BWW Review: DAVID O'DOHERTY, TIM KEY, SARA BARRON, PHIL WANG AND JOHN ROBINS, Bristol Comedy Garden
Bristol Comedy Garden has truly blossomed. Its little shoots have grown and grown to the point that the garden is now hosting almost an embarrassment of riches. Each line-up is carefully curated, giving newer or lesser-known comics a spot alongside household names. The packed tent makes it clear audiences have taken the event to their hearts.
Our host for the evening, John Robins, has plenty of fun digging back into his Bristol roots. It's been a sunny day in Bristol, and many drinks have been consumed by the time Robins arrives on stage. It's no surprise, then, that he floats the idea of being on the lash in Bristol. His interactions with the crowd are a joy, never threatening but never dull.
Phil Wang is up next, and being half-English and half-Chinese gives him much of his material. He has a conversational ease that allows him to meander around his set. He says he's not quite sure whether it will be Phil or Mr. Wang that ends up ruling the world, but either way, he's in the box seats. He's kidding, of course - it's definitely Mr. Wang.
If Wang has a conversational ease, then Sara Barron is a tightly wound spring of American enthusiasm ready to be released. Her quick-fire delivery barely pauses for breath as she explains how she loves us Brits - after all, she's married to a British guy, and says it's successfully suppressed her natural American confidence. Though on this evidence, I'd say there's still plenty of that confidence left in her sharp observations.
Tim Key you might declare the wildcard of the night, strolling onto stage with some cans of lager in a plastic bag and an ill-fitting suit. His character stand-up is as a far away from traditional set-up/punchline comedy as you could go. Instead, he prefers to regale us with short poems, interspersed with rants on Boris bikes and some well-crafted self-deprecating jibes. Key has the kind of brain that just works differently to others, and it is a joy to watch.
Headliner tonight is David O'Doherty, who gives us a slick 30 minutes of gag-dense material. His little keyboard seems to no longer be for standalone songs, but rather a musical underscoring to sections of his stand-up. He might be the only comic to successfully find a Brexit joke that lands with all of the audience. For that alone, he deserves a medal.