Brighton Fringe 2016
“Since 2005, the Comedy Club 4 Kids has been getting the best performers from the international circuit to do their thing for an audience of children (aged 6+) and their families… but without the rude bits! It’s just like a normal comedy club, but it’s on in the day, kids are allowed in, and thus there is a higher than usual chance of heckles like “why is that your face!?””
This is a regular, established event in Brighton and there were a lot of excited kids and parents in the audience, most children were fairly young around 8 years old I guessed at this point and under. It was level seating but there were cushions at the front for children to sit on the floor and well-spaced out chairs so you could move about if needed. A nice airy space with good access to toilets although there was room for buggies I would check with the venue as this was down in the basement down several stairs. There is a bar in the same room so parents can have a beer etc. and there are water jugs and plastic cups at hand. All these little details are important to parents of young children.
I wondered after looking around whether my two eleven year old reviewers would feel too old for the material but I was also curious how stand up worked with the very young children and how it would also keep the parents entertained.
The concept is great and invites exploring an existing adult format to meet the world of blunt talking, authentic, modern screen generation children with short attention spans. I waited with anticipation to see how and whether this could be done.
The MC came on and immediately endeared herself to both parents and kids with a Ruby Wax like scathing but likeable informal dialogue. I’m not sure which generation laughed harder at the poop joke. She was strong, confident and engaging, improvising very funny conversations with younger members of the audience.
Warning: there are some rude words. Your children will giggle delightedly and probably repeat these on the way home. But we live in England. The land of toilet humour.
The compere wasn’t afraid to get the kids to make a lot of noise, again such a relief for parents of young children – finally somewhere they don’t have to shush their younglings. And interestingly all the children were captive throughout.
Adam Hess was our first act and he launched straight into a very funny anecdote about his first linguistical mix up in Scotland where he was confused with a monkey on a cereal box.
What we might sometimes forget about comedy, is how healing it is. And I realised here how good observational comedy has the potential to be incredibly uplifting and empowering for children who feel acutely the pressures of modern life, of achievement and peer acceptance. The delight with Hess’ material was that it was cool to not be cool. And that someone could make a fool of themselves, be a bit dumb and make mistakes yet be utterly lovable. This is pretty important stuff for children to learn. I could almost feel my 11 year old sighing in relief at the recognition.
Hess talks with some pride (or if not that at least a lack of shame) about being rubbish at school sports and never being in the cool kid gang. Being more interested in dinosaurs and being electrocuted on holiday in Spain leading to an unfortunate short filling incident. I cried with laughter at this and maybe fell a little in love with the awkwardly single Hess whose recent break up resulted in a sad lonely evening chasing a banana split round a bowl not fit for purpose.
After this brilliant start we met our MC again who kept the energy alive for the main act, the Three half Pints who were recently on cbeebies.
We met our three cheeky chappies in belt and braces and saw some great energetic slapstick comedy that was a bit of Some Mothers do ‘av ‘em meets Laurel and Hardy.
We saw quick fired play on words accompanied with boisterous physical tumbles and slaps that delighted the audience.
“I need a word”….”Marshmellow”
“I need another word….”Tsunami”
“It’s absurd….It’s a plane….It’s superman!”
Some great physical humour and surprise visual gags that appealed to all ages. The Three half pints are back at the beginning of June with their own full show and my son asked instantly if we could go.
The verdict from my two young reviewers?
What makes this show outstanding is the unique benchmark it creates to work with material by comedians who are often used to adult audiences. It’s a skill and a bold move to bring together a performance that is essentially aimed at 4-104 year olds without losing the energy and edginess that stand up is best known for. The comedians didn’t bring themselves down to a level of comedy, they brought the younger audience up to a quite sophisticated (yes even with poo jokes) subtlety that meant they could cross generations as we recognised ourselves on stage. It was a celebration of live comedy and allowed children to experience a range of comedic genres such as observational, physical, improvised, cringe and character comedy, encouraging us all to connect with the tragic clown within, making this the kind of family entertainment that stands out from all the others.