As part of a national tour, Joe Lycett came to Exeter recently to perform at the Corn Exchange. Titled ‘I’m about to lose control and I think Joe Lycett’ the gig was sold out and as we’d managed to cross the first hurdle of getting tickets, our next challenge was getting to the venue…
Normally a trip into Exeter is easy, but the double whammy of the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma had us pretty well snowed in over in Mid-Devon. Fortunately with some light shovelling and determination we made it… and more importantly, so did Joe!
It was only our second trip to the Exeter Corn Exchange, having been to see another comedy gig there a couple of years back. Tucked away on Market Street, it’s actually the largest of Exeter’s central theatre/auditorium venues and regularly hosts comedy, music and theatre events. However, despite its size, the venue has a surprisingly intimate feel and manages to pull off the charm and atmosphere of a much smaller venue.
After grabbing a cheeky cider and taking our seats we didn’t have long to wait before Joe Lycett made his appearance, wearing a very shiny gold shirt! Looking back the shirt was a big hint at what was to come; an evening that was to be loud, flamboyant and most of all very fun!
The show kicked off with some introductions and some ad-libbed connections with the audience that immediately put the crowd at ease and got us laughing straight off. It’s strange but there’s always that moment when a comedian first comes on stage where the audience and performer seem to size each other up before each relaxes into the gig, but we were entertained from the first minute.
Somewhat unusually, after a small set, Joe introduced a support act in the form of London comedian Tom Ward. Having received a Chortle Best Newcomer Award in 2017 and performing at Edinburgh Fringe the last two year’s, perhaps it was no surprise that Tom also had us laughing from the off. Although I think describing his hairstyle as Lego meets Richard III probably played a big part in that too.
Ward was what I think of as a conversational comedian – moving seamlessly between jokes and stories without the jarring interchange you experience from stitched together one-liners. It was in his use of music, however, that Ward really stood out, with an awkwardly laugh-out-loud exploration of Prince’s sex noises and an incredible rendition of Cher’s Believe, which had to be heard to be believed!
After Tom Ward, Joe returned for a small set, but it was after the interval that he was able to fully get into the swing of his act and the extended comedy pieces began.
I first encountered Joe Lycett in a now infamous clip from 8 of 10 Cats does Countdown where Joe disputes a parking ticket.
And it’s this type of comedy where Joe excels. I guess you could call it light trolling, as Joe frequently creates internet personas (as well as posting under his own name) to take on targets as diverse as EDL, RBS bank, local Plymouth-boy Tom Daley, and sellers in his local Facebook buy and sell groups.
His comedy is camp, inventive and playful, but with an acerbic streak. This is perhaps best demonstrated by Joe identifying his spirit-animal during the gig as a Brummie woman attending a speed awareness course who doesn’t give a damn about anything (a sanitised paraphrasing for the blog!).
It’s also this down-to-earth element that makes Joe’s comedy so relatable and endearing. Unlike most comedians who are London-based and arguably London-centric in their experiences, Joe lives in Birmingham and until recently lived at home with his parents. His stories are of experiences that are familiar to many of us and it’s empathy that makes his jokes so effective.
There was some strong visual humour, particularly around Joe’s paintings, with frequent homages to Barry Chuckle(!), but it is in storytelling that Joe really excels.
The culmination of the gig was an extended joke around RBS. I won’t give away too much, but effectively Joe takes on the banking juggernaut after an incident with a security pass. In the process, he creates the persona of Rhubarb Bikini, a Spartacus-esque character that embodies all of us. The message of the RBS story, and by proxy the very raison d’être of Rhubarb Bikini, is that we should all embrace silliness, revel in nonsense and take life a little less seriously, and there seem to be few better champions for this than Joe Lycett.
For details of upcoming shows at the Corn Exchange check out the calendar of what’s on.