tbe09The last big event the Hackney Empire will put on before it goes dark for an indefinite amount of time next year – thank you Arts Council – is the New Act of the Year. Theoretically anything goes, but “new act” has come to pretty much mean “neophyte standup comics” — which may be your idea of hell (there were actually two different predictive text jokes involving the sad face coming up when the name of your town is punched in), but that’s why we go to these things, so you don’t have to. My notes, as scribbled hastily in the dark between gulps of beer and the occasional bout of a strange kind of short fit that I believe is known as laughing, are as follows…

By the way, this was just so I’d remember who they were. I mean it’s brutal. They get 5 minutes each (8 minutes for double acts) and the judges have to decide on that basis, in a room of perhaps 30 people, whether they should do their act for a sold-out 2000-seat theatre. Which actually makes the decision quite simple. They have to competely knock it out of the park to stand a chance.

  • Johnny Cochrane – big hair
  • Alexandra Clarke – ukelele, X-Factor
  • Jez Scharf – Tie, guitar, depressed, ex-girlfriend
  • TOBY (double act) – “wib wobs”, treacle, Rohypnol
  • Timothy Lock – Harry Hill, American
  • Joe Roundtree – music genres, midget in suitcase
  • Will Marsh – Wood Green, fireworks, headlines


  • Frisky and Mannish – glitter, piano, “question”, eternal flame stalker
  • WitTank (sketch group) – posh, loud, “rim me, Hardy!”
  • Darshan Sanghrajka – his neighborhood, Kipling rap
  • Joe Lycett – middle class, Amazon reviews, X-Factor voice
  • Claire Parker – transsexual
  • Naz Osmanoglu – Bear Grylls, towel business
  • Nathaniel Metcalfe – “he’s gonna make it”, barefoot executive
  • James Mason – hipster saddo

The Freaky Trigger favorite might have been Frisky and Mannish, who performed a medley of songs that ask questions (punctuated with “question!” from “Independent Women”) and a brilliant version of “Eternal Flame” that brought the song’s stalker tendencies to the fore:

I believe –
It’s meant to be, darlin’..
I watch you when you are sleeping.. ;)
You belong with me!! :D
Do you feel the same??
Or am I only dreaming?????????????
Is this burnin’ an eternal flame????

Say my name!!!!!
(Sun shines through the rain)
Of all life SO LONELY…
And come and ease the PAIN!!!!!
I don’t wanna lose this feeling..

call my name
call my name
call my name
call my name


But as good as they were, and as imaginative as TOBY were, and as much as I liked what were in general very good-natured and generous performances, there was only one that really stood out. That was Nathaniel Metcalfe, an unassuming dude who had just one joke which he stretched out to five minutes, about the theme song to a movie called The Barefoot Executive, starring Kurt Russell and a monkey. It was a doozy. I hope he makes it.

Next week: Audition #3. (#1 is missing because I got the dates mixed up.)