Mencap Big Comedy Special raises awareness in hilarious style at the Hammersmith Apollo
An all-star comedy line up including Jo Brand, Jack Whitehall and Russell Howard took to the Hammersmith Apollo stage on Wednesday evening in support of learning disabilities charity Mencap.
Irish funny man Andrew Maxwell kicked off proceedings with some superb audience interaction on global stereotypes, providing the ideal ice-breaker. Next up, Jo Brand whose legendary razor-sharp wit had the whole theatre in stitches – Brand has worked with people with learning disabilities since she was 17, and is often involved with Mencap as it’s “a charity close to my heart”.
Mencap debutant comic and team captain Jon Richardson (of Channel 4’s 8 out of 10 Cats) called the night “amazing … a pleasure – hopefully I’ll do more,” which is a pretty safe bet if the thunderous applause after his sensational set was any indication.
Taking audience participation to a whole new level were the stars of E4’s Cardinal Burns, who clambered over the front rows to perch and interact as rival Turkish minicab drivers haggling over a fare to Arnos Grove. Comprised of Seb Cardinal & Dustin Demri-Burns, the duo then jumped back onstage for Taxi Drivers on Fire (a lyrical reworking of Kings of Leon’s mega hit Sex on Fire), which proved a huge hit with the crowd.
Veteran stand-up performer Richard Herring wasn’t as energetic, but his dry insights into his misinformed sexual education were simply marvellous. Scottish former lawyer Susan Calman shared her comical secret love of rubbish movies, and how at a diminutive 4’11’’ she can stand straight up in the back of a black cab. An amusing sketch featuring Bad Teacher star Lucy Punch rounded off the first half of this charity laugh-fest.
The second began with the reason everyone was there: a touching short film about autistic twins John and Andrew, showing the incredible work Mencap does to help people with learning disabilities. Since its inception in 1946, this dedicated UK charity has challenged prejudice, raised awareness, and helped shape laws, providing vital support while tirelessly campaigning for people with learning difficulties to receive equal rights and the opportunities “to live life as they choose”.
BBC Three’s Good News megastar Russell Howard took the stage and naturally brought the house down, treating us to his gut-achingingly glorious perspectives on family, computer repairs, and Twitter trolls.
Next, a few super (if embarrassing) stories from actress and comedian Wendy Wason, before Not Going Out star Tim Vine tripled the evening’s quota of clever one-liners with his wonderfully silly props and songs.
Multi award-winning actor/comedian Omid Djalili came out singing with an amazing rendition of Weather Girls hit Raining Men, which he’d aptly reworked to Iranian Men. The consummate entertainer was on top form and had the entire room in the palm of his hand as he told of lazy racism and enacted great Godzilla impressions. Backstage, the charismatic comic told us: “Humour is a sign of our innate spirituality, so to use that to show that were all one is a wonderful thing, and I’m very pleased to be part of this evening”. Ronni Ancona was also “honoured to be involved with such an incredibly worthwhile cause”, and provided a brilliant appeal sketch, before the adorably posh Jack Whitehall closed this thrilling comedy marathon in magnificent style, later quipping via Twitter: “Did two great charity shows last night for two great charities Mencap and Crisis. Today I’m gonna kick a puppy, take advantage of my Karma”.
Mencap’s Big Comedy Special was a terrifically organised triumph in aid of an essential charity.
For further information about Mencap visit here.