Musical Comedy Awards 2023 – The Final, Bloomsbury Theatre

There are two comedy finals in a row this weekend. I can’t make the Sketch Off final at the Leicester Square Theatre – good luck Charlie Vero-Martin et al – but popped along to this. I love musical comedy, and thought this would be a good opportunity to find fresh talent to book for my nights.

So, dressed in a massive sheepskin coat and smoking several enormous cigars, I made it along to the Bloomsbury Theatre and got a ticket off the splendid Selena Mersey, and sat with her lovely clown boyfriend Dan (as in he’s a professional performer, not that I have zero respect for him).

Each act had seven minutes and it was fascinating to see the variations in how much of this was dedicated to funny songs, and how much to setting up the context for the funny songs.

So the first act, a posh female rapper, started off by saying she naively thought she’d be a grime star, which made the audience more forgiving of her jokey urban stylings about being privileged and having no real problems.

This was an unfortunate theme in the first half particularly. One large and charming Scotsman sounded about as Scottish as Tony Blair [1], andg his song, when it came, was about how he was pretty well adjusted and happy so had little to write material about, unlike all his other, more stereotypically fucked up comedian friends.

By the time a young violin came on and started doing material based on playing classical music jingles, I started to wonder whether the class diversity issue was even worse in musical comedy than it is in other areas of the performance arts.

These acts were polished, confident, and had some good lines, but a lot of the material felt excluding unless your Dad owns half of Somerset.

Thank god, then, for Su Mi [2], who broke up the monocultural monotony with her typically brilliant mix of charm and crudity, messing with assumptions and singing songs about racist boyfriends.

The first half ended with a fake crooner pretending to know what it’s like to live in a bedsit.

An interval. An extremely long queue for the bathroom. Some crisps. Time for the second half.

I love Will BF. One half of Cow Tools, his act was by far the weirdest of the night, and certainly one of the best, despite widespread bafflement.

He’s got two dead arms.

The moment where it gradually dawned on the audience that, yes, this young man in a ponytail was indeed going to use up his entire seven minutes singing about having two dead arms was the funniest of the entire evening.

I love Selena Mersey. This was her second year in a row making the final, and if she doesn’t win next year then I will be rioting.

The audience didn’t take to her as much as deserved, and I really hope that’s not because her song pointing out everyone has pronouns is too controversial for an establishment London audience in the year of our lord 2023. A special bonus point, as always, for her pronunciation of the word “motherfucker”.

The other second half acts passed me by a little bit. I remember a guy whose schtick was evil Bill Bailey – Peter Bazely – and the last act, The Gorgeous Diva, I had seen before, but was much improved here, her character’s status as deluded has-been obvious, the material tighter.

I had a nice time, but I hope there’s a more diverse range of acts next year.

[1] McBain voice: “that’s the joke”.

[2] who we have booked to perform at this month’s Next Level Sketch 🙂

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