The Laughing Dead
Viv Groskop (Pig Vs Rook V), Laura Lexx (A XX Allure), Cerys Nelmes (Les Semen Cry), Alice Frick (Ickier Calf).
After we had booked this gig a few months back, a new gig started up less than 400 yards from our front door so considering the foul weather there was some trepidation in a 100 mile round trip to Exeter for this night, especially after a 240 mile round trip to Bristol the night before.
What the Frock has been running gigs in Bristol for a while with all female line-ups and this was their first venture to Exeter and our first time at one of their nights. In March we had been to Lady Ha Ha another all female night in Exeter and while the comedy on offer that night was stellar, the atmosphere was very weird with a lot of walk outs during the evening.
We arrived to find the gig was upstairs at the Phoenix. We have been there many times for comedy and this was a first. The reason, a Halloween ball and thrash metal gig downstairs. So we were confronted by hundreds of zombies, and felt somewhat ghoulish for not dressing up ourselves. With our love of the symphonic metal genre we could have felt at home both downstairs or upstairs.
The noise was to prove a bit of a distraction throughout the evening with the comics fighting again the constant booming coming up through the floorboards. A lot like the conflicting noises at a lot of Edinburgh venues. As at the previous all female line-up, tonight’s audience was largely made up of ladies.
We had briefly met MC Viv Groskop in Edinburgh, at a lunchtime show hosted by Abi Roberts, where she was the guest at a comedic version of Desert island Discs. We have also read her excellent book about the world of standup ‘I Laughed, I Cried’. She had some interesting chats with the crowd including someone who knew of and shared the love of a cheese shop where she lives in London. Most of her style was edging more to the surreal rather than out and out punchlines. But she did a great job with what was a very middle class crowd. Her masterstroke came between acts, where she dragged a lady from the audience up to give her a makeover as a zombie, so she could go downstairs to the bar and get a drink amongst the legions of the undead.
Opener Laura Lexx always delights us with her mixture of whimsy and surrealness. We first saw her in Horrabridge at what was our favourite gig at the Leaping Salmon. There was quite a lot of new stuff in her material tonight and it all went down well. My overriding visions are of someone dragging a killer whale up the stairs and someone scissor kicking an illiterate rapper at a jobcentre. The latter of these elicited an embarrassingly large guffaw from me, remembering my first ever job over thirty years ago working in a benefits office/jobcentre. Another brilliant turn from Laura, who will surely be hitting it big over the coming years.
While Laura is a local South West girl who you would struggle to guess was from these parts, our next act Cerys Nelmes has a very broad accent, and uses it to full effect in her act. Cerys was due to headline this night, but it appears Alice Frick was late and so Cerys had to go on early. This was to be the highlight of the evening with a lot of material we knew but a lot of new stuff and material that had been honed since we had last seen it. Her material on her teenage son is strong, as is her own erotic West Country porn. We know from experience she is a very good MC as well. Her section on internet dating tonight included a picture of me amongst the rogues’ gallery of the least eligible catches in the land, thanks for that!
A break came before our new headliner Alice Frick. A rarity in being a comic from Austria, now living in the UK. She highlighted the great things about her country, incest and basements. Before telling us about her quest for fame in the US. She was difficult to understand at times, not surprising considering English is not her first language. And her eyes darted around constantly checking whether people were indeed understanding her. Plenty of promise for the future, but we don’t feel she was headlining material for now at least. So the night ended on more of a whimper than a high.
Overall, a good night, and we hope it comes back to Exeter and people continue to support it.
Alice, Viv, Laura, Cerys