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An odd night out...

PUBLISHED: 16:53 16 September 2009 | UPDATED: 17:24 16 August 2010

KEEPING THE PEACE: Mark Watson.

KEEPING THE PEACE: Mark Watson.

AFTER a week packed with jolly laughter, it was somewhat surprising that the Greenwich Comedy Festival came to a close with such a snarl, writes Kate Mead. A jaded Sunday night audience made their way to the 1,000-capacity tent in the grounds of the Old

AFTER a week packed with jolly laughter, it was somewhat surprising that the Greenwich Comedy Festival came to a close with such a snarl, writes Kate Mead.

A jaded Sunday night audience made their way to the 1,000-capacity tent in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College for the final frolic that was the Big Night Out. Hosted by old pro Jo Brand and headlined by the amenable Mark Watson, it promised to be a supreme ending to a successful event.

But a cheesed off audience huddling around the bar on a blustery September evening last Sunday seemed to be in no mood for japes.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere warmed to an affectionate hum for Madame Brand who livened up the audience with familiar, yet enjoyable, gags about her long suffering husband. But the tetchy crowd were fidgety and some impromptu failed heckles promised a gathering storm.

It started promisingly enough with the quick-witted Sarah Millican - a Northern and more smutty version of Linda Smith. Slagging off everything from living alone to other people's kids, she seemed perfectly in tune in to the crowds Sunday-night blues.

When it came to Dutch Hans Teeuwen however, his abstract comedy shot wildly off the mark.

The first half of his set was met with cautious acceptance as he warbled through a Jackson tribute and performed a naked handed puppet show.

But when he embarked on a ditty about meeting a Jew - despite it being entirely inoffensive - the crowd went off quicker than a starter pistol and they didn't stop.

But gawd bless him, neither did he. After protestations about the need to 'respect the religious as it is hard work to worship something that didn't exist', he ignored the baying crowd and needled them to the point of hysteria.

Like the band who kept playing as the Titanic sank, the Dutchman (as he was later dubbed) reverted to playing his piano and serenading the crowd with beautiful numbers like 'I like your c***'.

This just seemed to infuriate the audience further with many of the more puritanical finally getting to their feet to leave.

In fact, I thought the atmosphere would have actually improved if Teeuwen had dealt with his hecklers in the same way as Malcolm Hardee - the late stepfather of festival organisers Cass and Will Briggs - by peeing on them.

After a welcome interval announced by a gracious Brand, the mood had simmered to merely a volcanic heat.

But the veteran comic managed to keep them all in order and dealt swiftly with her own critics - in answer to a shout of 'Get off!' she retorted 'Get me off! I'd like to see you try!' So the last stand was up to Mark Watson whose set felt fresher thanks to the drama that preceded him.

A favourite, and more laid back comic, Watson managed to get the mood back to more tepid form putting his rather desperate hecklers firmly in their place.

It was interesting to see the 'nice bloke' of comedy restoring order in the unruly crowd.

But I couldn't help but feel that the difficult crowd made the usually placid Watson slightly careful and middle of the road - but who can blame him?

An odd night to round off the capital's biggest comedy festival and just proof that one man's comedy is another man's tragedy.

Kate Mead

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