Nina Conti

Nina Conti is lovely. She’s beautiful, and smiley and ever-so giggly. She looks at you like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. She just oozes innocence and wholesome goodness.

Bring Monkey into the equation though and Nina Conti is a dirty girl.

This year’s show hinges around the fact that, really, Monkey is the real star of the show and that Nina is basically just there to giggle. So Monkey has taken over – at least until he dies and reveals the woman that is trapped inside him through a bizarre undressing exercise involving members of the audience.

Because at this show, the first person you see on stage isn’t Nina. It’s Monkey. A human-sized Monkey. Walking around. There’s no hand up his bum. Nina is gone. Everything is Monkey.

Monkey, then, is the conduit to audience interaction – and the softener for the latter stages of the show – while at the same time breaking the fourth wall by explaining how hard it is for Nina (who has been consumed by Monkey) to do things like breath, move microphone stands, drink water and walk up and down stairs without coming a cropper.

Part of Monkey’s new found freedom is that he wants to explore some romance and he will take an audience member on a date where this question is asked: Head on, body off or body on, head off.

Apparently, it’s bad form for me to be still trying to work out the best answer to this two weeks after we saw the show. Although, for the record, I think – but not 100% sure – it’s head on, body off. But each to their own.

Anyway, Monkey’s parts (of the show, I’ve moved on from the above discussion now) are brilliant. Much as you would expect. Because Monkey is a legend. Monkey can say what Nina can’t. So it’s Monkey, really, who is dirty. Nina would be the good angel on one shoulder, Monkey would be the devil on the other.

But Monkey dies when Nina can take her incarceration in his suit no longer. And this leads to part two of the show which involves audience members and strap-on masks. Nina will then talk to them and provide the responses as well. I don’t like this bit as much as I like Monkey’s stuff, but it’s still a good laugh. And it goes a long way to showcasing Nina’s improv skills as she reacts to what the audience members do – or don’t do – accordingly – something which, like with The Showstoppers!, comes from the comedic and all round showbiz legend that was Ken Campbell.

Our show revolved around an audience member working for a local newspaper. He once had to write a story about a man who shot a child dancing robot. So the particulars of the story were reconstructed on stage, involving an American gentleman playing the gun. Because, you know, fuck yeah America.

It was a strange, strange affair and it wasn’t the story that made it fun so much as the reactions of the audience members on stage to various elements of it. But the mask thing isn’t my favourite thing Nina does. I’d much rather have an hour of Monkey. I mean, I could watch an old routine where Monkey hypnotises Nina and then discovers that he can no longer talk over and over and over again. I would pay for that every year, if I could, because it’s genuinely hilarious.

But, as ever, I loved Nina. It’s hard not to. She was definitely the number one Nina this year. That other one, as I have mentioned once or twice, was bollocks.