Whist his show may not gain him major mainstream success, Ben Van der Velde’s very likely to gain a cult following amongst those who appreciate his brand of wittily crafted storytelling.
Van der Velde brings a natural charm to proceedings from the outset, with some wonderfully improvised riffs from the audience’s own experience of riffs. It should be noted that this proves to be one of the funniest segments of the show, showcasing his impressive spontaneity and sharp tongue. He embarks on an impassioned plea for the modern world to retain the traditional format of a letter, and in doing so he recounts his experience of being a human chain letter. Some anachronisms break the suspension of disbelief, but it generally feels honest and heartfelt.
It is said that around 75% of comedy is in the delivery – and this holds true for Van der Velde, as he contorts his body and intonates heavily to compensare for some occasionally ropey jokes. In fact, all too often he resorts to the “gross out” punch line, opting for bold crudeness after some deft build-up that would suggest he is better than that.
However, a “gay Egyptian Michael Jackson impersonator” and “Dr Santiago Falcon” turn out to be much funnier punch lines than one might expect, and he has obvious skill as a gag writer. Van der Velde’s greatest skill lies in his engaging and ardent storytelling, with his jokes subsiding to a genuinely endearing yarn that includes letters, Stephen Fry and the joy of reconnecting with friends of old.
Ben Van der Velde: Chain Letter, Underbelly Bristo Square, 4.10pm