Review of comedian James Campbell

Children’s stand up comedian appearing at Leicester Comedy Festival, 2011

A wet Sunday afternoon, a restless seven year old. A quick scan of the Festival Guide reveals James Campbell with his Comedy and Songs for Kids show is performing at the Y Theatre. Perfect.

My daughter and I had expected the kind of children’s entertainer one experiences at parties, with clown outfits and ‘would you like a balloon flower or sword to take home’. However, the stage, bare except for a piano, mike, stool and small coffee table implied this might be a bit different.

The show began with James introducing himself from off stage, giving the ubiquitous mobile phone warning in a wonderfully surreal way, involving cows and cous cous. First on stage was his ‘piano playing person’ Helen Arney, herself also a performer in her own right at the Festival, although not one for the children it seems.  James then bounded on, a tall, affable chap with no trace of clown paraphanalia. Just a bottle of water; to drink, not throw over the audience.

The set was a combination of stand up and songs, all geared towards the 5+ to early teens demographic, although plenty for us adults. How often do you hear a song with a reference to Cartesian duality for example? And I had to look that up when we got home.

The material covered rich, child-friendly ground: Dads, pets, poo and seven-legged monsters growing out of one’s bottom.  What struck me was how James delivered a classic stand up routine, complete with exchanges with the audience, visual gags and anecdotal material, all perfectly pitched for a child. A hard act to pull off, however, his ten years experience with this act showed as he successfully proved stand up is not just for the post-watershed market. 

Using an audience member’s cuddly toy as a trumpet for one of the songs was clever, and potentially dangerous, considering Anna Mouse’s ear was soggy from chewing, and apparently smelt of Calpol and burp.

The final song pondered how superheroes went to the toilet. I’m not telling you, but my daughter and I are still singing the song.  And I learnt two things that afternoon: all about Cartesian duality and how to make a guinea pig do a poo. Quality.

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