March started for us on the 5th with a visit to Totnes Town Hall for a benefit gig for the group organising action against a controversial one way system in the town. We had a lovely afternoon out in Totnes and a nice early dinner in a local café before going to a local pub for a pre-show drink. I (Dave) had heard about this gig on the local news a couple of days before and when I looked it up, we had an interesting line up comprising of Peter Richardson, Matt Harvey, Lewis McLeod and Bobby Mair. Also we were promised surprise guests which rumour had to be of the ilk of Jennifer Saunders, Ade Edmondson and Peter Richardson’s ex comedy partner Nigel Planer. In the end none of these appeared, but the night was a lot of fun and was packed out with lots of local acts. We finally left at 11pm when they were going into a non-comedy local open mike competition. Well worth the trip.
The 10th saw us passing through Totnes again on the way to Dartmouth for Steve Hall – Zebra. Steve is a class act and we had previously seen him in Brixham a couple of years ago – he delivered in spades again. Support was by Jack Barry who also provided a belter of a set. It was a beautiful night’s comedy and well worth the long trip. It was sad though that the locals seemed to stay away in droves. As this was part of the Dartmouth Comedy Festival , I guess they have plenty of other choices during the week, though we have often made long trips there for small crowds which is a shame.
Over the first couple of weeks of March I was trying to help out Damian Kingsley with his incredible Knock Knock tour. Having sourced an alternative venue for his 9th April gig which had fallen through and spent some time printing and distributing posters we wondered what we could do to go the extra mile. I already had the idea of putting on a day of previews at a local arts centre. We were going to put up £1000 to cover acts expenses and one or two headliners and then give any profits to Shelter. The venue were very keen then dropped a bombshell on the 14th by suddenly announcing via twitter their first two comedy club style nights. Something they had not mentioned to us at all and was a clear conflict of interest as the promoter’s success or not would clearly impact on our own charity venture and we were considering a big personal risk for no personal gain. After deliberating and talking to the venue, we decided to cancel. The other promoter cancelled their two nights the following day which made us very suspicious. I guess we will never know the full story but what we have heard as rumour has made us very sad.
Another pretty long midweek trip on the 16th to St. Austell, Bystro @ The Bank and a free comedy night with a nice line up for such a night. Very nice food on offer and Carole was treated very attentively with regards to being vegan. Hosted by MJ Walker who was a really nice chap and a did a good job in his role, he brought on Simon Emmanuel who did a manic set followed by Jamie McGowan who was also full of energy. Headliner was Ignacio Lopez doing a reworked full set of his Edinburgh show ‘Spain’s Best Export’. Thoroughly enjoyable night, a long trip midweek though with work in the morning to look forward to.
The weekend saw us going up to Bristol for a couple of shows. The first was on Friday 18th at the Hen & Chickens for Dane Baptiste – Reasonable Doubts. A very decent sized crowd including one persistent heckler in the front row. Dane addressed it very well, but said heckler did manage to disrupt the flow of the show several times. As we have seen many times before, typical behaviour of a teacher at a comedy night (always all about them!) Support was from Eshaan Akbal, a new face for us but one we will look forward to seeing again. A really good night despite the heckler.
The following night we met up with a couple of friends for a spot to eat and then Jongleurs. We had been lured in by a really cheap ticket offer several months ago. We are not usually fans of this type of comedy show but, to be fair, our two previous Jongleurs visits had been pretty good albeit one being in a short lived theatre venue.
We arrived at the venue to be confronted by a mountain of stairs which was fine for Carole and I but not for one of our friends with a damaged hip. The staff were helpful and eventually got the lift sorted out and even gave our friends four free drinks tokens for the inconvenience. We were seated at the end of a long row quite a long way from the stage.
Before the gig started I managed to get the three autographs in Steve Best’s Comedy Snapshot book so we then sat down and waited to enjoy the show. This was late starting as 40 of the 140 booked in had not turned up (probably due to the England v France rugby match on at the same time). It was pretty rowdy before we even stated with a hen party in front to the right and a stag do immediately behind us. Windsor, our MC came to the stage and did a good first stint and did at least try to sort the rowdy elements in the room, which included a bunch on the mezzanine level on their mobiles and talking incessantly.
We got to enjoy Steve Gribbin and his musical comedy without too many interruptions., but by the time Justin Panks came on to do his bit of the opening section things were already out of control and we could barely hear the set which was interrupted by incessant surrounding noise.
By the time we got to the closer Gary Little it was pretty much a waste of time being there for the comedy and it became an exercise in people watching. At one point a woman a few seats in front got up and told the idiots on the mezzanine level to ‘shut the fuck up or get out’ and they obligingly all got up and walked out, but it was too little too late, as the stags behind were in full flow and the hovering security did nothing to address the situation. The woman who told the mezzanine to shut up, then replaced them by being incredibly disruptive herself – extremely drunk – and her friends had to keep trying to shush her. It was at the end of the day an ordeal, and not at all a pleasant one. A total waste of hotel and gig costs. We finally experienced first hand why Jongleurs have such a reputation and rest assured we wont be wasting our money on this type of shite again.
A week on and I (Dave) was dragging Carole to London for All Day Geoff at the Phoenix in London. Organised by the wonderful Michael Legge it promised a day of the Edinburgh experience all in aid of Mind. We caught a Megabus at one minute past midnight on Easter Sunday and with the clocks going forward arrived in London at 6:50am. We had to waste an hour in Pret a Manger with a tea and coffee before we could waste another one in Wetherspoons for breakfast. We pottered around Covent Garden before more tea and coffee until the venue opened at noon and we could get a proper drink with our burgers for lunch.
The doors opened to the downstairs venue and we got a nice table at the front right of the stage where we settled down for the eight hours plus of comedy ahead of us. Michael Legge compered the entire day brilliantly and the seven sections of the show punctuated by short intervals gave us an amazing cross section of the comedic spectrum. We enjoyed every minute and every act. And for a show this long there was no disruption from the adoring crowd who were wonderful throughout.
Section one of the show began with a recorded video from Adam Buxton before Michael brought on Daniel Kitson, Josie Long and John Robins. That lineup would have been worth the trip alone but it was only the start. A running joke ensued as 40 of the ticket holders were not there at the start and missed this section. Michael then asked each new arrival whether they were looking forward to Kitson before disappointing them that they had already missed him. Serves them right 🙂
Section two brought us Christian Talbot, Twayna Mayne and Phil Ellis.
Section three Danielle Ward, Alexander Bennett, Jordan Brookes (excellent, loved him – Carole) and Nick Helm who was in full rant mode.
Section four Paul Sinha, Caroline Mabey, Nick Doody and The Trap (actually only one of the sketch group turned up – and we had chatted to him earlier as he knew we were from near Plymouth from whence he hailed).
The momentum kept going in section five with The Birthday Girls, Spencer Jones, Phil Wang and John Kearns.
Section six gave us Liam Williams, Otiz Cannelloni and James Acaster before the final section gave us Seymour Mace (my best bit – Carole) and Tony Law, both masters of the surreal.
It was a unique day, it was a great day, and for twenty quid a ticket was the best value day we have been to. We loved every minute and think it was our most enjoyable day of comedy ever. See the pics here . What a difference a week made! The 11:30pm, boiling hot, Megabus trip back and finally getting bed at 6am was not so much fun, but what a road trip it was. We are promised another after Edinburgh and it will be top of our list of things to do in the autumn.
PS by Carole.
We finished off the month on the 29th by going to see a play with mental health and comedic themes (not something you would expect to mix well). We headed down to the Liskerrett Centre in Liskeard for this crowdfunded piece produced by Cornwall’s Miracle Theatre under their new banner Miracle Grow and written by Angus Brown. Miracle Grow provides a platform for new talent. Zonk FM
We thought the actors very good and enjoyed the show pretty much up to the end but we both thought it seemed to end on a very negative note re mental health. I know that mental illness isn’t the most cheerful subject and causes a lot of anguish both to sufferers and their loved ones – but there are positives too!