Latitude 2009

Latitude: Phill Jupitus, Frankie Boyle, yet more Ross Noble

Michael Bonner

We are, of course, victims to the capricious whims of fate – particularly in relation to the wind and the tricksy way it displaces sound at festivals. You might, for instance, find yourself bewitched by some contemporary ballet going on down by the lake, only for the mournful hymns of a lone cellist who’s soundtracking the dance to be rudely drowned out by some shouty indie band on a nearby stage.

But, I’m pleased to report, the fates are smiling kindly on us today. As I walk down to the Comedy Arena, past another finely choreographed pas de deux unfolding gracefully before me, the mellifluous harp of Joanna Newsom drifts ethereally across the lake, by way of a perfect accompaniment.

Anyway, I rock up to the Comedy Arena, which is today hosting a pretty impressive roll call of performers. Typically, the tent’s completely packed, with as many people outside as there are in. This is for Phill Jupitus and his comedy improv, who today include Marcus Brigstocke (who John saw earlier hosting his Morning Edition in the Poetry Arena) and the increasingly ubiquitous Ross Noble. I make this his fourth appearance at Latitude this year – two recordings of Just A Minute, his own headline slot on Friday, and now here. As you’d expect with improv, it’s windy, rambling, and not all of it entirely works. But – as with their world premier of an unknown Shakespeare play – when it works it’s hysterical, the crowd’s laughter drowned out somewhat by Jupitus’ own, bear-like guffaw.

Between comics, I mooch around a bit and spot Simon Armitage doing a signing session outside the Poetry Arena – with a massive queue stretching round the corner. There’s The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade strolling through the site in a grey sports jacket and beard. Then it’s back to the Comedy Arena for TV’s Frankie Boyle.

It says something about Boyle’s status – utterly undeserved, I reckon – that he gets a full hour on the stage, while infinitely better comics, like Stewart Lee, are given a fairly desultory 30 minutes. Boyle, in case you’re lucky enough not to be familiar with his oeuvre, is a panellist on Mock The Week, just about the least funny excuse for a topical panel game you could ever have the misfortune to see. To give you some indication of the level of talent on display, Hugh Dennis is one of the team captains.

Anyway, Boyle, free from the shackles of television, is a surprisingly foul-mouthed comic, with a rather tedious fixation with saying “fuck” every other word, and with a relish that I find increasingly disturbing after a while. His targets are unremarkable and predictable – Alastair Darling, the credit crunch, Barak Obama – and he stuns the crowd with a spectacularly ill-advised routine about Children In Need.

Next up is Milton Jones, whose Radio 4 shows are gently whimsical fare, the kind of thing I’m happy to drift off to on its 11pm, weekday time slot. His stand up is gags and one-liners, all delivered in a moderately bemused, slightly curious manner by Jones. “My wife. It’s hard to say what she does. She sells sea shells on the sea shore… “ And on it goes.

Right, back off out there. Hoping to catch Jupitus’ resurrecting his Porky the Poet alter ego, but I also want to see a bit of Glasvegas before the evening session of Breeders and Grinderman kicks off.


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