June 2016 -Fringe and Festival Fun

1st June – and we’re off to a flying start with the first of several shows at the Plymouth Fringe, an event we haven’t attended before. We are upstairs in the Barbican Theatre, the show is called Invisible City and is being put on by a new theatre company called Nova.

Always happy to help out artists, we were hosting Lowri and Jen who comprised Nova (along with with original sound design by composer Mat Martin and set courtesy of designer Buddug James Jones).  For a change, it looked like we were mixing proper theatre with our comedy – an excellent piece which, as good theatre should, made us think about how people can still be lonely in a city full of other beings.

With the Plymouth Fringe falling neatly into my school half-term holiday; the very next day (2nd June) we were back at the Barbican Theatre again for Get Yourself Together with Josh Coates. It is a story of downs and some ups, of depression and trying to find work and it’s told from the heart.  Again, more theatre than comedy, and what humour there was, was quite dark.

We then walked over to the Jill Craigie Cinema  (part of Plymouth University), a largish space, for How to be a Man with Jon M Coleman. A very small audience was in attendance. There were lots of clothes on rails, an inflatable doll of indiscriminate sex on one side and a shop mannequin on the other. Some Heath Robinson style special effects in the way of recorded voices, speakers and remote controls and Jon strutting around the stage, doing costume changes and giving us his version of how hard it is to be a chap in today’s world. One or two good points but on the whole, this left us fairly lukewarm. We’ve heard this lament before, in several different incarnations.

Some dinner and then into the Theatre Royal’s packed Lab (down, down, down in the depths) for Szgrabble with Nick Hall. A thoroughly enjoyable romp with Nick playing multiple parts in this spy thriller based around  – well, you can guess that bit! We loved it. Three shows in one day; just a bit of practice for later in the week!

The 3rd of June found us at the Nowhere Inn for Bill Jones and Graveside Manner. The Inn is just off Plymouth City Centre and is a small space. The room was quite full however with people perching on bar stools, settles and squeezing around to get the best view.

Hailing from Stroud (allegedly) Bill’s poetry is dark, dry, wry and perfect for warped senses of humour (ours). Twisted and bitter lines about his lost love; the portrayed (on an easel!) Mavis (subject of some brilliant rhyme), were the main theme of the show but there were lots of other wee alleyways and some general story telling thrown in for good measure. We came out into the sunshine, feeling glad for the brightness, having been shown just a little of the darker side. So ended the Plymouth Fringe for us – we are looking forward to next year!

A little later the same day and we were off to our old favourite The Calstock Arts Centre for another old favourite, Pat Monahan and The Disco Years, his last year’s Edinburgh Show.

Bounding onto the stage space in suitable disco gear and medallion, Pat works his  usual magic, bantering with the Calstock regulars (white and mostly middle class). Explaining some of his ethnic background, Dad – Irish, Mum – Iranian, he soon gets onto the subject of dance. Various audience members are involved, some willingly, others not so, to give their versions of different dances. The man I’m married to, gets dragged up to give his version of Irish Dance; nearly ending in a hospital visit, but managing to get up off the floor in one piece!! It is all, as always with Pat, tremendously good fun. We are glad that we aren’t running hugely late because the very next day we are off to…

Wells Comedy Festival 4th and 5th of June 2016.

The Festival actually started on the Friday evening (3rd) with a two and a half hour long Gala in the Little Theatre, but we were in Calstock and don’t get to see this bit. We joined it in The Globe pub (upstairs) at 1:30pm on the Saturday. The festival was running in two venues, the aforementioned Globe and The Little Theatre.

4th June

We departed Saltash in good time in the morning, called in at Street for some breakfast and a quickish saunter around the shops and were parked up at our B and B (The cheap and cheerful Sherston Inn) before trekking off to find The Globe  and our first show, Sam Simmons – Not a People Person.

What can I say about Sam? Surreal, silly and sidesplitting are just three of the adjectives that come to mind. Using various objects and bizarre costumes he delivered a show that had me wondering “Whaaattt?” but we were loving every minute. At one point he was chair surfing the audience with nothing but boxer shorts and a large, fake penis smacking people in the face as he climbed over them. Yes people, it was pretend prick, a cosmetic cock, despite (according to Sean), what some members of previous audiences had thought (and complained about).

In an aside to this write-up, the room above the Globe pub seriously needs some air conditioning fitting if it’s going to continue to be a future venue for this festival. In almost all the shows we attended there, the room was full and unbearably hot.  It was warm outside but we were absolutely sweltering upstairs, even with the windows cracked wide open. A typical Edinburgh room you may say; ideal for getting acclimatised!

With a good hour between shows there was time for some fresh air and a drink before heading back up the stairs again for Bridget Christie and Mortal – Work in Progress. We love Bridget, her shows at the Stand in Edinburgh are always packed out, quite literally standing room only, and so it was nice to be able to have a seat for a change. There’s quite a bit yet for Bridget to do before Edinburgh, when the show will be beautifully polished – however there was a fair bit of distraction from a very cute baby who was sitting with his mum and dad in the audience – and Bridget couldn’t resist a cuddle.

A change of venue then to the just as packed but cooler environs of The Little Theatre which is just around the corner from The Globe. We were there for Arthur Smith, not seen by us since The Civic Centre in Totnes several years ago. Arthur’s show, Mindlessness, was a bit rough at the seams, but the theme was there, sending up the current pre-occupation with Mindfulness, annotated with multimedia and spoof examples delivered as confidently as only a comedy veteran can. Another good show!

Back around to the Globe and upstairs for Lou Sanders – What’s That Lady Doing? Work in Progress.  Lou really is a force of nature, a law unto herself and someone for whom the seven second profanity delay on live broadcast transmissions was invented. We both really enjoyed this – however it ends up it will be something special.

Nipping to the bar for some drinks and food, we were soon back upstairs (where it wasn’t getting any cooler!) for Spencer Jones Presents Herbert’s Eggy Bagel: A Work In Progress.

Spencer was in skin tight costume, a portrait of his Dad (who he strongly resembles) on stage behind him. His show is a study in the absurd. Ordinary objects are transformed by his weird sense of invention, nobody knows what’s going to happen next, and Spencer guides us all along, muttering to us and himself to reassure. Excellent and one for the surreal fans.

Stewart Lee presented his show, Content Provider, at The Globe twice on the Saturday, at 5:30pm and at 11pm. We’d saved him for the late show and so up the stairs we went one more time. As ranty as usual, and in great form, despite the late hour and the hot room. Stew’s Comedy Vehicle on BBC2 has recently been cancelled (why – it’s great!) and so he had something to say about that (and plenty of other subjects) as you would expect. Lee holds nothing back usually, in his opinions of his critics and his audiences and life in general. No change for this show!

So we toddled back to The Sherston, where we found a very comfortable bed awaiting us. After four pints of cider each and six shows, we were more than ready for a good night’s sleep.

5th June.

I was up early (8ish!) the next morning for my now traditional staying-away-for-the-weekend Sunday morning run. I’d enquired about a route from some Globe customers the night before.  The sun was already quite high and temperatures were rising as I jogged off to the town centre and right past the Bishops’ Palace and out through the fields to the pretty village of Dulcote and back in a loop through trail and under trees.

Later, showered and breakfasted we presented ourselves back at the Globe for Andrew Hunter Murray. Currently on the BBC2 comedy show No Such Thing As The News, Andrew has also starred in Austentatious and contributed to or appeared in several other TV and radio productions. His show, Round One, was excellent. Andrew playing the character of a quiz master (amongst others), the audience being the teams. Our technician appeared to be playing more than one part too! Great fun.

Katy Brand‘s show – I Was A Teenage Christian – Work in Progress. Katy was at The Little Theatre, thankfully, it being a bit cooler. We’d never seen Katy live before and didn’t know quite what to expect. What we got was a story about Katy’s youth, her background and about a lonely, impressionable, young teen who was ripe for a bit of fundamental Christianity. What happened to make her see sense? A good yarn told well, if not yet showing too much of Katy’s comedic side.

Round the corner (again!) for the wonderfully silly, feel good Pat Cahill and D.O.T.T. Dressed in full overalls with gaiters and bells, Pat’s is a breath of fresh air. With various references to local traditions, Morris Men etc, Pat led us into a hour of whimsy and lighthearted observation. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Our penultimate show. The Little Theatre once more and Mr T, or as he is properly known: Tony Law. He was part of the original Soho Theatre gig at the tail end of 2011 that switched us on to live comedy and we have loved him ever since.

Tony, as he tells us in his show, has been through a rough patch recently, but has come out of the other side stronger and still full of his trademark themes, silly outfits and ideas. There was a mix of old (Aztec witch doctor and the usual, great accents) and new ( an Alsation who takes no notice of his owner!) as well as updates on the trolls – oops, twins. Always fabulous.

Our last show of the festival, at the Globe, was the Comedians’ Cinema Club with their presentation of Hot Fuzz. There’s a very local link here as the original movie was filmed in and around Wells. Indeed, one of the audience members, the mother of the festival’s founder and organiser Ben, was an extra in the movie!

So, four comedians playing the film’s multiple parts to a hot, crowded late night room. The cast were: Amy Howerska, Sooz Kempner, Matthew Highton and Will Seaward. Some very dodgy West Country accents, a lot of sweat, tight shorts, police outfits and slidey helmets (!),  not to mention several dairy free cornetto type ice creams. This was, as you would expect, a fast paced spoof that very roughly (with the emphasis on roughly) followed the original story line – and if anyone started to go off at a tangent, Amy was there to bring them back, being the only one who seemed to have a handle on the movie. The audience were loving it; a few Hot Fuzz geeks amongst them, occasionally prompting the cast! It was quite anarchic but a great round off to the festival.

This final show over ran slightly, not too much, but we had a long journey back (we weren’t staying another night as I had to be back at work the next day!) so we didn’t want to be too late out. What a great time we had over the two days. Wells, we hope to be back next year!

It was six whole days before our next show on the 11th June. As far as I know, we’ve never had to do any proper homework before going to a show; a sort of pre-view viewing so to speak. We were going to Graeme of Thrones (sic) in The Brewhouse, Taunton. Long before going to this, as soon as Dave had spotted it was happening and bought the tickets, we invested in a Now Box for several months viewing of the Game of Thrones series. We were G o T virgins and so had to start from scratch! We thought we’d better get up to speed or we’d have no idea who was who and exactly how far the original was being sent up.

I was very glad we’d put in the hours as for sure we wouldn’t have had a clue. The show comprised three comedian/actors, Ali Brice (Graeme), Libby Northedge and Mark Davison who all end up playing multiple GoT characters. The production is a play within a play. There are plenty of GoT in-jokes, dodgy props , a back story going on “offstage” and some great set pieces including Sansa Stark’s first period – I am still picking pieces of that out of my handbag two weeks later! Dave ended up in a lot of trouble ( for sniggering, along with many others, at Libby’s “getting into the zone” method acting) and being dragged up on stage to perform a “blinding” (although he took a few seconds prompting) and showing us all his fancy fencing (as in sword play, not garden edging). All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable gig – we both just wished we’d had a go on the Iron Throne!

Dave on GoT

A little nearer to home on the 24th June. The Watermark in Ivybridge once more with Jeremy Hardy ( Jeremy Hardy Live 2016).

Jeremy Hardy’s brand of political comedy was right up my street. Leftist, current, pointed, and just ahead of Brexit as it was, full of cautious optimism.  He rattled along at a hundred miles an hour and packed plenty into the first 45 minutes before the break and a good hour plus in the second half. Star of Radio 4 and TV, he is a confident performer who gave us our money’s worth. We like that.

So to our last show of the month on the 24th – Lewis Schaffer – Free Until Famous, at the Calstock Arts Centre. This happened to be the day after the EU Referendum and a  lot of people were still in shock from the news, over their cornflakes, that the UK would be (if the government followed through on the result of the vote) leaving the EU.

To quote Dave: “Only Lewis Schaffer can go to a rural community the day after Brexit and do the entire first half about it, stirring up a placid crowd into near blows. It was wonderful to watch. We were in stitches. I think watching Lewis can be like a reverse enema, where they are shoving it all back inside you. A cathartic experience, but one we really enjoyed.”

It didn’t help that when Lewis asked “the question” on who had voted Leave/Remain, one middle aged blonde lady replied loud and proud (paraphrasing here as I can’t remember her exact words)  “I voted leave, and it was all about immigration”.  There were other members of the audience spluttering their reasons for Remain. It all got a little heated.

Luckily Lewis was back “on message” for the second half; telling a story about his relationship with a Thai ladyboy (or was she?). At any rate; he maintained for the most part that “she” was a girl with a penis. The penis was the one part of her he had a problem with. The thing with listening to Lewis Schaffer is that he’s the verbal equivalent of one of those “write your own story” choices books. The minute you question the story line, he changes it. He gave us about three different endings within ten minutes. Did he? Didn’t he? Who knows. Parts of it seemed very heartfelt – that’s all I will say.  I enjoyed it.

Dave and Lewis

Loads of good stuff coming in July including Sara Pascoe, Stuart Goldsmith, Ellie Taylor, Zoe Lyons, Matt Price to name a few. Dave is going to London on Sunday the 3rd of July for ARG – Actually Really Good, in Shoreditch Town Hall.

Until then. Keep the comedy coming!

Carole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May – Not Going to Machfest.

We weren’t going to Machfest this year, no, no, no, NO! We didn’t want to camp, it was too wet, too windy and more money than we wanted to spend to stand in line, in a wet muddy field, for cold showers. Local hotels were all asking a king’s ransom for three night’s accommodation. For months we held out. People asked us. They said they’d see us up there. What us? Going to Machfest this year? No, we’re not going, absolutely not going, we’re definitely not going!

Sunday 1st May. MACHFEST.

Ok. We gave in. In the spirit of compromise though, it was to be a One Day Only Event.

On the Saturday night (30th April), we saw Shazia Mirza at the Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter; from there we drove on up to a reasonably priced Days Inn just over the Severn Bridge on the M4. Slightly tatty, but friendly enough; and after an initial scare when we thought they’d lost our booking (they were packed out because of some football match or other along the road), we were comfortably accommodated. First thing on the Sunday morning we were off up the road to Mach, ending with our usual trip over the mountains to park easily by 10am on street just up from the Owain Glyndowr Centre. Mach, living up to its usual damp even more than usual, we were glad to drop into deep sofas in the cafe there for a warming cuppa by their lovely woodburner before our first gig.

Woodburner

The lovely woodburner!

And so it began:

The Static Caravan.

With breakfast sarnies, tea and coffee having been handed around, 15-20 of us squashed into the sofa end of the display van and enjoyed a multi-act gig hosted by the lovely Thom Tuck. Jordan Brookes was the first act up and treated us to his own version of surrealism and smart observations. He has the best, mobile face and can mould it at will. I was waiting for the Time Machine, but alas, no. Jordan later explained that not everyone loves it as much as I do!

Next up was Caroline Mabey, who gave us zaniness, singing (!) and more. Always a joy!

Then it was Seymour Mace; another particular favourite for his surreal silliness. Once again, no disappointments. Three days into the festival, and showing it, Seymour Mace still managed to delight us all. What a first gig!

Static Van

Above – The Static Van!

Tom Parry – Kelly Jones is Tom Parry, Machynlleth Bowling Club

A hot and crowded bowling club saw Kelly Jones AKA Tom Parry at his brilliant best. Sweating his wig off, Tom kept begging us to let him off with his Kelly act but no, the audience insisted that he carry on. The act has grown, but still some original parts remain, including the numbers on a list which correspond to jokes, or ideas. The audience get to decide what Kelly Jones delivers to us.

Next up, over the the YPlas Upstairs 1 for Ben Target, Imagine There’s No Ben Target (it’s easy if you try).

We sat down a couple of rows back in a packed out room, but it wasn’t long before we were standing up again and clearing all the seats to the corners of the room, and we were to remain on our feet for most of the next hour, before setting our chairs back as they had been at the start of the show. I won’t detail what went on during the hour, that would spoil the fun, but safe to say, at several points I was worried about the integrity of the YPlas’s Upstairs 1 floor and whether we were all going to end up in the lobby downstairs.

Paul F Taylor – The Collapse to Greatness, YPlas, Vane Tempest

We love Paul, he always delivers. Sometimes we’re not quite sure what he’s delivering; we don’t believe he always knows either, but we always love it anyway. Upbeat silliness. Great costumes. Always funny.

David Elms, Attaboy, YPlas Upstairs 2

David is the most laid back performer I know. Unassuming doesn’t even begin to cover it. One man and his guitar, inventive songs, linking anecdotes. Questioning the audience. “Good? Ok? Alright?” David, the answer is “Yes”.

Alfie Brown, Work-in-Progress, YPlas, Vane Tempest

A different look, just as good as ever. Alfie likes to make us, as his audience, feel uncomfortable, he questions our values and morals, makes us wriggle. Even as seasoned Alfie Brown audience members, Dave and I are not immune to it. Here, we could see the work in progress happening right in front of our eyes and it’s all good work.

Carole YPlas

Carole outside the YPlas – even muddier this year but still a blast!

Matt Winning, Mugabe and Me (3D)

Surreal extravaganza, poetry, spoken word, daftness, biscuits, cars – a jolly romp. Final showing of Matt’s last year’s Edinburgh show.

Tom Neenan – The Andromeda Paradox, Owain Glyndwr, Powys.

Our last show of the evening, brilliant, loved it all. Tom plays multi characters, both male and female, and gives us a classic ’50s Sci-Fi story. With influences of the fabulous Quatermass and the Pit and The 39 Steps, totally enthralling from start to finish. More please!!

After all that excitement, with Tom’s show finishing at 10.30pm, we then had a really scary trip back across the mountain (fog, rain, single track mountain road – expecting zombies and yetis at any minute) and way back down to our previous night’s Days Inn accommodation for another night, before heading back down to Cornwall on the Monday morning. Exhausted but very happy.

Blog readers will be glad to know that we have already booked our Machfest 2017 accommodation. There is a Premier Inn in Aberystwyth, just 12 miles southwest of Mach and we are on the guest list for next year. One to think about if you don’t mind a short drive either end of the day and someone is willing to stay sober!

The following Sat (the 7th) found us in Holsworthy, Devon. The White Hart Hotel to be specific. We were there to see The Joke, a three man play. Will Adamsdale, (the Englishman) former Perrier winner (2004 for Jackson’s Way), Brian Logan (Scotsman and comedy critic for The Guardian) and Lloyd Hutchinson (the Irishman) all find themselves trapped inside “The Joke” about a Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman. Geddit? Off on a voyage (quite literally) of the imagination they try to make some sense of what is happening. Luckily it all ends well!

Friday the 13th and we are at the Calstock Arts Centre, a beautiful venue on the Cornwall/Devon border. The Centre overlooks the River Tamar with Calstock Viaduct in the background. We have been here many times and it never fails to be breathtaking.

Tonight we are being entertained by Craig Campbell – Don’t Look Down, an untamed mountain man with many a funny story and wry observation on us Brits. Striding around the stage, wild hair flying and Vibram Five Finger trainers stamping, he never fails to make us laugh as he pokes fun at us! A good evening!

The very next night we are out again (it’s all go, go, go some months), to see Jonny and the Baptists (yes, AGAIN, I know, what can I say, we love them to bits). This time they were showing The End is Nigh at the Bike Shed in Exeter, with a special treat at the end of about 20-30 minutes of their current work in progress (Eat the Poor) for the Edinburgh Fringe. No surprises at all that, even on the short piece we saw, it looks to be well up to their usual standard. I’d recommend them!

A new venue for us, the St Austell Arts Centre, was our next gig nearly a whole week later on the 20th. Henning Wehn and Westphalia is not an Option, another work in progress for Edinburgh. It was raining all the way down in the car and we had a couple of false starts, even with the satnav, to find the venue. Once there we jammed ourselves into the tiny carpark and went off to investigate the space. The actual room itself was around a 200 seater with a massive stage area.

Henning came on, (a few minutes late – which he blamed on the British staff) to his traditional German bier kellar type music. Henning loves to tell us that he never feels more German than when he is in Britain. He has lived in London for several years now and throws us various accents, London cab drivers, cockney, cheeky chaps and he’s pretty damn funny with it. He is always happy to be taking the mickey out of our lack of efficiency and work ethic, but he does it so well, we don’t really mind. Sometimes I think there surely can’t be anything else Henning can find to comment on when it comes to our cultural differences but it doesn’t seem like he’s running short of material any time soon. Carole and Henning

Another whole week passes and for our last gig of May, on Friday 27th, we are back at the excellent Watermark in Ivybridge. Dave had been looking forward to this for ages – Simon Evans, In the Money, to be ably supported by David Jordan.

Simon started by doing a twenty minute warm up for his warm up act! We’ve seen comedians do a couple of minutes introduction for their warm up acts but I don’t think we’ve ever seen someone do twenty! Light hearted banter for the most, preparing the way for his main act after his support had been on and after the break.

David Jordan was a completely new act to us. A comedy songster with a guitar. We’ve seen such acts aplenty, but David’s act breathed new life into it and his songs were cleverly written and presented. If you like music with your comedy, he’s worth catching.

The obligatory break and then back to the main act. Simon had smartened up a bit, put a jacket on, and launched straight into his material. He’s very good at bringing up a subject before slashing the legs out from under it with a few sharp remarks. Organic veg, farmers’ markets, and with reference to the title of his show: house investments, cigarettes and alcohol were all in for his attention. There’s plenty of well spoken anarchy and poshly voiced provocatism going on here. He has a sardonic sense of humour and a way of making us feel that he knows a lot more than we do, about pretty much everything. Simon and David came down after the show to talk to a few waiting fans (including us) and both seemed like very nice blokes.

Carole and Simon

And so endeth May. A very busy, but mostly front loaded month.

June was to prove just as busy, front loaded again at the Wells’ Comedy Festival. Eleven shows in two days over the first weekend of June, but you’ll have to wait till the end of the month for the write-up..

See you next month.

Carole

April – Fools, Fundraising, Funnies and Fundamentalism

Friday the 1st of April saw us heading into Plymouth for dinner and then Jonny and the Baptists who were doing their gig The End is Nigh at The Drum Theatre. I must admit to some surprise when entering the Drum to find that the layout was as it had been for Every Brilliant Thing, i.e. an “in the round” type layout but with the chairs laid out in four double rows, so an “in the square” if we are being pedantic. This was definitely going to be interesting …

The boys presented their songs but in a more narrative form, working the space, keeping on the move, not presenting their backs to any one area of the audience for more than a few seconds. Paddy (the Baptists) was sitting, standing, moving, and dancing, all the while holding his guitar, supporting with the vocals, bashing out a rhythm with his feet when necessary; he never stopped. Jonny kept the narrative flowing and the audience engaged with his original, soulful voice.

We’ve seen the lads so many times, but we never stop going back for more; in fact we’ve just bought tickets for their show on the 14th May at the Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter. A repeat of the same show, but then with a preview of their next show after the interval. Tickets are only a tenner , definitely value for money.

Two days later on the Sunday we had a long drive up to Wells, The Little Theatre for an evening’s comedy. The line-up: Jarred Christmas in MC role, Ivo Graham, Lolly Adefope and Trygve Wakenshaw. Everyone gave good performances but for me it was Trygve, who I’d never seen before (Dave had in Edinburgh) was a revelation to me. Every move, from his chicken at the beginning to his “Owww! Better?” at the end was the best mime I have ever seen. A signature pose would end every “sketch” and us, the audience, had to pay close attention and try to keep up! Just wonderful. A definite recommendation from me.

Friday the 8th and here we are down at the Falmouth Poly for Mitch Benn and Don’t Believe A Word. We’d seen Mitch before at the Phoenix in Exeter when he was doing “Mitch Benn is the 37th Beatle”. We’d concluded then that we really needed to be bigger Beatles fan than we were to get the most out of this show but Mitch was very good at what he did. Tonight’s show was another kettle of fish, observational comedy and guitar and thoroughly enjoyable. We picked up some merch at the end, a CD of the show for our comedy collection.

The next evening, Saturday the 9th and something a bit different. We’d helped to set up and publicise a comedy gig for Damian Kingsley in the local Saltash Football Clubhouse. Damian is currently doing his Knock Knock tour and will finish it in Edinburgh in August. He started in Lands End and is doing 120 gigs for Shelter, the homeless charity. He is throwing himself upon the mercy of the British public, touring with no transport, no accommodation booked and no money to feed himself. The events are not ticketed but an exit collection is taken and all the proceeds go to the charity. At our event we had Mark Dennett MCing, Richard James, David Arnold and Nick Banks all supporting Damian in his efforts for Shelter. Including a raffle we’d also organised we managed to raise £175 despite the room not being hugely busy. We continue to follow Mark’s tour with interest.

A very busy weekend it was altogether, as for our third night in a row we were off to comedy! This time Mark Watson and his “I’m Not Here” tour at the Corn Exchange in Exeter.

20160410_212753

Mark’s comedy is here, there and everywhere. We go off at tangents, we hear about the £24k watch (yes, really – that’s more than my first venture on the property ladder!). There are hints of past problems, future paranoias and all told in Mark’s best bumbling manner. Observational, vulnerable, open and honest. Some comedians keep their private lives all bottled up – Mark lets it out, but just a bit at a time to keep us coming back for more.

With a cancellation from Bridget Christie at the same venue (19th), due to a 48 hour illness that laid her low ( A Bug for Her – if you will) it was nearly two weeks before our next gig – Max and Ivan’s “The End” at the Lantern (Colston Hall) in Bristol (yes, yes, another long drive). We’d seen this as at the very first run through in Wales; the boys were reading from scripts at our most favourite festival Machfest, last year. It was fabulous then; it is beyond wonderful now. The scene where I let out the yelp last year got an audible inwards gasp this time around. We were with friends and everyone enjoyed it. Our favourite sketch act. No contest.

The last night of April and we finish as we started the month – with a gig. This time and as a hour long drive and stepping stone up the road towards our – we weren’t going but couldn’t resist – shortened, yearly pilgrimage to Wales for Machfest, we stopped at the Exeter Corn Exchange to see Shazia Mirza and The Kardashians Made Me Do It.

With plenty of self mocking banter, Shazia’s show revolves around her faith, her culture, her colour and its clash with being “British” (according to Americans) and what young British Muslim girls get out of buggering off to Syria to join ISIS. What are they looking for? Shazia will tell you, repeatedly. Where does Anne Summers come in all this? Go and see the show and find out. We both enjoyed the show, “clever, intelligent stand-up; attacking ISIS by laughing at them” (Dave’s quote) and the rest of the (not full) room seemed to as well.

That (phew) was April. Now bring on the Summer!

Carole.

Our Comedy Month – March 2016

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!

Carole.

 

Our Comedy Month – February 2016

After our quietest month in several years with only the one gig in January, February was stacked out with shows. As it turned out, there were some real highs and some real lows.

We started the month on the 1st with a high; a show at Plymouth University featuring some big names. This was promoted as Comedy Central Live and featured Mark Simmons (MC), Suzi Ruffell and Seann Walsh. It was supposed to be at the Main Hall of the University, advertised locally and not just as a student gig. However, presumably due to low ticket sales, it took place in the Student Union, so was in effect a student gig. If we had known it was going to be there, we almost certainly would not have bought tickets as our previous experiences of student gigs were not positive. For what turned out to be a student gig the ticket prices were very high and this might be what influenced the turnout. Having said all of that, the atmosphere was good and the show itself was great.

Friday 5th was supposed to be the beginning of three days at Exeter Bikeshed. But with the opening show, and our most anticipated one, being cancelled, we could not really justify the long trip to Exeter, so instead went along to the new venue for the Plymouth Comedy Club, Plymouth Athenaeum, for a one-off special show. Chris Brooker – Big in Plymouth. Chris has booked this night and been resident MC since the start and his brother Kevin is one of the organisers. We have supported them from the start as they has consistently brought far better acts to Plymouth than any of the other clubs in Plymouth. Saying that, recently we have chosen not to go a few times because of the line-ups and the last show we went to was a huge disappointment as the headliner had pulled out a couple of hours before, having broken down en route.

We got to the venue and were immediately disappointed to find we had been allocated seats right at the very back, as far away from the stage as we could have been. The club has always been a free for all seating wise, but using the theatre they now have to fill every seat, but do not let people choose where they seat when they book or even specify a preferred section. This is an immediate no-no for us and unfortunately will rule us out of booking again. I was on crutches and being at the end of a row meant I was having to keep getting up for people coming and going and by the end of the night in considerable pain. The seats are very cramped, leg room wise.

Chris had support in Liam Pickford who did around 20 minutes. Followed by Chris himself doing an hour split into two sections.

The show was due to start at 8pm, but it actually started a good fifteen minutes late. Liam was OK, but did not do anything that would want to make us see him again. Then we had to endure a break that was longer than his set. Chris was as genial as ever and put on a great show, proving he should be getting some better bookings. However the material was largely gutter oriented, hardly the kind of stuff to take him to the next level. If this had been in Edinburgh, I could have seen this getting a three star review at a push but nothing more. Though clearly we were in a minority here as the largely partisan crowd lapped it up and the local paper review was gushing – but then it always is. The thirty plus minute break midway through the set was tedious and we seriously considered walking out.

We were probably in a minority in that we had seen Chris do a proper (non-MC) set before, so the climaxing section about a comedian’s game on journeys was nothing new to us, but is VERY funny.

The show finished at nearly 11pm, the breaks being longer than the entertainment. For us it was a painful night, in more ways than one. We understand why, because they want to sell more drinks, but this needs to be much slicker.

Because of the nature of the venue, one of the defining features of the Plymouth Comedy Club has been lost – the two-pint glasses, and the bar being run by volunteers, no bottles of wine to be taken into the space either, so it was buy by the glass. For us, we much preferred the Plymouth Albion venue, and before it, the Citybus Social venue. A real shame, as the club has so much potential and with a 300 capacity, should be able to attract the best names, but doesn’t seem able to have done so for some time.

The following day (6th) saw us heading up the road to Exeter for the LOL festival at the Bikeshed. I was left in a quandary here, as we already had tickets we had bought for a show elsewhere so we could only see the first two shows of the day. We had to miss both Nick Helm and my beloved Beth Vyse later in the evening as it would have ended up with us paying well over £60 to see them. Justin Moorhouse just up the road in Tiverton had been purchased months before, but right up to the last moment we had been anticipating him being cancelled through low ticket sales. As it turns out we made the right decision, though I hated missing Beth’s show, despite having seen it twice before.

Anyway, we started the afternoon with the sublime Lazy Susan, I had seen them three times before and Carole once, and again they delivered in spades. Sketch comedy of the highest order. I really love them and if we had seen nothing else this weekend, this would have been enough for me.

Next up one of our all time faves in David Trent doing a work in progress. He warned us it would be ropey and he wasn’t lying. As far from a finished show as I have seen, but it is nice to see WIPs to see the creative process taking place. It started late and finished late which was a worry to us as we still had to drive to Tiverton. But this was because Nick Helm was running late, and as it transpired, his show was eventually cancelled because his train was stuck in a field due to flooding. We heard the following day, that Beth’s show had been fantastic, which we were really pleased about but we definitely made the right choice in going to our original show.

We only just made it to Tiverton, driving through rain, dark, flooded roads, over bridges being battered by swollen streams, and around unexpected, fallen trees, and ran in with one minute to showtime.We settled down and found we had a support act in Danny McLoughlin, who we knew from a couple of years before having seen him at Liverpool and Manchester within a few days on the way to and back from the Fringe. We like Danny a lot and he was a lovely hors d’oeurve for the main show – Justin Moorhouse – Destiny Calling. We hadn’t seen Justin since Edinburgh a couple of years before and he is one of the best comics on the circuit. Unfortunately, as both Danny and Justin mentioned, there was an elephant in the rooml; a swathe of empty seats. This was a real shame as it is always hard to work to a small audience. It was a fantastic show though and no complaints from us.

Sunday 7th saw us making another trip up the road to the Bikeshed for the climax of the three days. We did not do the first show, because we had already bought tickets to see it in Leicester the week after, more of that later, but we still had three very tasty offerings to digest.

We started off with Kiri Pritchard-McClean with a work in progress of her first hour. Very promising stuff and I am sure come August it will be great.

Next up, the nearly man of Edinburgh, James Acaster, whose work in progress seemed almost fully formed. That is the nature of the man. A precocious talent and one of my favourite comics ever, weaving a tapestry of words before his audience, and taking them on a surreal journey. Magical, yet again.

Finally, a fully formed show on tour, Geins Family Giftshop. This was a best of their last two Edinburgh shows. And sketch doesn’t come much better. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before, but it was beautiful, a wonderful end to the weekend.

Next year, Bikeshed, get these shows up earlier. As if we had known earlier, we would have come to everything as in previous years.

The following week started with me going to London on Wednesday 10th for my other love, symphonic metal and a fantastic triple bill of Jaded Star, Serenity and Xandria. I popped into the Camden Comedy Club on the way and had a brief chat with the lovely Grainne Maguire and got her to sign the Females of the Fringe and Secret Edinburgh books she features in.

Friday 12th saw us at Plymouth Pavilions for Sarah Millican – Outsider. We had hoped to get Sarah to sign the Females of the Fringe and Steve Best’s Comedy Snapshot books. We took along a picture of Sarah the rescue chicken for her.

We had a support act, and a strange bit of déjà vu. Having not seen him in a couple of years, it was Danny McLoughlin again, less than a week after Tiverton. Another great job done and it was interesting to see how it worked so much better in front of a crowd twenty times bigger than the week before.

Sarah herself was as fantastic as always. We were surprised she didn’t come back for an encore. It looked like that was going to happen but after a minute or so the house lights came on. We did go and stand in the rain by the stage door waiting for autographs on the books, but found out later that she leaves directly straight away and was already long gone by the time we got there. We were told why later in the month and understand perfectly. We would have made another attempt the following night as she was doing two nights, but for us, this was not possible as we were up at 6am to drive up to Leicester for three days 13th, 14th and 15th, at their comedy festival. The following week was school half-term holidays so Carole didn’t have to race back for Monday.

After a four hour drive on the Saturday and leaving our car at the hotel, we went for an early brunch and immediately bumped into an old familiar face in Jay Handley who had been performing the night before. Was nice to catch up and have a chat.

Dave's comedy festival

And so to the shows, firstly to the Cookie for two shows: Fran Jenkin, whose hour was padded out with fifteen minutes by Rob Mulholland. A decent work in progress. We enjoyed the hour and might have been tempted to see Rob’s own show later if we were not already otherwise booked. But ultimately are glad we didn’t – see later!

Staying at The Cookie, second up, Short & Curly – A Curly Night In. This was the fourth show we have seen with Paul & Rebecca, and what a corker. Props galore and jokes too. For a first preview it was amazing. A must see for Edinburgh.

Short.jpg

Rebecca aka Short!

Next round to the Exchange Bar for Sarah Keyworth, this was her first attempt at her debut hour and was really promising. Very strong and confident and another to watch for the future.

Back to the Cookie for two more shows. Sarah Callaghan, who we both enjoyed immensely and the John Kearns who I had been looking forward to the most of everything over the weekend. John is hard to define, maybe that’s his secret? This was an amazing hour, I could barely breathe for laughing. Absolutely hysterical.

Alas, this was to be pretty much the last laughs of the evening. Having had a cancellation, we chose Dead Cat Comedy for a multi act bill. We had no idea who was on other than we expected it to be MC’d by Eddie French, who we had previously enjoyed in Plymouth. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to see we had Masai Graham, newly crowned UK Pun Champion. Eddie was not MC’ing. This was to be Rob Mulholland (again).

Our first alarm bells rang when the show before was still going on at the start time of the show we were waiting for. A check of the program showed no gap between the end of one show and the start of the next. As it was the show started twenty minutes later than expected. With not many in the room to play to, Rob again did a solid job, before bringing on Freddie Farrell to open. He went down like a dead fish to the small crowd with not a single laugh we can remember. After what seemed like forever, he was replaced with a bit more banter from Rob and then Masai.

What followed was an embarrassment to comedy. As Masai admitted within a minute of coming on stage, he was totally pissed and stoned. We know he has a slow delivery but he could not remember his own jokes. He delivered about ten in ten minutes, with gaps of several seconds between lines as he tried to recall each one and some in even poorer taste than usual. It was painful and uncomfortable and we eventually walked out to get to our next show as it was running so far behind (despite only lasting 35 minutes). At one stage we were told by Masai that it didn’t matter as we hadn’t paid; then second guessed himself and asked if anyone had bought tickets. Yes, us. It was a ticketed £5 show. And the worst paid show we have been to ever.

Finally we popped along to Hansom Hall for Hate’n’Live. A panel style format where the audience get to submit things they don’t like on pieces of paper. The host, (tonight Justin Panks), draws them out and the panellists have to make a case for why they hate the thing pulled out for them. Eventually the audience get to vote for two finalists and then a winner. I quite enjoyed it, Carole didn’t. It was, like many of these things very hit and miss and some of the panellists didn’t really get involved. We enjoyed the contributions of Ahir Shah (unlucky not to make the final), eventual winner Ignacio Lopez and Leo Kearse. But the other three panellists might as well have not been there, thus was their contribution.

Overall a great day, that eventually fizzled out. We were hoping this would not be the case on Sunday.

The Sunday started with a lie-in and then a look around and lunch before our first show of the day back at the Cookie. Abi Roberts doing a work in progress. And what a fine one it was. Eventually she ran out of time, with more material in the bag dying to get out! It’s going to be more a case of how to fit it all into an hour than padding it out to one. Should be great come Edinburgh.

We then went down for our now traditional afternoon and bottle of Cava for Valentine’s day at the Kayal. They do an excellent offer of buying a ticket for one show and letting you see as many as you want. This year we had two shows to see Juliet Meyers and Laura Lexx both doing works in progress, both of which were fab.

Funny women day continued back up at the Cookie with our friend Harriet Kemsley, at whose show we also had a great time. Also got to say “hi” to some lovely people that we were not seeing in Leicester this year.

Finally, or so we thought, we had booked ourselves to see Just the Tonic’s Valentines Special at Hansom Hall – 7 acts for £7. A very good value show it was too, helped along with another bottle of Prosecco. Hosted by Darrell Martin, we were treated to, Barry Dodds, Phil Kay, Andrea Hubert, Juliet Meyers (again), Pete Otway and finally Bobby Mair. Dead Cat comedy – that’s how you put on a multi act bargain show!

We spotted that Paul Currie was listed in the program as being on at the Criterion at 10pm. Which puzzled me as it was not listed online when I was booking tickets. It turned out to be a mistake, so myself and some others who had turned up, spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting on Bob Slayer’s Blunderbus which was parked just outside.

A relaxed end to a lovely day.

Monday 15th. Ordinarily we would have been leaving now, but we stayed on an extra day to catch Adam Hills at the Curve theatre as the closest he was coming to us was going to be over a 200 mile round trip.

Before that we had a day out, first visiting Corby – what a horrible town, a victim of concrete over development, and then Market Harborough – lovely. We then came back and went off for an early dinner (Carole had found a rather nice place selling vegan pizzas) before a bonus show of Damien Clarke at the Cookie. A slight departure this and a story about having his phone stolen at the 2014 Fringe. A lot of fun and good to see Damo again. Oh and guess who else we bumped into. Danny McLoughlin. third time in ten days in three different places.

Adam Hills was great again, Carole said this was her favourite show of the weekend. He also happily stood outside in a bathrobe and boxers for an hour signing autographs and having pictures taken – legend.

HPIM2547I promise that Adam is wearing boxers here!

And that was Leicester for another year for us.

The Wednesday saw us going to a play, and what a corker. Monster Raving Loony at Plymouth Theatre Royal, took us through the life (and death) of Screaming Lord Sutch, ingeniously using iconic comedy show vignettes along the way. This was amazingly good and we hope it transfers to the capital or tours. There was an underlying message of depression and how it can link to the genius comic mind as well. His Lordship committed suicide, like many great comics.

Our final show of the month was at Calstock Arts on the 27th. Gary Delaney supported by Will Duggan. We have seen them both before, they were both great again. Gary seemed to enjoy it, even though it was a pretty small crowd, just over eighty, which was a shame. Everybody there enjoyed it too, it was a great end to a largely great month.

Currently March looks pretty sparse with only three shows in the schedule all of which we will be travelling quite long distances for, but if you want quality comedy and live in the far South West, you have to expect that, as there is little change to the standard of the local club nights. 

Dave (added to by Carole)

Adrian-elin Rush – Stewart Lee, Hall for Cornwall 20th January 2016

I am not equipped to review Stewart Lee and do not want to.

I am one of the many who belive he is the finest stand-up performing today.

Many others don’t. It is all subjective.

That is not the purpose of this post. If you want to read a review of this gig, there is one here: West Briton

In our opinion this was not a benign spirit. Benign by definition has two meanings. Gentle and kind or, in a medical context, not harmful in effect.
This person invaded the stage during the middle of a routine, totally destroying the flow, the routine was never completed. When after 15 minutes the person was escorted from the stage Stewart admitted defeat and wrapped up. We never got the ending to a 30 minute routine so felt cheated.

That notwithstanding, this was very amusing to a point, but when the reality set in I felt very uncomfortable. At first it seemed a drunken idiot had invaded the stage. Then it seemed like it was someone with learning difficulties, being mocked by Stewart and the audience. As we walked back to our car later some other audience members were chatting, convinced this was part of the act.

We do not know Adrian, if that is actually his name. We only know that he interrupted a gig and effectively wrecked it for us. For others he made the gig.

We are sure though that he should have been stopped from getting onto the stage. Security was totally missing for what is just under a thousand seater venue.

When he was there, we could see one guy at the side of the stage not knowing what to do.

When, after 15 minutes, he was escorted from the stage, they let him back in via the side entrance at which point he appeared to head for the stage again. he certainly went past his own seat and started to head back down the stairs again, before being escorted back to his seat by an usher.

These days, if someone shouts something at a football match or invades the pitch, they get a lifetime ban. Yet in comedy, heckling and bad behaviour is rewarded.

The UK Comedy Guild has guidelines for promoters code of conduct. UKComedyGuild

We have seen so many gigs ruined by bad behaviour, and rarely do we see a venue do anything about it.

Some key points being:
“5. No performer or staff member should be put in a position where they don’t feel safe”

“12. Performers and audiences have a right to enjoy a performance that is not interrupted continually or aggressively. Promoters & producers are responsible for policing and, where necessary, having members of the audience who are excessively drunk, disruptive or repeatedly abusive, removed.”

“13. Heckling should be discouraged. There are several ways in which this can be enforced: signs around the venue and on the website, an announcement before the show starts, gentle warnings during the show and in extreme cases, ejection from the venue.”

For us this performance was ruined and we expect a refund, for others, it will have been enhanced.

Fortunately for us we will see the full routine when Stewart’s new series of Comedy Vehicle comes out later in the year. Unfortunately over £40 was wasted along with 3 hours travelling time.

David.

2015 – Shows of the year and a personal review.

In 2015 we saw 230 shows (although Carole did not come to Edinburgh so missed out on a lot of them). We chose our top ten shows of the year by choosing our individual fifteen favourite shows and giving them points from 1-15 then adding them up. As it turns out our top ten features nine shows that we BOTH has in our top fifteen. The ones that might have missed out, because I saw them and Carole didn’t, are “John-Luke Roberts: Stdad-Up”, “Spencer Jones Presents: The Herbert in Proper Job” and “Larry Dean – Out Now”.

There are not many pure stand up shows in the list; I don’t think this is because we have gone off this side of things, we saw some magnificent shows this year. But in an ocean of 20-30 something stand up, the buoys of individualism and originality can be the lifesavers of comedy.

We are glad to see the rise of story telling, and it appears our friend Matt Price is getting more recognised, which pleases us immensely, as he is as good as anyone out there.

What we have been sad to see is the lack of good local clubs. We finally abandoned going to The B-Bar and Ski Lodge, because we had no way of finding out the line ups and long ago gave up on Annabel’s. With the exception of the still outstanding Plymouth Comedy Club, there is very little to go to apart from largely open mic level clubs masquerading as pro clubs. Rather than waste considerable money with these we find it better value for money to make further trips and get much better quality acts. That being said, we feel there are some very good comics coming through in the local area, but do not want to see them EVERY time we go to a gig.

We do not like the practice of comics and their agents double and triple booking gigs and then going to what suits them. How can promoters work with that? Not many clubs are really well supported, because of the poor quality acts and bad organisation of people may result in them turning up once, having a bad experience then never go again. Anyway, our complaints have been well documented and this post is about celebrating the best. So here is our top ten of 2015.

10. Keiran Hodgson – Lance.

Character comedy at its best and a very heartwarming tale from a man who seemed to be in everything comedy shown over Christmas. There is still a chance to catch this on tour in the new year. For South West Friends Kieran Hodgson

9. Sam Simmons: Spaghetti for Breakfast.

This was the only show on the list that Carole did not see. A masterful piece of surreal comedy with an underlying theme of abuse. I was very pleased to see it win best show at Edinburgh though also adored Sarah Kendall’s show.

8. Bentley’s Electric Cabaret.

The only comedy club type show on the list. Seven acts, none of whom would have made the list on their own, who combined into a perfect (and very long) show to wow an audience in an absolutely beautiful venue.

7. Brendon Burns – Outside the Box. Bristol Cube.

One of our favourite acts with another winner of a show. A man who does not like the comedy infrastructure and so organises his gigs his own way and does not care where the ‘line’is.

5=. Beth Vyse – As Funny As Cancer.

When we first saw this in Machynlleth in May as a very early work in progress, it had a plot, but not the humour needed to lighten the subject matter. By the time Edinburgh came around it was tight, but still with some chaos, and very funny.

A very personal show, tackling an unfunny subject and making it funny. While Alistair Barrie was getting plaudits for his ‘Cancer’ show, this largely snuck under the radar but was a better show and has continued to grow since. Still a chance to see in Exeter in February – you would be stupid not to go! We will be there to see it one more time. Beth Vyse

5=. Sleeping Trees – Western.

This was an Edinburgh preview. Boy was it funny. A Western with the three boys playing all the parts. Hilarious from start to finish. And the tumbleweed – possibly the funniest single moment of the entire year. We also saw them perform Mafia and Cinderella and the Beanstalk this year and they were great.

4. Goose – Goose & Kablamo

Adam Drake and Ben Rowse comprise Goose. Though you would be forgiven for thinking there is only Adam, as he does virtually everything. We first saw them at Machynlleth in May and Dave also got to see the follow up Kablamo in Edinburgh. One man stories where Adam plays all the characters at breakneck pace. No one works harder in a show. Simply breathtaking, do not miss them if you get a chance.

2=. Every Brilliant Thing.

Probably classed as a play, but it was funny, sad and totally different. Made us laugh, made us cry. Brilliantly cast one man show with Johnny Donohoe from “Johnny and the Baptists” and a ton of audience interaction.

2=. Sarah Kendall – One Day in October, John Robins – Speakeasy.

A wonderful double bill at Bristol Tobacco Factory just before the Fringe where the shows were fully formed but still officially in preview. Sarah’s show was my (Dave) top show of the year. A masterful piece of storytelling. John goes from strength to strength. Add them together and it was a very special night.

1. Max & Ivan – The End.

We have been huge fans of Max and Ivan since the start of our own adventure following comedy. Their previous shows have been astonishing. But this was their best yet.

Essentially a two person play, where they bring to life a wealth of characters. In an hour they transport you to another place and build these characters into people you care about. So deeply was Carole immersed in this very early preview that she let out an involuntary cry when something happened to one of the characters.

It takes a very special talent to immerse an audience so deeply into a work of fiction.

They also do ‘The Wrestling’ at Edinburgh which is the biggest and best show of the year!

Catch them on tour in 2016. Max & Ivan