Comedy shows are like babies: whatever love and care you throw at them, no-one ever really knows how they’re going to turn out.
Russell Hicks has less idea than most, as his show is "70 per cent improvisation", but even this seat-of-the-pants American is thrown slightly by the first few minutes of this busy weekday-afternoon show. It turns out that the Frenchman right in the centre of the front row speaks no English, and when Hicks tests that by tossing out a few gentle insults, his amis takes offence and gets right in Hicks' face before they both storm off. And thus the show’s theme is in place.
Lots of comics might lose the plot after such an up-close altercation, but Hicks insists that he’s faced worse – such are the risks of crowd-work, and he’s a hardy exponent of it, using the exotic-to-him home-towns that crop up in these discussions (Ennis and Whitley Bay this time) to conjure wild stories about the people concerned.
Actually his name is oddly appropriate, as he rustles up numerous hicks along the way. That’s his default accent for anyone who voted for Trump, or even Brexit. In Hicks’ mind anyone with UKIP sympathies who cheered a little too loudly when that French couple stormed off earlier are basically mid-western hillbillies. Which puts a novel new spin on things.
Each show is bound to vary in quality, of course, but if the rigid sets and formats elsewhere start to get tiresome, this ever-changing hour should be a highly effective tonic.