Comedy at The British Library – What’s So Funny Live

It’s Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What’s So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly – or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his ‘brothers’ outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener – however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an ‘artificial-hip-hopping’ former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of ‘innit’ and ‘aks’. Odd, but also hilarious.


Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy… by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky…



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