Having been there on the night, I can say that this was an absolutely breathtaking, rib-achingly funny evening of top drawer comedy. If you saw the BBC broadcast, then that should have given you a taster of what to expect on this full length recording.
The event was hosted very well by Jonathan Ross, Jack Dee, Graham Norton, Julian Clary, and Lily Savage, who all did their best to get the crowd excited, cheerfully bantering with the front row and cracking increasingly cheeky jokes.
The first proper act of the evening, Ardal O’Hanlon, started slowly but eventually won everybody over with his jokes about ambulances and his Irish family. Next up, Alistair McGowan rattled through a few of his favourite impressions (including a particularly fine ‘Parkinson’ moment) before moving into more broadly observational material. Omid Djalili gave us an energetic routine of silly jokes (“I am the only Iranian comic, but that’s still technically three more than Germany”), interspersed with some hilarious attempts at belly dancing. Jo Brand was her usual deadpan self, attacking the uselessness of her husband, and telling an extremely good anecdote about the late Malcolm Hardee. Next up, the percussion group Stomp took to the stage and banged things in a mildy amusing fashion (its impossible to explain, you really need to see it), before it was the turn of Jimmy Carr. This ‘slightly offensive’ comic gave us a fine selection of his brilliantly written but astonishingly rude one liners, causing gales of laughter and sharp intakes of breath in equal measure. The Bo Selecta Bear attempted an improvised set, loosely based on ‘Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned’, with Jonathan Ross as his sidekick, but the least said about this bit the better I think. Dawn French appeared next, doing a slightly disturbing impression of Catherine Zeta Jones and generally hamming it up as much as she could. For the final act of the first half, Eddie Izzard brought the house down with an impression of Alistair McGowan doing an impression of him, before seamlessly incorporating it into a routine encompassing spiders, horseriding and talking to chickens.
The second half opened with more impressions, this time from Jon Culshaw. He floundered slightly as he tried to get the audience to suggest people fo him to ‘do’, but eventually his routine took off, with some marvellous skits featuring Russell Crowe, ‘Emperor’ Blair and George W. Bush (“My fellow Animaniacs…”). Simon Pegg and Jessica Stephenson came on as kind of semi-hosts, using increasingly savage put-downs to banter with each other before introducing Dylan Moran. I was slightly underwhelmed by Mr. Moran, as he waffled confusingly about the darkness of an actor’s soul. Its not that it wasn’t funny, just that I think his kind of act needs more than seven minutes to work properly. Next up, Derren Brown got the whole audience involved in one of his mind tricks, providing us with one of his trademark ‘how the hell…?’ moments. Johnny Vegas, as unpredictable as ever, used his slot to angrily pick on several members of the audience, including a man with a broken leg, culminating in a snog with the girlfriend of a bloke whose T-shirt he didn’t like! This act really left some people cold, but you have to admire his incredibly quick wit. Miranda Richardson was a suprise special guest, who informed us that she was there to do a ‘charity auction’ slot. Luckily though, all was not as it seemed, and the proceedings were thoroughly subverted by The League Of Gentlemen, to darkly delicious effect. Rich Hall’s country singer creation Otis Lee Crenshaw came on and barked out a couple of amusing, clever songs, one of which was called ‘Do Anything You Want To The Girl, Just Don’t Hurt Me’, before the wonderful Dave Spikey took to the stage to show us why he’s more than a match for Peter Kay any day of the week. Moving into the home straight, the ‘part troll’ himself Mr. Bill Bailey kept the laughs coming with one of his absurd songs, this one being an epic love song featuring the line “The duck of our love lies shredded in a pancake, drowning in the hoi-sin sauce of your lies”. Who else could get a line like that into a song, I ask you. Finally, Lee Evans kept the energy levels going right to the finish post, even though by this stage it was well after 11pm and the audience was definitely starting to flag. Hilarious observational gags, combined with his own unique style of delivery, rounded things off very nicely.
In conclusion, if you only buy one comedy DVD this year, make sure its this one!