‘YES!’ I exploded at Michael when he suggested that we go to Resofit for our June Cog Night. We had recently established that we were both big Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson fans, and the concept that we could see both on one bill was almost too much to comprehend. I was so excited that had there been any objections from the team, they knew better than to voice them.
For several long months I gazed longingly at the tickets sitting in my desktop drawer, ‘not long now’, I’d whisper as I retrieved my hole punch, ‘not long now.’ And so the 15th June arrived.
‘I’M SO EXCITED!’ I shouted over at Michael as Daniel Kitson ambled onto the stage drinking a cup of coffee and wearing fluro-pink socks. It turned out that other performers were billed too – in the informal order of who had to get up the earliest the next day – and there was also a point to us all gathering at the Bloomsbury Theatre that evening: a fundraiser for Resonance 104.4 FM.
For those of you who don’t know Resonance – and you probably should – it is an independent London radio station for the arts. I first became aware of Resonance when I was at art college in 2002, when all that they played in the morning was bird song. Not being of an age to appreciate how truly lovely that actually is, I just nodded sagely when my more poetic peers mentioned Resonance, but didn’t engage with it much further. Resonance then popped up as resident radio (try saying that five times: ‘Resonance resident radio’) at Frieze Art Fair and have provided a platform for arts and cultural events ever since. Definitely worthy of fundraising support, I’m sure you’d agree.
Wonderfully Daniel Kitson was compère so we got to enjoy his meandering, audience-insulting chat all night. I can’t tell you any jokes because out of context it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but there was a lot of passive aggressive thumbs-up audience participation and songs to sing while cycling. Comedy is so subjective isn’t it? It’s so difficult to represent all the tastes of the studio and give enough credit to the craft that is comedy, but I don’t care what anyone says, Daniel Kitson is the best comedian ever. Fact.
Twenty-five wonderful minutes later Stewart Lee came on. If you haven’t seen Lee’s sketch about immigration then you should stop reading this and do it now. Here you go. Sometimes I admit that I find myself laughing at Lee in the same way I used to gaffaw at ’Ello ’Ello when I was eight – not really understanding the references but laughing along because the grown-ups on the canned laughter were. The difference is that Stewart Lee is actually funny, intelligent and he is making a huge contribution to society by satirising a political party that worryingly still exists. His sketch was a barely concealed commentary about how UKIP is figuratively defecating on the country, by telling a tenuous story about how his household literally defecated on St. George Cross flags. Unfortunately Lee’s performance felt a bit flat, and I felt that the politics had priority over the comedy. If this is his only failing however, then he is still doing OK by me. Thanks Stewart.
If I was a comedian I wouldn’t want to follow Kitson and Lee but I guess someone had to. I’ve only ever seen Kevin Eldon in supporting roles in Hot Fuzz, Alan Partridge and pretty much anything that has been funny on television since the 1990s. His frenetic stage presence and silly voices were wonderful to behold, although I didn’t get a good idea of what he was about in 25mins, so I will hunt out more of his solo work. Resonance DJ Rosie Wilby felt a little out of her depth but managed to keep it together with some funny observations about sexuality; then self-described ‘International Man of Misery’ Lewis Schaffer split the room a bit. He turned the traditional ‘aren’t women nags’ gag on its head by declaring that he was actually a woman and shouldn’t be discriminated against because he has male genitalia. Some of us loved it, some of us really didn’t. I don’t know. Then Richard Dawson came on.
Richard Dawson was an odd choice to finish a three and a half hour comedy benefit. He is a folk singer like no other – for one, he says he doesn’t actually make folk music but ‘ritual community music’ (actually that is so Resonance), mixing rock-metal guitar with Tuvan throat singing so loud, deep and earthy that it feels like he has rumbled the blood and bone out of the Newcastle soil into song form.
‘I realise that I am a bit like Marmite, so feel free to leave if you need a poo or a cigarette’ he joked in between the tunes that sent shivers down my spine. That was the problem with Dawson, he was witty. You didn’t know where you stood. Was it meant to be funny or was it meant to be awe inspiring? It was a balance that would have been perfect at a solo gig but sandwiched in between Kitson and a raffle we all felt a bit discombobulated. But that really is the Resonance FM effect. You never know what you are going to get or what to expect. Thanks Resonance FM.