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Review: Gavin Webster, Carl Hutchinson, Anvil Springsteen and Phil Ellis - Sunderland Empire. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Dipper   
11 08 2010
ImageLaughter Live comedy returned to Wearside tonight as veteran comic Gavin Webster headlined the monthly night at Sunderland Empire. Joining him at the sold out show was Anvil Springsteen, Carl Hutchinson and MC Phil Ellis. Having missed Phil Ellis host his comedy quiz at Kendal Calling festival last week I was eager to see him showcase his compering abilities - and, though I'm still in the dark over his talents as a quizmaster, Ellis proved over the course of the night that he is an accomplished and highly amusing MC.

After building a good rapport with the crowd with energetic and witty interaction in the opening stages of the show - Ellis even carried one gentleman across the stage at one point, just to prove that he could - the likeable comic acted as a very good medium between audience and comedian, warming up the intimate room with his effervescent, likeable personality and off the cuff, childlike remarks as he prepared the crowd for opening act Anvil Springsteen.

Springsteen was a suitable follow-up to Ellis, using the odd juxtaposition of a Liverpudlian living in Newcastle as the framework for his dark yet familial material. Throughout his twenty minute set at Sunderland Empire, his black style of comedy went down well with the audience - the cheap but effective paedophile gag involving a member of the first row went down especially well - but at times it felt like Springsteen was going through the motions with little consideration for his target audience - claiming Sunderland has experienced mass regeneration and is ‘full of art galleries' is somewhat of a faux pas on Wearside, and made that particular routine more awkward than funny.

Following the break, MC Ellis returned to the stage to introduce middle act Carl Hutchinson to the stage. Sandwiched between two comedy veterans in Springsteen and Webster, Hutchinson had a difficult spot in the show, however he excelled. His fantastic timing, combined with a hate list as broad in subject manner as my own, made him a fine middle act as he injected some much needed intellectual comedy in to the night. Hutchinson is an effortlessly funny comic.

Headlining the evening was another local act, Gavin Webster. I'm still not quite sure what to make of Webster - his Northern roots certainly helped him during his set, and his polished ‘acceptable swearing' routine along with off-the-cuff remarks about wanting Thatcher six feet under got the audience on side. However, Webster's set clearly appeals to the older generation, and thus, at times, I felt lost in a sea of factories, Thatcherism and old school Geordie humour.
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