Pegg more than the reviewer. I take a slightly different stance in that I think if an unknown comic had done his 'set' (which wasnt a set it was more an appearance by someone seemingly naturally funny) I would have been dissapointed with the material BUT I would be heralding the guy as an unknown comic genius with more charisma than the entire theatre could house. I feel the review impartially reflects what actually happened (Hal c' WAS the star performer and Jon R just made me want to track him down and see as long' a set as he can do!). However, we are not impartial when we as an audience are presented with someone we know from cult TV shows, quality and unique zombie rom com and now a hollywood blockbuster. His delivery was excellent but he basically, by his own admission had no material. I will remember the gig very fondly and this was a total coup.

Zoe Heath
Whilst Hal Cruttenden was easily the star performer of the night,I did think that Simon Pegg's set was good humoured and honest and he came across as a very likeable guy. Yes, he was a bit rusty, but nonetheless endearing for that, and it was a great coup to bag him for the evening, especially considering the long days filming he is having at the moment. He must have been exhausted before he even started his set! Well done to Long Paws Comedy Club for yet another great night's entertainment in Wells - long may it continue.

Ed Kolb
I think that this review is wrong. I was there and it was a brilliant night and well worth the £10 i paid for my ticket. Jon Richardson was brilliant once again, this was the forth time i had seen him, His material was hilarious and original once again. Dean Burnet was OK and it was obvious he wasn't a veteran to comedy but there is plenty of room to improve. All i can say about Hal Cruttenden was that he was brilliant and his material was hilarious. Wes Packer was OK his freshness to comedy was noticeable but he could easily improve. The final act Simon pegg i believe was brilliant and i disagree with what john higgins says. His material was good sure it was jumpy but it was still funny. His banter was brilliant it may have been brief, concise and to the point but it was brilliant. his 8 year old spice girl joke was funny as well as there was nothing wrong with it the age just made it funnier. It matters not who he was even if he was an unknown i would have enjoyed it just as much. I applaud all the comedians who performed.

rich jones
simon pegg was probably one of the best acts i have seen. i thought after 8 years he still had it and was still refeshing and very very entertaining to watch on stage. simon pegg and the long paws comedy club are both great and well worth a watch.

rich jones
simon pegg was well good - one of the best comedians i have seen.

ellie williams
i personally think that simon's material on the night was fantastic. i don't understand how such a poor review of his twenty minute slot has been published as the entire audience were in stitches the whole time he was onstage. His delivery was perfect, timing and facial expression alone ensuring an amazing reaction from everyone. I also think that his interaction with the audience was fantastically underrated and let's face it, thrilling for big spaced fans. My expectations for Simon's standup were not particularly high due to his recent lack of exposure on the comedy scene and his gruelling hot fuzz filming schedule and i was pleasantly surprised and impressed with his performance. I also have to say that I thought that out of all the performers Wes Packer was the weakest (he had obviously misjudged the type of audience he was dealing with and i personally thought his material was crude and uncomfortable, lacking in any kind of skill in comedic wit) rather than Dean Burnett who, although nervous, his material was at least interesting and amusing. Hal Cruttenden was amazingly funny and I really enjoyed the evening. Although Simon Pegg may not be the hottest comedian in the stand up business at the moment, he certainly proved how talented he is and why he is so successful.

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