This evening I was at the Canal House for one of the best days of the Nottingham Comedy Festival. There were two top quality shows on back to back, the first of which was the legendary ParaPod, starring Ian Boldsworth and Barry Dodds. To say that this show has a cult following is an understatement. I arrived 45 minutes before show time and the queue stretched down a couple of flights of stairs, all long the Canal House and right out into the car park. There were quite a few comedy industry figures who had turned out to see the show, including Jay Hampson, Jeanette Bird-Bradley, Pat Draper, Silky and Simon Caine. Prior to the show beginning Erasure were playing, with the audience singing along to Respect, something which delightfully carried on after the song was cut off. We were then ready to begin.
The format of the show was initially announced as a comedy set from each, a fun wind up, but in reality it was: Ghost News, Inside no 11, A bus trip full of featured hauntings, the tale of the Edinburgh Banshee, PD Files and then a Q & A.
Although this gave the show a framework, the majority of it was ad-libbed and it can’t be easy to ad-lib for over a hour, working mostly with what each other says, yet these two have such great chemistry they made it look effortless.
Both have contrasting talents. Boldsworth has a razor sharp precise mind that will listen to what Barry is saying on one level, spot the flaw in the argument, prepare a cuttingly hilarious insult and lay a trap for two questions down the line. In comparison, Dodds has superb timing and is able to say the funniest things without having to think about it – he’s a natural comedian. These differing skills enabled Boldsworth and Dodds to bounce off of each other in a way that was absolutely hilarious.
Boldsworth was very cheerful about shopping Dodds for every misdemeanour, holding what was almost a court of enquiry into the amount of preparation that Barry had gone to for the show. He took a lot of joy in pointing out just how recently something had been jotted down and the amount of space between each line on Barry’s rough notes. This was a show where even the little things, such as Ian’s look of disbelief whilst Barry was talking was superb. I was stood at the back of the room laughing my socks off throughout the show.
There were a huge number of highlights during this performance, way too many to mention and a lot wouldn’t sound funny on a page, but were absolutely brilliant due to the ability of the stars to roll with what came their way. The betting slip with £50 down at 100 – 1 for Barry to win the show was superb, as was the line, ‘I’ve lived in Nottingham for four years and I can’t get a pothole fixed, never mind a castle shut.’ Another highlight was Barry Gwilliam, who had had both Dodds’ and Boldsworth’s faces tattooed on his leg.
As with any show there were a couple of lulls (mostly during the Q & A), but the big surprise here was just how few lulls there were. To largely ad-lib a show of this length and to be so funny throughout is no mean feat. The atmosphere was amazing and it’s hard to overstate the amount of love in the room for these two. This was a fantastically funny show.
The first ParaPod Live can be found here.