Review: Adam Hess & Rhys James @ Warwick Arts Centre, 6th October 2016

Rhys James: Measured comedy from a Fringe favourite

Gifted comics Adam Hess and Rhys James are currently on tour together, and even share a home, but they don’t have all that much in common when they’re in full flow on stage, besides being hotly-tipped young gag writers.

Over the course of a couple of hours at Warwick Arts Centre, the pair – performing the shows they took to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – showed just why they’re held in such high regard, their incredibly different styles and approaches to comedy making for an entertainingly varied evening.

First up was Hess, a livewire act who seemed scarcely able to keep up with the frenetic pace at which words tumbled out of his mouth. High-octane and almost bordering on the manic, Hess dispatched jokes with such apparent care-free attitude that it’s easy to wonder how other acts would rake over such lines to milk every last drop from them. In contrast, there’s a relentlessness – and restlessness – which seemed to inform Hess’ show, delivering quality jokes and moving on instantly, never dwelling and leaving the audience breathless as he jumped from thought to thought.

One of a generation of comics who – like his touring partner – has built up a reputation and fanbase on the back of his prolific tweeting, Hess touched on common subject matter for much of his set: social awkwardness, relationships, the oddness of his family. But it was the peculiar tinge to these jokes which has made him such a distinctive voice, combined with his fast-paced delivery to shape a stream-of-consciousness of sorts that strangely suits his material.

After the break, Rhys James took to the stage and it was clear very quickly that his hour was going to be taken at a much more measured pace. With a raft of carefully constructed jokes, taking particular joy in the pull-back-and-reveal gags which peppered his set, James cut a much more deliberate figure, and the intricate structure which dominated the second half of his show was reminiscent of James Acaster, aiming for a similarly dense amalgam of themes.

A running joke about fruit consistently surprised in its silliness, and even the poetic excursions helped to underline the show’s intentions, when in less capable hands it could’ve derailed the momentum. Pop culture savvy and very self-aware, his commentary on Brexit and baby boomers had more bite by virtue of not being too on-the-nose, which delighted when married with his wit and insight.

This double-header tour proved that both Hess and James are among the most talented younger comics on the UK circuit, and their stock looks set to keep rising. We’re expecting big things of them in the future, so you’d be highly recommended to get on board now before they’re playing larger rooms. It won’t be very long before that time arrives.


Author: whoslaughingnowblog

My name is Simon Harper. I'm a freelance journalist specialising in writing about music and comedy. My work has been published by the Birmingham Post, Arena, Bearded, the BBC and Channel 4, among others. I have also written for BBC Radio 4 Extra's Newsjack, as well as co-writing and -hosting the Comedy Fix podcast. I've been writing about comedy in Coventry, Birmingham and the West Midlands as Who's Laughing Now? since 2008. Here you'll find reviews, previews, interviews and other stuff about live comedy in the area.

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