Contrary to popular perception, the reviewer's lot is not always a happy one. Surely not, jane!
I mean: all those films and shows and, and, and...canapés! What's not to like? And i'll happily put my hand up to the canapés. Who doesn't like free snacks?
Top of my current Top Ten sits the New Zealand Embassy, with a tidbit rating of at least 4 and a half stars. Yummy. Also plentiful, which is equally important. While somewhere down at the bottom sits Cats Protection. Great cause. But oh! The profusion of white-breaded ham sandwiches with which they launched their political campaigning a few years back was mouth-dryingly awful.
On the plus side, they allowed me to take a bag of leftovers home to my cat who now proudly proclaims himself a connoisseur of House of Commons Ham.
Elsewhere, though, I find myself reviewing two to three films a week and though the good ones are truly good, there are a lot of stinkers in there which I am honour bound to stay with from cringeworthy start to mind-numbing finish. Bad documentaries, experimental projects that should never have crawled out of the can: there's plenty to go around.
Happily this was not the case on Sunday when, finally, I got the chance to watch comedian Rich Hall live at the Broadway.
Rich Hall rules
Oh, joy! I have been a fan of his, from way back when I discovered him playing in his alter ego of redneck Otis T Crenshaw. Because he is not just very funny, but brings attitude and good-nature to all his performances. Sure: you may have caught him as making up numbers on QI or other English panel shows.
But go seek out his earlier recordings. Find out what he has to say on US history – especially the way that nation has treated its indigenous peoples.
Sunday, though, was everything I hoped – and more. I knew he improvised: but creating, from scratch and based on little more than a brief exchange with audience members not one, but THREE perfectly adequate – and funny – ballads. That takes genius.
He'd also done his homework, to an incredible degree: so his set ranged from comment on contemporary politics (Trump and Johnson) to Letchworth, as home of the world's first roundabout and nudge-and-wink digs at local neighbours – like Baldock and Royston. As an occasional performer myself i'll own: that sort of thing is hard work.
I'm biased but if I were rating Rich, this is another four and a half stars.
Comedy to come
And if you liked that, there are three more great comedy dates coming up at the Broadway over the next couple of months.
First up, on 16 April is Humble Pi: Matt Parker's Comedy of Maths Errors. Do not allow the fact that he has been described by critics as a “stand-up mathematician” to put you off. Yes. He does maths onstage: but the emphasis remains on the comedy, with observations ranging from the comic (exactly how many different meals can you order at McDonalds?) to the tragic (bridges collapsing).
Be brave. You may think this is not for you. But you won't know until you try!
Two days later, on 18 April, is Simon Evans with his appropriately titled The Work of the Devil.
Appropriate, because if any contemporary comedian deserves to play that role, then it is Simon, with his sharp, Luciferian beard and his wicked sense of humour, alternately lulling you to a false sense of security and then whisking you off down the darkest of dark side roads of ambiguity who should get the part.
Comedian, Commentator, Curmudgeon: Simon is all of these and well worth an evening out.
Then, on 2 May, the crème de la crème. Andy Parsons is back with his Healing the Nation tour.
This is return visit: he was last here in 2017, playing to a full house and very obviously tickling the Letchworth funny bone. And no reason to imagine he will not delight again.
So if you like first class comedians at the top of their game, check this out. If you came before, come again. Because material changes. Heck! Since last he was here, we've had a general election, new Prime Minister and “got Brexit done” (well, so I am told).
And don't delay, because I suspect this one that will sell out early.
Letchworth for Comedy
Comedy! Sometimes we don't know how lucky we are to have the Broadway to provide local showcase. Because if it wasn't here, we'd be trekking off to London or Cambridge (or worse, Huntingdon or Stevenage to catch shows like this).
All that remains is for me to put in my wish list for 2021: “Dear Kevin, if you could just see your way to inviting Sara Pascoe and Joe Lycett, i'd be a very happy critic indeed!”