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Jason Manford is a class act with 'school assembly bangers'





I was thrilled when Ed Byrne opened the Just the Tonic Comedy Shindig.

The Henham resident was the one "must-see" comic for me in an impressive line-up and frankly, at the end of four days of Platinum Jubilee festivities, I was a bit frazzled.

It seemed unlikely that I would stay the course and make it to the end of Sunday's (June 5) five-hour laughathon and headliner Jason Manford.

Ed Byrne (57196464)
Ed Byrne (57196464)

And yet I found myself part of a rain-soaked, rather chilly choir, singing his primary school assembly bangers long after his set should have finished. I'd happily still be there now.

If the art of comedy is making it look easy, Manford is a master. I had a vague idea that he wasn't the kind of comic I like - not arch enough.

But I was wrong. He was effortlessly charming and funny and delivered a flawless performance that put the other great comics on the bill in the shade. It's only when you see someone absolutely at the top of their game, drawing the audience in with such ease, that you realise how difficult it is to make that connection.

Jason Manford (57196466)
Jason Manford (57196466)

It's a knack Ed Byrne also has and he didn't disappoint, setting the bar for the rest of the gig at Great Amwell.

Last-minute compere Rob Rouse also did a good job, stepping in for no-show Lloyd Griffith and filling the gaps between acts admirably, aided by hapless audience member Graham who endured hours of good-natured ribbing.

Tom Binns' comic creation, hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury, added an alternative to the stand-up format and a lot of belly laughs as he rattled through a gloriously cringeworthy, bungling broadcast.

A further change of pace, with Canadian Phil Nichol, was less successful. His angry routine seemed better suited to an intimate club rather than a field at Hillside Farm, but he won the audience back with his musical mimicry.

Ivan Brackenbury (57196445)
Ivan Brackenbury (57196445)

For me, Angela Barnes was a revelation and the comic who came closest to rivalling Manford's polish with a well-observed routine.

The former nurse's pithy observations on such thorny issues as marriage, childlessness and ageing were a lot funnier than I've made them sound and struck a clear chord with the audience.

Reginald D Hunter was more hesitant and just a little off the pace. The American sounded like he had a cold, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and credit for delivering a short series of amusing anecdotes and observations rather than a coherent comedy set.

Angela Barnes (57196449)
Angela Barnes (57196449)

That was in stark contrast to Milton Jones, who is a leftfield master of the surreal one-liner. His deadpan style, with just a hint of a smirk, raised the spirits as the rain started to fall.

Last year's Just the Tonic comedy Shingdig in East Herts had to be cancelled at the last minute because of a weather forecast for torrential rain.

This year, despite the damp and the drizzle, thousands of comedy fans were treated to five hours of quality acts in what I hope will be an annual homage to laughter.

Reginald D Hunter (57196535)
Reginald D Hunter (57196535)
Milton Jones (57196456)
Milton Jones (57196456)
Phil Nichol (57196576)
Phil Nichol (57196576)
Rob Rouse (57196458)
Rob Rouse (57196458)

All pictures by Gerred Gilronan. Got an entertainment story for the Stortford Indie? Email us at newsdesk@bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk



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