Mark Simmons – Whatever you want I couldn't give a toss
Leicester Comedy Festival February 2017
An early evening slot on the first day of a two-and-a-half week festival was never going to be a life-changing experience for either performer or audience, but the opening couple of minutes of Mark Simmons' show seemed laden with confidence and professionalism and oozed potential for what looked like it could be a really good laugh. Sadly for all concerned, this opening promise was not fulfilled as, although his confidence didn't seem to waver, he proceeded to stroll through his material at a snail's pace, suggesting he either expected more from his audience reactions or possibly simply didn't have enough gags to last the full 50 minutes. He is essentially a one-liner comedian, and indeed his one-liners were for the most part funny, original and pretty good and he paced and structured them well, mixing in the silly ones with the thinkers, the clever ones with the groaners. He included several call-backs which were nicely spread out, he also had a great little “advice” theme which was suitably structured, very well thought through and, dare I say, funny. On the face of it, a confident and experienced comedian armed with this material should have been delivering a great routine. Smashing it, even. What went wrong?
If he were a brand new, inexperienced comic then the problem could easily be identified as failing to read the audience and not working with the energy in the room. For had he chosen to be fast-paced and energetic then his audience would have gone with him all the way, laughing at the lunacy, clapping the clever and howling at the hilarious: Here's a gag, BANG, here's a topper, BOOM there's another one, POW! Instead he chooses to deliver each joke in very much its' own individual parcel, to be savoured and digested, presumably to leave us eager for each new delight. But this is a bloke punning on a small basement stage in Leicester not a Californian millionaire giving a TED talk. Simmons is no newbie, if there were any doubt among the audience as to his calibre then Simmons himself implies several times that he has been doing this for quite a while, referring to various TV comedians with whom he has worked. Harsher, then, must be the criteria upon which he is judged and he should have known better, should have done better. The audience laughed, a bit, but the laughter seemed tinged with disappointment and was laced with the naivety of a festival crowd determined to have a really good laugh in order to justify their ticket expenditure. This grimacing psuedo-enthusiasm could be the reason why the only actual applause followed a couple of audience responses which seemed to wrong-foot him. “Oh yes,” he replied to the punter in row C, “shame that was the first bit applause of the show, but your joke was better than mine.”
Yes, it was.