Andi Osho is great. A bold female presence on the stand up circuit and the panel show bear pit, the chance to see what she could do live was a real treat and, to use the old reviewers’ cliche, she did not disappoint. (Note to self: Don’t use that one again for at least another two years). If anything, she exceeded expectations by being one of the most consistently laugh-out-loud funny, fun and lively performers of the Liverpool Comedy Festival thus far.
Her mainstream television spots, on the big stages of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and the like, don’t quite do justice to the joy of seeing her in her own domain, given the time to charm the crowd. The Unity was a great stage for her. Normally, when a comic insists they want to chat with the crowd for a bit before getting into the show, it’s facepalm time. Not so with Osho. Her smile disarmed the entire audience and she created a lovely, friendly, natural atmosphere.
After chatting with a few audience members and tackling the unscripted appearance of an unidentified object on the stage that turned out to be a rolling mint dropped by someone a few rows back, it became clear there was probably nothing Osho couldn’t handle. Well, for all a rolling mint sounds like any kind of show-threatening obstacle. But her style was clear; nothing could bring down the positivity she gave off, and it was catching.
Every year, it’s about this point in the fest I realise I’ve probably done nothing but go and see finely-scripted, Guardian-friendly storytelling-type shows from middle class white men and start hankering for some fast-paced, pure and simple stand up and jokes. For all the recent media hoo-ha and my moaning about Liverpool audiences, tonight’s show was a reminder of how entertaining, and how enhancing, some good banter with an interested and engaged audience can be. After that, we went straight into an abridged version of her show Afroblighty. Black comic basing show on mixed UK and African roots might be a well-worn path, but it’s not always so truly uniting and insightful. Observations on the Nigerian community in the UK, becoming aware of her ‘otherness’ and racism as a child, and the changes of life in London over the years incorporated the tenderness of a good memoir with the daftness of some well-written gags. The Tina Turner gesture and the Ikea rant were fun high points in a set full of genuine belly laughs.
Illustrating her acting background (she actually appeared in the Everyman production of Yellowman a few years back, although has rarely, if ever performed stand up here before), Osho ended her set with a particularly good spoken word piece, a wonderfully lyrical turn about Britain, was made all the stronger for acknowledging our national problems and shames as well as the positives and eccentricities. How strange that suddenly, so many things to see are concentrating on Britishness, and our sense of nationality. Can it really be just a coincidence that so many comics and other theatre shows are putting it under the microscope these days?
Quite why Andi Osho is struggling to fill the Unity, while many of her male contemporaries on the panel show circuit are filling out arenas with much less interesting and diverse stage personas is a mystery. But tonight, it was lovely to have her all to ourselves.