1st February 2014 – Exeter Bikeshed

Henry Paker, Jonny and the Baptists, John Robins, Ivo Graham and Josh Widdicombe.

We really like The Bike Shed; it’s a venue with its own quirky style…, in the bar flagstones and hard standing underfoot, with rugs here and there and squashy chairs and sofas as well as a conglomeration of mismatched tables and dining chairs. Bikes hang on the wall, old signs adorn the place, there’s a piano painted with Devon’s flag (green with a white cross), and a highish bar with decent bottled cider, beer, hot chocolate, snacks and soup. The performing space itself reminds me of an underground bunker…but this one is well stocked with comfy seating and comedy treasures!

Getting back into the swing of daytime shows (good practice for Machynlleth – http://machcomedyfest.co.uk/ and Edinburgh!) is a slightly disconcerting effort. It’s like coming out of daytime cinema…where you find yourself bewilderingly blinking in the daylight wondering what time it is…and how come there’s so much day left? Comedians too find it quite a challenge…seeming to be far too early for anything too rude, and not late enough for some alcohol to loosen the tongue and unscramble the nerves. Some adapt to it better than others, and I expect by the end of three weeks at The Fringe, nobody is caring what time of day it is, other than it affects how many customers they’ll get through their door and how much “lemonade” those punters have had.

I seem to have gone off at a bit of a tangent…

Anyhow we were up in Exeter in good time for the Henry Paker’s 2.30pm start at the Bike Shed. Last seen at the Corn Exchange over the road in December at the Exeter Comedy Club…he was the single stand out act for us at that gig and we were looking forward to seeing him in his own show.

Tall and slim with close shaved head, Henry has an easy style. Very assured on stage, no nerves in evidence, he led us through his view of becoming one half of living together with a “woman of many characters”, each one very different from the other in looks and manners. He gives each persona a different aptly chosen name. We’d heard some of this before (in December) but Henry is forgiven as there was plenty of material that was new too. Just how much were those cushions?, proposals, five a side, tango lessons and jealousy, Paker knits together a good yarn and had us wound around his finger till the end.

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Out of the “space” for a few minutes for loo breaks/drink refills and back in again to our (reserved with coats) front row seats for the wonderful Jonny and the Baptists. We’d seen Jonny (and the Baptist, yes singular, known by the name of Paddy) twice in Edinburgh last year and really enjoyed their music and zany songwriting.

Openly gay and all the better for it, Jonny and Paddy can make an hour’s show look like a fly past from the Red Arrows…perfectly in time, soaring high, a bit “dangerous” but safely bringing it altogether in the end. Great songs delivered with Jonny’s soulful voice, fully of satire, p*ss taking, cleverness and at least one of them giving a certain political party (Ok, UKIP, it’s no secret, it’s the name of their latest tour – http://jonnyandthebaptists.co.uk/) a very well deserved hard time..with the ever smiling Paddy accompanying on guitar. This was an accoustic set as the technology had decided not to work but in this small, intimate space, Jonny’s voice was as good as ever and needed no amplification. The lads have a relaxed style, born of lots of practice and we queued alongside other punters to buy two CDs at the end of the hour. Well worth the third viewing; I’d watch them again! (Dave: They are back again here in May – do not miss them)

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Out to the bar area once again while they cleared everything down and prepped up for John Robins. We’d made a couple of friends by this time (Neil, who we’ve met several times at this and other comedy venues in Exeter, and Greg, another local Exeter resident) and were kept busy chatting till the doors opened once again for our third show of the day.

John Robin’s show “Where Is My Mind?” is a lovely piece of comedy craftwork, skilfully drawing together threads from his younger days and the best day of his life, 24th August 2001 at the Reading Comedy Festival, to the present day and various bodily ailments that have afflicted him. John would like to be Zak Dudington, the slick, “can do” character who never has any problems, but his unwilling body won’t co-operate. I loved hearing his tale of parallel reverse parking…it’s a skill you either have or don’t, John, according to him, is brilliant at it, and he tells us of how he commentated on his efforts in front of a confused date as he successfully slid into an open space…our audience was having a lovely time and so were we.

John’s “best day”, where he woos a young lady and comes away from the festival having had a a very good time indeed is a bittersweet memory from what seems a lifetime ago but I bet he treated her much better than Zak Dudington would have.

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Once more into the, by now VERY busy, bar area, and very quickly it seemed, back in again for what was to be our final session of the evening, Ivo Graham and Josh Widdicombe sharing an hour, both comics we’ve seen before. Josh last year at the same venue/same festival, and Ivo at The Fringe last year when he’d presented me with a tin of ambrosia creamed rice as it was my birthday.

Josh came on to introduce Ivo as a great young comic (we agree!) and soon Ivo was back on stage with tales of his younger brother (more successful with women), public school, (Eton don’tcha know!) and awkwardness. Ivo is a natural comic, standing at the mic, tall and rangy, still to fill out and looking about 16, he nevertheless has developed well as an act just in the last five or so months and he well deserved the jar of home made blackberry and apple jelly we presented him with in a return gift for the ambrosia.

Onto Josh’s half of the hour and he made no bones about the fact that it was a work in progress…frequently referring to his notes. Nevertheless, Josh, bubbly blond haired and teenaged looking (despite being thirty!), delivered a half hour of material that, even at this early stage, much better than some comics’ finished and polished shows. Josh loves nothing more to tell us of his current observations on life and how disappointing it can be…he can look almost permanently annoyed during his act, and picks up on the small things that others miss…oh how inconvenient the world is!

Last year at The Bike Shed, Josh queried during his hour why it was that people thought that giving home made jars of jam was a good gift to give, because he didn’t agree…a fact which came back to haunt him as we laughingly presented him with his own jar of jelly after the show…well we couldn’t let Ivo have it all!

Oh, and if Josh gets a heckle or two, does he put them down with a well timed Widdicombe back?? (Sorry!!!!)

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Carole.

(Dave: Anagrams: Henry Paker – Hanker Prey / Johnny and the Baptists – John, Piss by Attendant / John Robins – No Jobs in HR / Ivo Graham – A Virgo Ham / Josh Widdicombe – Did Jewish Combo)

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