Venue: Lenny’s Bar & Grill, Liverpool
It’s been a rite of passage of mine to bring young Miss H to her first comedy gig, I got to do that today thanks to Little Howard And The Magic Pencil Of Life And Death and the wonderful Tongue in Cheek Comedy organisation in
Part cartoon, part scatological children’s book and part stand-up, Little Howard And The Magic Pencil Of Life And Death is a brilliant vision of comedy at its truest.
Ostensibly children’s show, but with much double entendre-ing for the adults, it is an inventive riot of ideas.
(Big) Howard Read, stand-up and illustrator, took his animated six-year-old alter ego, Little Howard, on a journey to avoid the dark menacing force of Cartoon Death, (actually called Rodney and really Read in a Grim Reaper suit), as the latter seeks to steal back the magic pencil of life and death which allows you to invent and obliterate cartoon characters.
Little Howard and the various other characters come to life on the video screen thanks to Read’s masterful illustration and the wonders of an Apple Mac and a projector.
It’s an anarchic, witty brilliant show with 10 times the number of ideas than the average comedy show - especially in an era dominated by the cheap alpha male macho posturing of TV panel shows.
The first half was ostensibly a warmer for the post interval Magical Pencil of Death segment, which was, in itself, an extended CBBC show on stage.
But, in the first half, the illustration games, audience interaction, which saw children from the audience get up and ‘play’ with Little Howard, was just as enjoyable and, again, more inventive than any show I have seen for a long time.
In the second half Big and Little Howard defeat Rodney (Cartoon Death) but only after Little Howard uses the magic pencil to turn himself into a ‘real’ 3D boy who hovers round the room thanks to the 3D glasses distributed by Read, sorry, Rodney.
You’d be hard pressed to find any theatre experience more riotous, more funny or more life affirming than this as you hear children laughing like drains in a comedy club at three in the afternoon.
At the end of the day, the show’s success is all down to Read himself. He’s a masterful and likeable stand-up in his own right, and leaving aside his illustrations and the brilliant technology that brings the Little Howard world to life in the live environment, his ability to work an audience of any age is extraordinary.
As someone who sees a lot of comedy, I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed as much in years and, more crucially, neither had either my wife or daughter and it was the latter who was most important in our shared rite of passage.