Teenage Cancer Trust Comedy Night at the Royal Albert Hall review: back in the swim

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Joel Dommett compèred with aplomb  (PA)
Joel Dommett compèred with aplomb (PA)

After being cancelled for two years Roger Daltrey’s Teenage Cancer Trust concerts are back. Later this week, Daltrey’s own band The Who, Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran are among the musical attractions, but last night’s comedy had smiles dancing across the audience’s faces.

Compère Joel Dommett warmed everyone up by revealing insider secrets about hosting The Masked Singer. Not only does he not know who the celebrities are in the masks, sometimes he does not even know who they are minus the masks. He had no idea who ex-MP Alan Johnson was even after the big reveal.

Dommett was on surer footing introducing his fellow stand-ups. First was Suzi Ruffell, who squeezed a substantial chunk of her life story into fifteen minutes, from coming out and marrying to becoming a parent. The highlight was Ruffell’s gloriously cartoonish portrait of her Portsmouth clan, with mum hilariously scuppering Ruffell’s surprise marriage proposal.

Judi Love is not so much a comic, more a force of nature, getting a positive response via her powerhouse personality. There were gags about who she gets mistaken for – “On a good day it will be Beyoncé” – alongside jokes about dodgy knees, expensive shoes and skinny men. Direct but undeniably effective.

Judi Love is a force of nature (PA)
Judi Love is a force of nature (PA)

By contrast Romesh Ranganathan sounds conversational but is more crafted. He was particularly funny joking about how his second son is inferior to his first: “if you were doing a cost benefit analysis you would abandon the project.” He has a skilful way of coming across as both misanthropic and charming, a tough trick to pull off.

TV regular Tom Allen got the biggest roar of the night mixing spontaneous crowdwork with polished stories. It takes talent to talk to the Albert Hall front row as if you are in a club but Allen made it look effortless, channelling his inner gameshow host. Combine this with a brilliant tale of tacky suburban leisure centres and you can see why he is in such high demand.

Tom Allen is in justifiably high demand (PA)
Tom Allen is in justifiably high demand (PA)

Seann Walsh is arguably best known for being snapped kissing his Strictly dance partner. A pity as he is a distinctive comedian, with an eye for life’s absurdities. He was very smart recalling early lockdown rules when supermarket security resembled nightclub bouncers and also demonstrated what an inventive physical comic he is. You will not see a better Henry Hoover impression.

Rob Beckett is the ultimate everyman, mining mundane situations for every laugh. Here he homed in on working class weddings – “one every week, often the same bride” – and holidays. Best was his routine about trying to climb onto a pontoon on a Slovenian lake. The image of Beckett floundering was a memorable end to an evening that went swimmingly.

The Teenage Cancer Trust week continues until Sunday, teenagecancertrust.org

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