When you receive an email from a news letter you signed up for in regards to TV recordings advertising a discount night of comedy with one of your favourite comedians performing, you jump at the chance to go and that’s exactly what I did.
Three people dropping out of the spare ticket due to various reasons (Injuries stopping them walk, double booking, having to work late last minute), crazy insane headache all day and a mission to get to the venue should all probably be signs of how the night will turn out…but being the optimistic that I am, I still felt it was going to be a good evening of comedy.
In Bethnal Green there is a venue called Backyard Comedy club which holds regular comedy events and hosts things such as Swing Patrol nights. The venue is small and at first glance due to the tidiness and quirkiness you feel it’s going to be a great venue for comedy and to be honest I am still deciding whether it is or isn’t especially since 80% of the people I encountered who work there were not very customer service “friendly”.
The stage where the actual stand up was held was nicely positioned but to give it that “backyard” feeling it had things such as wooden crates on the wall and a bollard that you would usually see on a crossing for pedestrians. Whilst unusual, the banner of the event “Sabotage” was printed boldly across the back wall on a flag like banner.
The chairs were positioned around tables which was a nice feeling but at the same time felt a tad cramped and a little awkwardly positioned with low lit candles.
When the comedy started and the MC, Mark Talbot came on the stage, bubbly, talking to the audience and picking on them I thought “great signs of a fantastic comedy evening ahead” then things changed and I started to question this…
Now, I don’t know whether it’s because I have listened to comedian Josh Widdicombes XFM podcast too much that I know them well but the thing I found weirdest about this night was that the acts they classed as the “headliners” or gave the impression they were on the poster came on as the first acts. Now don’t get me wrong I was very happy about this as, I am going to be honest I originally booked the tickets to see one act which meant I didn’t have to sit through loads of acts until the end.
Now as a massive stand up comedy fan (and someone who has edited promo videos of up and coming comedians in the past) this is a terrible thing to say as some of my favourite acts today I have found from editing these videos or hearing them on various podcasts or seeing them as support acts etc (Noise Next Door and Boy with Tape on his Face I found through promo edits I made for ComComedy, James Acaster, Tom Craine, John Robbins through XFM podcasts, Mae Martin through being a support artist) The reason I was particularly happy this time was because I had a massive headache and also the final act of the first half irritated me and put me off comedy for the night. (More about that later)
So first act of the night, the very talented Nish Kumar. For those who do not know Nish, he has appeared on a variety in shows such as Virtually Famous, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled and Russell Howard’s Comedy Central. He approaches the stage and the first thing he does is comment on the set he is standing on which is welcomed by a huge roar of laughter because let’s be honest it what the whole audience was wondering about what on earth is going on. Now the time that Nish is on stage sadly goes to fast as his stories he has to tell are very well told that they are hilarious. Everything from the career world of the comedian to the funny and awful reality of online dating and how everyone tries to show how amazingly cool and great they and their lives are! The laughter does not disappear for the whole set and it’s clear that when his time is up people are disappointed to see him leave the stage.
The second act to appear on the stage was the comedian I was most looking forward to seeing and also was advertised on the poster as headliner, James Acaster. Many of you may recognise him from his many appearances on various panel shows such as Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week. Some of you may know him as the regular guest on Josh Widdocombes XFM podcast (if you don’t, I highly recommend listening to these – many a times I have broken down in laughter on a crowded train getting funny looks due to the stories of what happens in his real Iife. Google James Acaster Cabbagin and you will understand just one of many…)
James approaches the stage in a very different way to Nish (and is very different to what you see on the TV shows on radio etc) I think the easiest way to explain his movements is like a “suspicious meerkat” for a tallish, skinny guy, he approaches the stage not saying a lot to the audience relying on his eyebrows, stares into the distant and floppy hair to make most of the humour and it really does succeed. The perfect timing in the silence between what he says really reels in the audience and makes them hang onto every word waiting to see what the outcomes are going to be to the jokes. Unlike Nish, his jokes are dragged out which is not a bad thing as it emphasis his on stage persona as this tall suspicious but inquisitive thirty year old comedian. The set is very cleverly ended on a joke that could technically keep recurring in a circle. Just like Nish, his set was way too fast.
The comedian to follow was a 48 year old man called Simon Munnery who came on stage playing a harmonica. It takes a while for the audience to adjust to his type of humour as it begins with sentences and statements which if thought about were very clever play on words and funny, a bit like Jimmy Carrs style of stand up but not as rude but you have to think about it. It was obvious that he had a lot more time then the other two (or it felt like it.. I haven’t decided this yet) the jokes were funny but then they started to take a turn for a worse.
I know people make jokes about war and hitler etc pretty much every time you see a comedian however when the jokes become distasteful and wrong about the death camps and the joking about the way that people in the camps were treated and making a joke that’s where I personally draw the line. Until that moment I was enjoying his comedy but the Jokes that followed felt too far. Now I am not stupid, I know comedians are always pushing the limit/ narrowly crossing the line, even some of my favourite comedians do it as much as everyone else (Jimmy Carr, Dane Cook and Russell Howard have all crossed the line on war or sexual content at one point or another) but it felt a bit too far.
The rest of the set after his comments was funny but I had lost the ability to enjoy the person standing up on stage in front of me. After the set ended it was the interval. Due to the fact that I had a massive headache which hadn’t stopped all day and my friend was fed up of comedy after the last comedian we decided to leave. So even though I only saw some on the gig here is my overall summary of the whole event:
I went into this event with an open mind to walk away finding a new comedy act I could become a fan of or see again in the future. Instead I left liking Nish and James even more then I did before as really did make the evening great. The MC was entertaining and the venue was ok. Would I go back to the venue again? Well I am not sure, the girl behind the bar had a personality of a flee, the drinks and food were reasonably priced, and the audience was a tad hipster. So I am 50/50 at the moment
Funnily enough they just sent me a text offering me discount to the next comedy event, a nice touch but unless it was someone über amazing as the comedian I sadly don’t think it’s enough to sway me