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Abnormally Funny People review – cabaret of comics with disabilities

The Guardian logo The Guardian 18/01/2021 Brian Logan

‘‘Disabled entertainment,” jokes comedian Steve Day, “is a dog-eat-dog world.” He does some dog-guzzling himself at Abnormally Funny People’s latest gig, roasting one after another the comics with disabilities who will (and won’t) feature later in the show. But what comes across most strongly in this Zoom cabaret – which closes the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival – is the sense of community among the strikingly varied acts. Their affectionate mutual mockery binds this mixed-bill gig together; it feels more like a family than a chance gathering of funny people.

It takes a while to get going, mind. The first 10 minutes are a tech shambles, before co-host Simon Minty finally accepts that the online audience must be muted – then promptly mutes himself. Is “mute” even an acceptable term, by the way, in a show by (mainly) disabled comedians? That’s the stuff of one sketch by Melissa Johns, Cherylee Houston and Toby Hadoke, poking fun at over-righteous disability allies. Later, Laurence Clark traces his changing relationship with the word “vulnerable”, and Don Biswas identifies himself, with reference to his mild autism, as “not Rain Man, more drizzle boy”.

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By the quality of his jokes alone, including a choice one about a corporate gig for the DWP, Biswas is the show’s star turn. Elsewhere, the quality varies, with a promising if unstructured set from rookie Goz Ugochukwu, a sketch from husband-and-wife Kiruna Stamell and Gareth Berliner that’s high of concept and light on laughs, and a loudmouthed standup turn – all shoplifted dildos and caking her boyfriend’s testicles in chocolate – from America’s Tanyalee Davis.

Because it was delivered like trad standup, the post-punchline silences (an occupational hazard of online comedy) were conspicuous in Davis’s set. No such danger for Mat Fraser and his band the Spazms, the lurid video for whose rockabilly number Radioactive Japanese Jellyfish was a highlight. Nor for closing act Rosie Jones, who is a maestro at wringing laughter from her idiosyncratic pacing – as with an extended gag here about how much she loves her mum and dad. She ends, on a high, a gig of eyecatching diversity and winning camaraderie.


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