Reviews

A few of my reviews:

Interview
Author and satirist Nick Revell on coming back to comedy
6 January 2012 - The List (Issue 691) Written by: Brian Donaldson

As one of the original voices from the 1980s Comedy Store era, Nick Revell has been round a block or two. Having earned a Perrier nomination in 1987, his stand-up career seemed to be flying, but in 1992 he decided to have a break and concentrate on writing. That break lasted an entire decade. ‘In retrospect I should have kept the motor ticking over but I was always a topical comic who turned over lots of new material. I was getting so much work as a writer and got out of the discipline of having to go to Coventry on a rainy Tuesday, so I just made the decision to stop.’

For Revell, coming back into a stand-up fold that had changed out of all recognition was pretty much like starting over. ‘Any comic will tell you that four days without a gig makes you a bit twitchy. Over the ten years, it had gone more mainstream which I don’t automatically think is a bad thing, but you couldn’t rely on the same frames of reference between you and your audience.’

Now happy enough back in stand-up, Revell’s skills as a political satirist are honed on panel show podcast No Pressure to be Funny. ‘It’s a mixture of comics, journalists and charity workers and we want them to come on without worrying that it’s going to be a comedians pissing contest to see who can do the funniest jokes all the time.’

On his impressive writing CV are jobs working with Rory Bremner, Dave Allen and the Not the Nine O’Clock News team, and ongoing work on a 90s sitcom entitled Going Dutch never came to full fruition when his collaborator and proposed star Dermot ‘Father Ted’ Morgan died suddenly. ‘It was a great working experience and it was extraordinary being in Dublin with him; it was like walking round with the Pope, and being mobbed constantly.’

Review from my Edinburgh Show 2008 - 'Sleepless'.
31/07/08 - Chortle www.chortle.co.uk

Nick Revell’s show – his first stand-up in four years and only his third in 16 – is supposedly about the things that keep him awake at night, a very unconstricting premise that gives him free rein to talk about whatever he wants. Apart from the occasional ‘…and another thing that keeps me awake is…’ afterthought, you’d never know there was a theme at all.

But that’s a good thing; testament to Revell’s eloquence and fluidity. He can talk engagingly across a wide range of subjects, always holding the attention without resort to artificial structure to prop him up. He can glide from Bosnian warlords to British barbecues without any jarring gear-change

An alternative title to the show might have been Maybe I’m Being A Bit Too Harsh But…, as Revell is a corrosive cynic, delivering brutal home truths that belie his nice-guy presence.

He’s well-read, and his incisive comedy is driven by the never-ending stream of current events that get his goat. Some of the gags are hot off the press, with references to the day’s headlines, while others might be of slightly more suspect topicality – the Danish cartoon protests, for example. But even on this he’s got a fresh, pin-sharp gag that you don’t feel has been cracked a thousand times before.

There’s clearly a ferocious intelligence at the heart of everything he does, not to mention an unflagging desire to highlight injustice. This does mean that there are sections of the hour – sometimes quite lengthy ones – that seem to exist because he feels the issues demand attention, rather than because he’s written brilliant jokes about them. Civil war, torture and famine are not obvious gag-generators, and even Revell has trouble making subjects such as Darfur funny.

But while these agenda-led material is raising awareness more than laughs, Revell mosty manages to dodge charges of preachiness.

Perhaps that’s because for all his liberal, socially responsible views, he’s not so tied to political correctness that he can’t crack an old-fashioned joke at the expense of others. Some are decidedly cheap – that Americans are fat and loud, for instance – but then he can savagely mock the stereotypical French or Italians with the best of them. He delivers like an orator, showing a real fire in his belly for subjects such as the grubby Commons deal that allowed detention of terror suspects for 42 days without charge that transcends any need to quip about it.

He’s also skilful when it comes to illustrated his heartfelt monologue with little comedy sketches, showing a rare gift for accents and allowing him a change of pace from his normal, authoritative tone. His tour-de-force calling-card closer – about what the dawn chorus really means – is conclusive evidence of this, even if it is a leftover from his last Fringe show.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Stand-Up
Chortle 2007 - www.chortle.co.uk

If you were looking to set a gold standard of comic delivery, Nick Revell would be a good place to start. His varying rhythms, pace, emphasis and ability to drop into any number of accents to enliven his routines set him aside as an excellent storyteller.

Admittedly, some of the yarns he spins rely on familiar assumptions – of the way we are all supposed to act when drunk, staggering home with a kebab, for instance, or the broad stereotypes of any number of nationalities, particularly the French. But these truisms are skilfully wrapped inside thoroughly engaging anecdotes, told with such narrative drive to ensure the audience are hanging on to the unfolding story, rather than listening, expectantly, for any obvious jokes. So when the punchlines do strike, they come out of the blue, and are so all the better for it.

With such a command of an audience’s attention, it would be a waste for Revell to squander his descriptive brilliance on the mundane, and he can, should the mood take him, leave safer topics behind to indulge his own interests. Who else would get away with a routine about 16th century satirist Rabelais and the debate he provoked over the finer points of Biblical translation? This strikingly original segment may be thin on jokes, but he still holds the audience rapt.

Not only can Revell play to a crowd who’d appreciate such smarts, but he has the performance skills and the experience – albeit interrupted by a lengthy sabbatical from the circuit he first joined in 1980 – to be able to tackle a rowdier room, too.

His abilities come to the fore in his signature routine, an almost operatic tour-de-force in which he recreates the territorial dawn chorus as if it were in English, rather than birdsong. This is impressive stuff, and a fitting end to an ambitious, and peerlessly told, set.

Stand-Up
Review: Nick Revell, The Other Side Comedy Club, York by Catherine Sevigny

Perhaps it was the expanding popularity of York's premier comedy night, or maybe the heady promise of last night's main act, Nick Revell, re-emerging after a ten-year hiatus, but the club was bursting with eager punters, and then some.
Once Nick Revell hit the floor, you could hear the sighs of relief across the room. He was, in a word, fabulous, sliding from accent to accent with such grace and style.

His seamless blend of historical detail and topical events added gravitas and texture to his observational comedy. He broached the big, contentious topics and ran the risk of dividing the crowd; mocking Islamophobia, paedophilia and Coldplay, "the Tim Henman of rock and roll". Yet he succeeded where others failed, largely through his shrewd observations and non-partisan approach.

Stand-Up
William Cook, The Guardian June 12th 2004

For ten years, from 1982 to 1992, Nick Revell was one of the principal comperes at London's Comedy Store. Then, in 1992, he stopped doing stand-up altogether.

Thankfully, he got back behind the mike and since 2002, he's resumed his rightful place as one of the most creative and incisive comics on the circuit. Even if you've never seen him live, you've probably laughed at his gags, since his TV credits include Room 101 and Drop the Dead Donkey, and he's also written for Dave Allen, Rory Bremner, Bob Monkhouse and Michael Moore.
His novels have been likened to Hunter S. Thompson and Eddie Izzard, and after a quarter of a century in the business, he still hasn't lost his comic touch: "Donald Rumsfeld says he's very very sorry. That the guards had cameras."

Interview
Malcolm Hay talks to Nick Revell about his return to stand-up, Time Out Oct 2003

West Yorkshire. Early 1970s. Nick Revell's initial excursions into performance bore little or no resemblance to stand-up. "There was a thriving folk-club circuit," he explains. "Three of four of us formed a parody band. We'd do Bonzo covers, a few of our songs, send up the other acts." Revell played guitar and harmonica and also sang. The high point was when he enacted a highly realistic self-disembowelment: 'With the help of a vacuum-packed bag of sheep guts from the abattoir where I used to work part-time. It was a sort of punk-folk crossover send-up. Someone in the audience threw up or fainted. I don't remember a smell, so they must have fainted."
After that came the relative calm of taking part in revues at university. Then Stand-up: "I first did the Comedy Store in 1980. It was terrifying. You could feel the aggression the moment you got in the lift to go up to the room. I didn't get gonged off that night because they had a rule that first-timers could do their whole five minutes. I did get a few laughs, but it went downhill fairly fast. The compere that night - Tony Allen - was amazing. He now runs and hosts the Performance Club which is a really good experimental evening that I do most Tuesdays.

Revell hadn't contemplated stand-up as a career: "I'd really only gone to the Store so I could say I'd experienced it." But, despite the horror, the bug had bitten. So deeply, as it turned out, that during the course of the 1980's Revell reached a position where he was numbered among the top dozen or so stand-ups in the country. Then, in 1992, he called a halt to it all. What caused him to make such a momentous decision? "I was getting a lot of writing work. I wasn't finding time to do new material for the stand-up set as regularly as I wanted to - that's to say weekly. How stupid was that? Just because I wasn't able to develop my five minutes every month. Maybe the motivation had gone because I no longer had any fear whatsoever on stage. After that it felt like I was just doing it to show off."

Revell maintained contact with live work through two powerful storytelling shows for the Edinburgh Fringe: 'The Ghost of John Belushi Flushed My Toilet' (1993) and 'Liberal Psychotic' (1995). Then the writing took over completely - for his own radio show, for sitcoms including several series of 'Drop the Dead Donkey', two novels, a play and various other bits and pieces. He says he had an occasional urge to return to stand-up: "But I let it pass."

However, in August last year, he eventually succumbed. "I found myself in my local, improvising bits about the International situation. And I though that I should really be doing this to strangers. Then I realised that I was so frightened of doing it again that it had to be done."

That element of fear shouldn't be underestimated - like champion boxers who've retired from the ring, stand-ups who take a long time off rarely climb back on stage again. "It was hard," Revell agrees "Just getting stage time was hard." Performing was tough too: "However well you know how to do it, doing it after a gap is different. Ask any comic how they feel after going two weeks without a gig. Imagine walking out on a relationship and trying to pick it up again ten years later. Its going to take a while before you can spend all afternoon on the sofa and scratching your balls, while your partner brings you a beer." It's now 14 months later and Revell's impressively back in the saddle. He's performing with great regularity in the clubs. His Edinburgh Fringe show bore the stamp of a master craftsman at work. What comes next? "As much stage time as I can get. Ideally, Edinburgh again next year. See how the land lies. Repeat until dead."