Comedian Rap Battles – The Stand, Glasgow, Wed 15 Jan 2014
A hit-and-miss night of comedic verbal jousting, featuring The Wee Man and Jellybean Martinez
The traditional rap battle has its roots in US inner-city playground game The Dozens, in which two opponents take turns to sling insults at each other (often but not always pertaining to the size or promiscuity of one’s momma). The game has been adapted by rappers as an arena where they can show off their freestyle lyrical prowess, but remains comedic in essence: the winner is the speaker who can come up with the filthiest, funniest punchline. A format tailor-made for comedy clubs then?
Not entirely. For one thing, good rappers value rhythm and flow as much as a perfectly-worded insult in a rap battle; comedians, on the other hand, build their rhythms around laughter breaks, so there’s a pause (sometimes awkwardly silent) after every couplet that kills any gathering momentum. Most of tonight’s contenders make no secret of having researched their opponents on Google and YouTube beforehand, forgetting that the audience haven’t done the same digging – the show’s creator, Neil Bratchpiece (in his comedy alterego as The Wee Man), hits a dull patch when he reels off competitor Matthew Ellis’ many character creations, about whom the audience know nothing. Liam Withnail, on the other hand, provides some valuable context about his opponent Kai Humphries (he shares a flat with Daniel Sloss) before dropping his best line: ‘While Daniel was on Michael McIntyre, you were washing his sheets and handing out his flyers.’
By and large, it’s the character acts who come off best: super-camp Spaniard Jellybean Martinez (aka Matthew Ellis) has a rapidamente Spanglish delivery that’s only two steps short of rapping as it is, while Ross McClelland’s face-painted, gravel-voiced persona Rosco McSkeleton has a deliberate, deadpan delivery which gives him ample breathing room to take apart his similarly-named opponent, Ross McLellan. It’s a safeguard that both allows the comedians to speak with impunity (‘the character said it, not me!’), and allows the audience to laugh along at someone else’s expense – snipes about Rosco’s face paint or The Wee Man’s incongruous get-up are fair game, while Humphries’ misjudged string of paedo gags are actively booed.