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Joy Carter: Spot The Difference
Camden Comedy Club
3rd August 2016

★★☆☆☆

Publicity photograph for Joy Carter: Spot The Difference

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Sometimes parents choose not to tell their children they were adopted. Sometimes they don't have that option available to them: the physical differences are such that being sparing with the truth simply won't convince anyone. In Joy Carter: Spot the Difference, bubbly comedian Carter tells us about her childhood, from asking her white parents "who are you?" to being bullied in school, leaving Scunthorpe for London and becoming an activist for adoption issues. So far, so promising. There are some interesting topics there and she's inherently likeable with such a lovely, warm personality.

Carter is quite clearly an inspirational woman, campaigning to support other people who have been adopted and those who are thinking about offering a child a home. She has a wonderful effervescence, good timing and she's fascinating, she really is. However, as much effort as Carter has clearly put into building a narrative arc for a show and even invested some time in set design with all the colourful paper bags and large blown up photographs, her material frequently falls flat. To an extent, it doesn't matter how obviously comfortable Carter is up on that stage, it's hard to recommend a comedy gig that doesn't have decent writing running through it.

Brexit is in her own words, "the racist gift that keeps on giving" but Carter still fails to mine any comedy gold from what has rapidly become an easy source of jokes for most other stand-ups. Some of her jokes are too undeveloped, others have a lot of build up yet lead to a disappointing payoff (a shame, given Carter is a competent flautist and you would think she could better utilise that skill in her act somehow). She has a number of lines she's seemingly determined to use no matter what, failing to read the room and adapt accordingly, but given this is supposed to be a work-in-progress and she's trying things out, you can understand and forgive that inflexibility. The laughter (or lack of it) is all feedback and she is expecting to have to make some changes.

Although attempts to interact with the audience don't quite go to plan, Carter doesn't let anything faze her and keeps going, befriending a couple in the front row and making sure that if no one else, at least they have a good night out. Whilst she has an admirable resilience and the ability to pull and hold some great facial expressions, she needs more effective gags to go with that comedy toolbox of hers. Whilst the Camden Fringe is a great place to try out new writing, you do nonetheless expect a higher hit rate than this.

I would quite happily see go to Carter working as a motivational speaker or host - two of her other hats - because I suspect she would be really good at both those things. However, when it comes to her stand-up act, she needs to discard most of her existing material for Spot The Difference, start over, and surround herself with far more brutally honest friends before she tries her new work out on a paying audience. Carter has the energy and enthusiasm to sustain a full hour, unfortunately just not the gags.

Joy Carter: Spot The Difference opened on 3rd August and runs until 5th August 2016 at the Camden Comedy Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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