Category: Grainne Maguire


If you don’t know what ARG*COMFEST is then you have missed out. ARG*COMFEST (Actually Rather Good Comedy Festival) is a show that has been going for 6 years and keeps going from strength to strength.

Last year I was ill and I only managed 3 shows before I had to come back home and I slept the rest of the weekend. This year I wanted to make sure I saw more than 3 shows and with the line-up they had planned, I really wanted to make the most of my super-advance weekend ticket.

When I arrived at 12 on Saturday they couldn’t find my details. This has been in my calendar for months and I then had the horrible feeling that I’d not actually booked any tickets. A search in my mailbox for ‘ARGCOMFEST’ didn’t bring up any email confirmation either. It then dawned on me that it would be a sad bus journey home but at least I’d have the weekend to do stuff. A final attempt to find the tickets had me thinking about other searches search of ‘Shoreditch’ brought up a ton of emails, within which there was the 3D Barcode I needed. Joining the back of the queue again I got scanned and made my way inside.

The line up of the Saturday looked like this;-

First show of the day and it had to be Sofie Hagen. I’ve not seen here before and I knew I wanted to. This was her new show ‘Dead Baby Frog’ and although I couldn’t get a seat, I stood in the doorway to the Garden Room and had a great view of the stage. I learnt a little Danish (Mormor / Morfa) and that it is possible to visit shame-town (I’m suprised I’ve not been before). Based on this performance I will grab her previous show (Shimmer-Shatter) from her website here.

2nd show for me had to be Grainne Maguire. Grainne did the first comedy course I ever attended (I’ve done 3 now, who wants to touch me?) and I do enjoy her podcast ‘Whats Has The News Ever Done For Me?’ When I was here last year, Grainne’s show was one of the few I saw and although I wanted to see new acts this time, not only did I want to be loyal, I also find her really funny. I grabbed a seat at the back of the room and followed her on the journey from being a ‘Grainne’ to her perfect Liam Neeson accent. The time flew by and the room was howling with laughter.

Next up was a choice I had made in advance but really did set a stage for the rest of the afternoon. Lucy Porter is of the first comedians I can say I ever remember seeing on TV. I’ve never seen her perform a full show before (I think I saw her do 20 minutes at a benefit gig a few years ago) so I had to stay to watch her. She was in the same room Grainne had just performed in so meant I could stay in my seat. Lucy covered topics such as arguing/conflict with her husband, being married to her husband and even had some audience act-outs of a discussion they’d had. The show was interupted at one point by someone looking for Garrett Millerick’s director. This was really poor show by the team at ARGCOMFEST but Lucy handled it expertly. One thing I will say – of all the performances of the weekend, Lucy’s was by far one of the most polished, even if she did have some notes. She worked the crowd brilliantly and perhaps that just comes from (cough) years of performing live. Her set ended with a reading of a Bertrand Russell essay from 1933…..makes perfect sense.

Ed Gamble was my next show. In the same room again. I promise this was out of choice rather than laziness! He spoke about his love of heavy metal music and how that doesn’t match his persona. He also has a tattoo and loves Halloumi. His 5 minutes on Halloumi has to be heard to be believed! At one point he did explain how he’d kill a donkey – that was quite unexpected (and not the way I’d do it). He spoke about the trouble with sports massages after eating and places you’d find your girlfriend’s hair. There were other things he spoke about but I wont ruin the surprise.

I stayed in the Annexe again for Tez Illyas. Recently Tez had been on Mock the Week and I’ve learnt that comedian’s shows can be very different to how they appear on Mock The Week. Tez started with a routine about taking his nephews to the cinema and a mis-pronounciation of a snack item. He talked about his allopecia and how it was in his beard and is now on his head. He did explain that the rest of him was really hairy and gave a great description that had everyone in stiches. Racism was touched on slightly however always in a comedy context (well nearly always) and the show didn’t feel policital (which was a theme touched on by many at ARG) but had people laughing through-out.

Whats that? Stay in the Annexe again? It must be time for Ellie Taylor! Not just an excuse to stay in the same seat, I’ve wanted to see Ellie for a while but been unable to make her shows previously. Great for ARG and even better for me! The show was loosely themed about the move to the next stage in her life. Buying a house with her husband and whether they will have kids. It was interesting to hear that TV comedians also have secret whats-app groups with their friends about the strangest of things. Having only seen Ellie on TV I was suprised by her act-outs and impressions (husband & family were great). There was one moment when she was demonstrating something on a chair that I was glad I had a side-on view!

Another show in the Annexe (I’m not just super lazy) for Elenor Tiernan. I’ve seen Eleor Tiernan before so knew what to expect. She started with a video about a self-help yoga treat where it was clear to see what everyone in it was. This got a massive laugh from the audience. The rest of the show talked about an intervention and move to the UK. We were treated to her housing woes, flatmate issues and ended with trying to guarentee her place in the UK by making an impression on the judging panel of Economic Migrant of the Year. Feedline/Punchline comedy this was not but its another great thing about ARG is that it is not just ‘mainstream’ comedians.

The final show of the day for me would be Nish Kumar. He is someone I’ve seen a few times (last year’s ARGCOMFEST and plenty of episodes of Newsjack) but knowing that he wasn’t taking a show to edinburgh meant that it could be perhaps a little more relaxed in performance worrying about what works/doesn’t. While waiting for show to start (still in the Annexe) the fire alarm went off. The whole audience sat there deciding they would probably risk an actual fire against losing their seats. Maybe 5 minutes of the front of house staff chatting on their headsets and we were all asked to vacate. Outside there was much confusion and people were wondering if the show would continue. A fire-engine turned up for some excitement but no sooner had they arrived, they had done their check and they were off again. We were allowed back inside and the person on the main door was tellign everyoen to go back to their original seats. However this message didn’t make it to the staff in the room who told people to fill up from the ends. Disaster! The seat I’d been keeping warm most of the day now had someone else in. It also meant I’d be taking the seat of someone else – it would be a domino effect of people taking other people’s seats.

I was now in the front row and although I was right infront of the stage ( and Nish) it was not as comfortable as my previous seat. Nish’s set was very politically themed although not always in a direct way. His dad telling him to get a haircut/beard cut after one of the London attacks.  He then went on to talk about how he had met a lot of politicians through fluke….his night bus home went through Kennington which is where lots of MP were given homes.

The show continued with its political bent. Fully expected by Nish and there were a few set peices I’ve seen before from him but seeing as he isn’t taking a new show to Edinburgh, this isn’t something that can be complained about. The Annexe was packed full of people, even with the fire alarm delaying the start, and Nish’s set went from serious to funny to serious, completely seemlessly and the audience followed him on his journey/ramblings (depending how you feel about them). If you get the chance to see Nish perform live then do it. He has a new TV show coming up (The Mash Report) so expect him to be a regular on your TV from now on.

The night ended and I jumped in an Uber home. It suprised me by only being a tenner, late on Saturday night. Tomorrow would be another day of comedy….what will it entail? Probably more in the Annexe knowing me…..


Sunday was a hard day to choose. So many acts I want to see perform but they were at the same time so I’d have to make a choice. First show of the day I would have been happy seeing any of them but chose Garrett Millerick as I’d recently seen Bec Hill and Elanor Morton and I’d never seen Garrett

Garrett started with talking about his move to Kent from London. This had the audience chuckling away (with confirmation bias? Who knows) and gave a very physical and active performance. He covered a trip to Oz when his bank card was stopped just after landing for ‘fraud’ reasons. He covered his personal therapy and his family’s intervention. How he was forced to go the gym and stop drinking. He ended by explaining our new god. If you’ve never seen Garrett Millerick before then you really should. His hour long show is ace but could easily be 3 great 20 minutes.

2nd show on sunday was Stu Goldsmith. I’ve been listening to his podcasts for ages (from the beginning? I’m not sure. But I remember the drinking game of ‘street performer’ before Stu started mentioning it himself!) but I’ve never seen him perform live before. He has got himself a baby AND a wife so the show was to be about one or the other or both. We heard about baby swimming, baby papouses, walking the baby about, glastonbury and baby food. You can see the theme here. A great thing that Stu did was similar to the ‘talking offstage/off mic’ thing lots of people did. I didn’t see a comedian NOT record their show and Stu had his mobile on the table recording. Occasionally he would give a running commentary to the phone about silences (eggy pauses?) and weird reactions of the audiences. A great re-working of an old technique and one I’ve not seen anyone else do.

Next up was Sarah Kendal another comedian I’ve not seen before. Sarah’s show had a structure that started with Haley’s comet and the impending divorce of her parents (don’t worry, it is quickly resolved in a way that might surprise you!). We are taken on a journey of friends beating cancer, austistic children, two grans, aliens and an old people’s home. Two phrases stuck in my mind from this show and I’ll include neither here. Go see the show, it was properly ace.

Still in the Annexe (I could have slept here last night and saved me a tenner), I wanted to see Angela Barnes. Angela is the current host of Newsjack and I’ve seen this live a number of times but never seen her perform stand-up. Today I’d break my ABSUC (Angela Barnes Stand-Up Cherry) and I’m so glad I did. Something I couldn’t understand is the room wasn’t packed but that was their loss. We learnt about Angela’s love of Nuclear bunkers and how she spent her 40th birthday. I’m a little bit older than some of the people in the room but I recognised the books she brought out about what to do in a nuclear attack and a Raymond Briggs story. We also learnt about her not having children and how people keep asking her about it.

Finally! I’ve escaped from the Annexe. I really wanted to see David Trent do a full show as I’d only ever seen him do 20/30 minute spots. He was going to be in the Garden Studio which is where I’d seen my first show yesterday. This room got busy early and really struggled with the heat. The show started (or, more correctly didnt start) and David was quick to jump on a guy on his phone. This guy did point out that he’d just been told, by David, that the show hadn’t started yet and he was reading about a flat fire in Bethnal Green. The show started properly and we were treated to his children’s favourite online video that looks like the kind of thing you’d see in a film being played to people with their eyes being clamped open. 320 Million views so far….scary stuff! “Open your mouth! HA HA HA!” We were treated some great tax-deductable items that David uses in his shows and a great 10 minutes on the bakers who wouldn’t bake a cake for some people because they were gay. A tech issue meant that the final punchline didn’t hit as hard as it should but it was there enough to have the audience laughing along. A great show you should also definitely see.

Another show in the Annexe? It is impossible I tell you! I had planned on seeing Ingrid Oliver who was to be in the garden studio. For some reason, probably because the Annexe had been missing me, the rooms had been swapped around and I was to be back in the Annexe for Ingrid’s show. I’d not seen Ingrid before. Well thats not entirely true as she has appeared in a couple of episodes of Dr Who. I didn’t know what to expect and her comedy show was a selection of characters/sketches. I particularly enjoyed the Brexit Translator who was trying to do live translation of the european parliament while handleing the break-up with her partner. There was some audience participation with the Film Studies teacher who talks like it is and pointed out the age-gaps between lead actors and supporting actors/love interests. Ingrid’s show ended with a Ted Talk that felt like the conclusion of the opening sketch (which I guess it was). Her whole show was very different to anything else I watched over the weeked and something which could have also just been a set-list for a stand-up.

Although there were another two possible shows for the day, I had to call it quits at this point and headed home. I missed out on a personal recommendation from Andy McH for Stuart Laws but I think I was all comedied out.

As I headed home I thought about all the excellent shows I’d seen and how I’d love to write more comedy. So I will. I also almost threatened myself with not attending any further comedy until I’d performed again. Except I really want to see Tez when he performs down the road from me on Friday. But after that, I might put myself on a self-imposed comedy block until I’ve at least written 5 minutes and performed it.

Were you at ARGCOMFEST 2017? Who was your favourite act that performed?


Bowieoke Circus 11/02/16

I’ve been a massive fan of Karaoke Circus for years. Unfortunately my move to London coincided with them stopping doing it. 🙁 I’ve spent ages following the people who did it (Danielle Ward & Martin White) with hope of them doing some secret gigs but nothing ever came up. If you’ve not heard/seen Karaoke Circus before then I’ll update this blog with some that I’ve found on-line. In summary, They are Martin White on Keyboards, Danielle Ward on Bass, Foz Foster on lead guitar and David Reed on Drums. Comics then perform songs which are then judged by a panel.

In 2016, David Bowie died. This appeared to be the motivation for Danielle & Martin to get the band back together and arrange a special, one-off, BOWIEoke Circus. All money raised would go to charity and after a teaser or two on Twitter it was announced! couldn’t believe it. The opportunity was there to see the Karaoke Circus band back on stage doing only Bowie hits. I managed to get a pair of tickets before they sold out and this had to have been one of the most anticipated gigs for me ever, let alone just 2016.

Doors opened at 7pm and the show was to start at 7.30pm. We joined the queue at 7.20pm and there were at least 50 people in front of us.

Some people walked past and asked me what we were queuing for. “A David Bowie Themed Karaoke Fundraiser” was my reply but that didn’t seem to interest them. 10 minutes later the queue hadn’t moved. I just hoped that the band hadn’t started. Luckily I noticed a familiar face talking to the crowd. It was Martin White! Eventually he got to us and explained that the format of the show was that there would be one comic performing a song and then one member of the public would perform the next one and would we like to do one? There was a list of 7 songs and you could choose to put your name into the hat for any of them. I decided to go with ‘Under Pressure’ and that’s when Martin explained it would be a ‘blind date’ – a male and female member of the public would be picked at random to perform it. Martin left to go back inside and as slowly as the queue moved forwards, more people joined behind us.

Eventually we got inside where we were told that my man-bag was allowed in but we’d have to check my girlfriend’s handbag. This came a shock to both of us as I’ve never had to, or been with someone who had to, check in a handbag. I guess this was a good money maker for the Working Men’s Club as at £1 per item, the cloakroom was plenty full.

We walking into the hall around 7.50pm and luckily the show hadn’t started. After finding a good place to stand I headed to the bar and bought a couple of drinks before returning to our spot and getting ready for the show. Moments later the lights dimmed and Foz & The Baron appeared on stage with a banjo to welcome us to the show.

The rest of the band took to the stage and Martin introduced the first performance of the evening. This was a member of the public, Victoria Redfern who did a great version of ‘Rebel Rebel’. That got the crowd going and after she had finished singing she was then judged by the judging panel – Dan Tettsel, Dan Maier and The Baron and was followed by Michael Legge and Robin Ince with ‘The Man Who Stole The World’. Although they didn’t start it immediately as Michael decided we needed to all recite The Lord’s Prayer.

It was a great song to get the crowd going at the start. Whether people knew it more as a David Bowie hit or as a Nirvana Unplugged hit, I don’t know. But what I did know is that their performance was both true to Bowie, Cobain and themselves.

What followed was a surprise. The next member of the audience was announced and I couldn’t believe it. A friend of mine (well ‘Twiend’ – if that is such a word) is @johngalantini and it was his name read out! He made his way to the stage and belted out an amazing performance of Be My Wife.

Then we got to enjoy another comic with Colin Hoult. This was a very acceptable performance and the best the judges could do was Dan Tettsel with ‘Carpet Salesman on a Works Night Out’! The Baron confirmed what the crowd thought….that it was Brilliant!

At brilliant #BowieokeCircus – @colinhoult pulls the best shapes! @serafinowicz @robinince @michaellegge &co AMAZING!

A photo posted by Clare Nightingale (@drasticsturgeon) on

Next up it was another audience member, Paul Boyle with Queen Bitch. A very different performance to Colin’s and certainly a favourite of the judges.

We were then treated to a great looking Trio – Margret Cabourn-Smith, Thom Tuck and Grainne Maguire performing ‘Young American’.

I don’t know what was to be expected but it was certainly a personal performance with lots of audience participation of ‘Young American, Young American, She was a Young American!”

The first section ended with Peter Serafinowicz doing some great Bowie impressions while performing Boys Keep Swinging. I don’t think anyone knew who any of the guests would be and seeing as in the last week he has been in the news loads with his Racist Donald Trump video, it was excellent to see him perform live.

Chatting with Martin in the queue for the gents he said Peter had been there during sound check and performed loads of the songs as Bowie….what a great guy!

The 2nd act started like the first. Another audience member performed – Alex Norris. A DJ set favourite of Let’s Dance got the crowd back into the mood and really kicked off this section.

The acts were coming thick and fast and what we saw next was Holly Burn. Martin introduced her and said we’d not be seeing her in character but as she walked onto the stage it became evident that this was not true! I have experienced Holly Burn at The Queens Head in Angel where I was the unfortunately audience member she picked on to dance with her on stage so I knew what to expect. Well I thought I did. UNIQUE would be the best word to describe it, and it certainly wasn’t a style anyone else would use that evening, that was for sure. A hasty jacket removal and throwing into the crowd caught a woman in the front row. Ooops!


A photo posted by Clare Nightingale (@drasticsturgeon) on

It was time for another comic and this one was a total surprise. Adam Buxton (The Adam & Joe Show/Bug/Etc) got up to the mic and after a brief introduction and telling people about the sad death of his own father over Christmas, he treated the audience to Kooks.

His performance did include a ‘Stephen’ (Just Coming) and a WozzaWozza for the fans. He did hang around and didn’t rush off somewhere else.

Two comics on the trot can only mean one thing, audience time. Martin took the mic and explained this would be the ‘Blind Date’ song with 2 members of the audience called up. The first name was ‘Kelly Jackson’ and as she made her way to the stage the next name was called out……’Twon’.

Ho-Lee-Fuck! I’m at Karaoke Circus (which I didn’t think would ever happen), the comics have been amazing and I’m getting the opportunity to perform in front of this crowd. I made my way to the stage not believing what was happening. The song was Under Pressure and I was hastily given some words. The time was a blur but it certainly was an experience I relished. Unfortunately the sound of wedding bells didn’t ring for me and Kelly but I think we gave the song our best shot and could rely on The Baron for some honest feedback….we were BRILLIANT!

p.s. ignore the fact it looks like we forgot the words. We didn’t, but the words we had written down were incomplete.

Making our way off stage we were replaced by Gary Le Strange (Waen Shepherd, Kate Darby, Stephen Evans and Phil Whelans). I think I was a hard act to follow but they did an acceptable job. Being judged by the Two Dans, I think they were unfairly cruel but The Baron moved the swing-o-meter back in the AMAZING direction!

The amazing Waen and his lovely backing singers #BowieokeCircus

A photo posted by Clare Nightingale (@drasticsturgeon) on

The second act ended with The Actor Kevin Eldon take to the stage and perform Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. He appeared out of no-where and was apparently helping with the backing vocals on a number of the songs. It’s a slow Bowie song but rather than bring the audience down, it rallied them up and the sing-alongs helped drive the song through to the end and a welcome drink/toilet break for the audience. Martin gave us 15 minutes and everyone returned much quicker (baring a few of the brass section) than in the first break.

The third and final act began with another audience member – Alex Sievewright. He sang Changes. The audience were well lubricated and his performance, along with the band’s, really got us all going. First time I’ve seen someone play a bow-saw (or is it saw-bow) live.

With the crowd pumped the 1st comedian of the last act took the stage. Actor/Director/Comedian – Chris Addison!

Sporting a look that tip-toed the fine line between 70’s porn star and 80’s footballer he performed Diamond Dogs. Chris has been a regular on Karaoke Circus and as such he felt comfortable from the moment he said, “This aint Rock’n’Roll….this is Genocide!” to the last bar played. The Judging panel gave a mixed review with much being criticised not about the performance – much booing was done by the audience. Chris took it all well and the final view of The Baron put the bed any doubters…….BRILLIANT!

Another audience member took to the stage. This time it was Emily Webber singing ‘Life on Mars’. The audience got behind this entirely and it was mainly a sing-along between 300 people. As a collective it seemed like everyone was just thinking about the great man himself and what had brought everyone to this very place, at this exact time to not only celebrate his life, but to also raise money for two cancer charities – MacMillan and Cancer Research UK.

With the last audience song it was left to Martin to introduce the final act of the evening.

The final act of the night was introduced as Pappy’s. They appeared at the back of the room carrying what looked like a coffin that was about to be posted. You can see it in the video but as you can see the audience loved it and it looked like they loved it to. Sometimes I wonder if Karaoke Circus is just a coping mechanism to handle Pappy’s required level of nudity?

Pappys certainly didn’t let anyone down and those people who stayed until the end got to see special effects and a performance that had to be seen to be believed. The video above gives you an idea but really…being there is the only way to truly experience a Pappy’s Karaoke Circus performance.

As they left the stage I was thinking about what I’d just watched over the last 3 hours. How lucky I was to be there. Not just being there but sharing it with 300 people who will all have those same memories for ever. Will the Karaoke Circus gang reform again? It’s possible they might. If they ever do I’ll be there and I’ll bring everyone I know (both of them) to share an experience that is so much more than the sum of all its parts.

My biggest thanks to Martin, Danielle, David, Foz, and all the team behind Karaoke Circus. To all the comedians who performed and the audience members who went on stage and gave it their all. All the efforts of both performers, audience and all the team behind the Bowieoke Circus helped to raise over £3000 for two cancer charities. You have also given me a place in my mind I can go to that will remind me that the world isn’t shit all the time.


(edit – 19/2/16 – Danielle Ward has written THIS blog post about her experience of the evening – it is well worth a read)