Comedy: Giving Ed
Despite talent being on display, Salome Wagaine was not wholly convinced by this particular musical comedy act
Upon entering the Larkum Studio, the audience of Giving Ed were treated to some lovely playing of the piano by performer Ed Clarke. Right from the start, it was apparent the kind of musical comedy we were getting would not be of the Flight of the Conchords/Mighty Boosh strain, but something which took as its points of reference more of a classical and music hall tradition.
Indeed I was correct, Clarke moving between pastiches of Vivaldi to modernising of Gilbert and Sullivan songs. Much of the material had a vibe reminiscent Radio 4 programme along the lines of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which in part was why, as a piece of live comedy, ultimately, Giving Ed was not wholly successful. Most of the set’s songs were very much self-contained (save for a nice sequence towards the end which moved from train announcements to James Bond via Harry Potter) and so there wasn’t overall a very holistic feel to the evening.
Moreover, some of the night’s difficulty came with the material itself. Clarke is at his best when he’s being vaguely observational as evidenced by a well-imitated impression of the beginning of 90s VHSs on the keyboard being a highlight. However, in order to fill the hour, Clarke made use of topical songs that were no longer topical: a song dealing with the Sachsgate scandal springs to mind, although the credit crunch number did have a relevancy, if not because of the ever-pressing and worryingly, if not surprisingly, unresolved Eurozone debt crisis. I am not convinced either Ed Clarke of the audience particularly care about Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in the way we might have done back when the song was first written.
Slightly less forgiveable for me was the fact that during a couple of times during the evening, some of the jokes felt a bit uncomfortable. Clarke informs us that Russell Brand is bi-polar in the aforementioned song and it’s unclear whether or not we are meant to find him having this mental illness either funny or a negative personality trait. Similarly, some of the jokes during the encore about music in Chinese restaurants somewhat missed their target. It is perhaps because, unlike what the show’s title might suggest, Giving Ed does not rely primarily on edgy comedy: with a white dinner jacket, Clarke is, mercifully, hardly a Frankie Boyle type. As a result, it is not fully clear whether or not the mentioned remarks were made in a subtly aware style; maybe others will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Despite this, it is clear Ed Clarke is a gifted performer with a neat knack in adapting one style into another (he’s a man who clearly realises the comic opportunities to be found in a basso nova). With newer political material or else an increased focus on the observational, he will find more success than Giving Ed in its current form.