Category: Venues


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?


Inside the Comedian / Bad Therapy – Gig Review : 04/07/17

A sunday afternoon – perfect for Comedy. With tickets for only a fiver it would have been rude to not go. I haven’t been to any other recordings of ‘Inside the Comedian’ since the one I blogged about earlier so I was well over-due a show. It was also going to be a ‘double header’ with the new show from the gang that brought you ‘Do The Right Thing’ – Bad Therapy.

This recording was also at The Phoenix in Caverdish Square. Nice and easy to get to.


I got there a little early to try to catch up on some blogging but as I approached the pub I bumped into @AndyMC, @NealP55 and @MrPLitchfield. I’d not met Paul before but I had seen him perform as part of The Trap during All Day Edinburgh.

We went inside and grabbed a drink. It wouldn’t be long until the doors opened and we headed downstairs. Front row seats were needed and luckily no-one was challenging us for our primo seating.

Unknown to me Paul was going to be starting the gig and we would be treated to some Erotic fiction by his character Sean Goldsworthy, one of Somersets leading writers of erotic fiction. I think I have seen Sean before, but I’m not sure…it felt like something I had seen before, especially when we had the choose-your-own-adventure-erotic-fiction. The audience were in stitches all the way through. The 2nd CYOAEF sounded excellent however somehow the page numbers got muddled and the story took an unexpected turn at the end!

A short interval David Reed took the stage and Inside the Comedian began.

It is a hard balance to make in having a ‘comedian interviewing comedian’ discussion without it being too much of just one big inside joke and I think David Reed does this perfectly. By aiming to be more Parkinson in his interview technique it helps to bring the humour and over-the-topness of some of these interviews. The guest this show was Marcus Bridgestock. I saw Marcus a year or so ago at his show downstairs at the Soho Theatre and really enjoyed his show. He managed to bring the kind of improv skills that Inside the Comedian really needs. There was plenty of ‘yes and-ing’ and that’s what this podcast needs. The 8 legs of government was a path Marcus gave himself to navigate and he did so with conviction. David did point out that the last one would be all we’d be able to remember, Law, but then he also mentioned Gastronomy…. and  how the current government has forgotten this important pillar! The Podcast will be available soon so I wont ruin it at all for you.

After another interval Michael Legge took to the stage to introduce Bad Therapy. Michael, Margret and Danielle would be acting as a shirks to today’s patient – Doc Brown/Ben Smith. This was a new format for a podcast. Three people interviewing one person. The podcast was to be split into 3 parts where Doc Brown would be asked about his past, his presents and his future. Each section would be 15 minutes long and was sounded by an alarm to signal the end. In the final podcast maybe this will be tidied up however during this recording the 15 minute sections didn’t really mark the start/finish of past/present future. We had some interesting glimpes into the lives of all the people on the stage. People talked about actual therapy sessions – or even attempted ones in newsagents, hypnosis, and one of my favourite things – T25 volkswagen campervans!

The format of the show worked really well as an idea. Hopefully it will come across how enjoyable it was for everyone. The audience could tell the performers were having fun and along with his relaxed delivery, Doc Brown opened up and I certainly knew more about him at the end of the show than I did at the beginning.

When these are next being recorded, make sure you do get tickets.

Eddie Izzard – Force Majeure : Gig Review 17/03/17

Another day,  another gig. This time it was for Eddie Izzard. A month or so ago I got a tweet from Soho Theatre saying the was doing a  triple header of his Force Majeure show. I’ve not been at the Soho Theatre since seeing Pete Firman (the magician) last year. One I thing I noticed for Pete’s show is that they now do allocated seating at the venue’s theatre room. This is great news as you no longer have the mental queuing starting 15 minutes before the doors open as your tickets have your seat number.

The reason for the triple bill was he was going to perform the show in French, German and English. When I booked the tickets I checked over and over again to make sure I got tickets for the correct show.


The tickets I purchased were at the end of a row and when we arrived at our seats there was someone already in them. The conversation went like this.

“Excuse me, I think these are our seats.”
‘Yeah. I want to sit next to my friends and I have an extra ticket so I’m going sit here. You can have my seats.’
(he pointed to two seats in the middle of the row in front).
“No thanks, I think I’d prefer to have the seats I’d purchased.”
‘But I want to sit next to my friends!’
“I understand, but we’d prefer our seats.”

The guy reluctantly left our seats and moved to his seat. I go for end seats as you aren’t as squeezed and I can stretch my legs out in the aisle. Does that make me an arse for not moving? Its not my fault he couldn’t buy seats together. Anyway…this has little to do with Eddie’s show.

There was no fan-fare for Eddie to come out to, the lights dimmed and he walked out from behind the curtain. There was a rapturous applause immediately and the show started.

I remember seeing Eddie Izzard’s first video show and finding him hilarious. By the 3rd one I found his surrealism not to my taste. I still laughed but not as much as the first show. Unfortunately this show felt more like the 3rd show than the 1st.

He had already performed the show twice that evening, in two other languages, and that might have affected the energy her performed with. Some of his ad-libs didn’t hit the spot and occasionally his surrealism lost steam – “I’m a transvestite… a ……..skip.” – it felt like he didn’t have the confidence in the ending of the sentence.

I did have a proper chuckle at the death of Caeser, mainly due to the word play with the other characters in the scene. I also enjoyed the act-out of Martin Luther hammering his 95 theses to the church door. This was performed in German and the whole audience understood everything that was happening even if, like me, they didn’t consider German to be a language they spoke. The show started talking about human sacrifice and ended talking about olympic dressage and dressage horse burglars. Very ‘out there’ as a concept but there was much laughing through-out the theatre. The show ended and Eddie added a few words afterwards about staying engaged in politics and not giving up the good fight against those who want see the UK as a protective Island that doesn’t welcome people.

As we left we both were happy to have attended. We enjoyed enough of the show but would not have been happy to have seen something like this in a larger venue (with the larger costs!). I’m happy to have ticked off seeing Eddie Izzard from my list of comedy people to see. When we got home I shared a clip of Eddie’s Cat/Drilling behind sofa and then his DeathStar Canteen scene. These made me laugh LOADS and reminds me that he definitely has written some excellent stuff. I probably wouldn’t watch him again although if he does any warm-ups for a new show at a venue like Soho Theatre then I might buy a tickets, just as long as he hasn’t already done 2 other hour long shows immediately beforehand!


Spookywookycocktailhour & Inside the Comedian : Double Bill – Gig Review 27/02/2017

I really enjoyed the comedy impro – Criminal – the other week and when both David Reed & Danielle Ward tweeted they were doing a double-header I had to book tickets. Only a fiver as well! Great value for money.

I’ve not been to The Pheonix since All Day Edinburgh last year. Last time I came for an individual gig was probably a Pappy’s or Do The Right Thing recording. Its a big venue but underground and no wifi, in case that matters to you. Its just up from Oxford Circus (or down from BBC Radio Theatre – if thats a better point of reference)

I arrived with moments to spare and bumped into a couple of my comedy chums. We managed to grab a table right in front of the stage and I look forward to the evening. One of my chums asked if the music playing was Manic Street Preachers but unfortunately my music knowledge is a bit pap so I wasn’t sure.

Danielle took to the stage and explained the show would be in two halves – she would present Spookywookycocktailhour and then there would be an interval and David would be Inside the Comedian during the 2nd half. She also said she’d made producer Ben play the Manics so my chum was right.

Spookywookycocktailhour was in 3 parts. There was a short play, followed by a sketch, then another short play. The rest of the cast joined the stage – Abigail Burgess    & William Andrews.

Short play one involved the re-animation of a lady’s husband. As with all re-animation stories there was an unexpected twist with the recently revived that brought a level of mild peril to the proceedings. Abigail played the wife, William played the Doctor, Danielle the assistant and David played the husband and all were excellent!

The sketch was about twins. One of which was a grumpy french guy.

Short play two, Danielle explained, would be a farce. Who doesn’t like a farce? not me, I love the silliness of them! This play had a guest appearance by everyone’s stereotyped Northern Irish comedian, Michael Legge. It all revolved around an ‘end of life’ care home and a brothel. Who hasn’t made THAT mistake before?

The interval came and went with little fanfair. The 2nd half of the night would be Inside the Comedian. As an enjoyer of comedy podcasts and listened to well over 100 hours of comedians interviewing comedians, I did wonder how niche this would be. Chatting to one of my comedy chums, we weren’t sure if it was going to be a load of back-references to other podcasts/tropes that get repeated indefinately.

David took the stage and after a Parkinson-esque introduction to Michael Legge, the show started. David had a couple of sheets of pre-prepared questions/talking points but the star of this was Michael. Luckily his long career of Improv had him well protected and ready for the challenges that would be put his way. We heard about his Improv troop of 50 people, the Royal Variety performance, who he gets all his jokes from, and the interview ended on a bit of word association. David’s interview character worked really well and there were only a few times when he struggled to stay in character and failed to hold in the laughter caused by some of Michael’s replies. I am sure that there will be some smart editting by the team before this is released as a podcast however it just goes to show you should try to attend these shows in person.

there was a tiny interval and David was joined on stage by Tom Bell. I’ve not seen him before but we worked very well with David on stage. It started with learning about Tom’s time as a boat, the TV shows he’d work on, The Blind Panda comedy venue (in Hove, sadly no longer around) with its unique sunken stage at the bottom of a 90 foot hole with 5 seats at the very top, although one of the seats was on a ‘bungie jump’ type mechanism, Felicity Kendal (two very different sides to her) and ended with Tom reciting parts of the famous characters he has played.

The crowd went on an awesome journey for the night. The two episodes of ‘Inside The Comedian’ would be released as a podcast so you can enjoy them if you weren’t there. Danielle explained at the start of the night that her stuff is more just getting a recording of stuff for prosperity. There is a chance some might appear on Renaissance FM, but if it doesn’t then it will be released online at some point.

Like how the night started, at the end of the night I left as quickly as I arrived. I will get tickets to the next ‘Inside The Comedian’ and I wonder if it will develop further. Would people like something that lampoons the very thing that comedy fans spend months listening to? I was expecting to hear a choice direct quotes from other podcasts and I don’t know whether it was politeness, industry informal rules or it just not being the direction this show is going to take, that they didn’t appear.

I really hope it does make it as a podcast. Even 6 episode (3 nights of recording) would be great output. I do regret not chatting to Ben Walker at the end of the night as I really want to talk to him about how he got involved in the podcast recording business. Interesting to a small handful of people but as I’d be one of them, it wouldn’t be wasted on me.

See you next time, comedy fans. I leave you with some photos from Andy McHaffie. See if you can guess who was Michael Legge in his ‘disguise’!


Criminals Improv – Gig Review 27/02/2017

A few weeks ago something popped up in my twitter feed that caught my attention. I follow @MrDavidReed on twitter and he posted that he’d be performing at Criminal Improv along side Miles Jupp. Seeing as this is just down the road from me, I thought I’d go down and see it.

Being in That London, at any time you are never less than 6 feet from an Improv group. This one wasn’t my closest but was walking distance from the office and also an nice easy walk home. There was little excuse not to go.

On arrival they had a great selection of smaller brewery beers. There weren’t a million members of staff on the bar and the guy who took my order walked off half way handing my order over to the remaining barstaff who was already in the middle of serving someone.  It wasn’t all bad as I was also having dinner there. Monday Night is Burger Night and all the burgers on the menu were £5. I had the cheeseburger with a side of buttermilk fried chicken. The burger was cooked medium-rare and the fried chicken was lovely.

With 5 minutes before curtains up time, I headed upstairs and after having the booking checked (while also being given a loyaly card), I managed to grab a seat on the front row. It was almost completely empty in the front row which was strange as an Improv Murder Mystery isn’t going to be the place where comedians try out their ‘so what do you do?/where are you from?’ patter.

The lights dimmed and the two hosts took to the stage. @OhHiRalphJones & @joelgatehouse were there to introduce the night and also to get some ideas from the audience on the background of Lady Davenport, whose timely dimise (is ’30 years previous’ still timely?) was going to be investigated. She was murdered by a bowling ball, had a career as a flautist, and in her spare time enjoyed mole-hunting (I think – however this turned out to be just hanging about a mole-populated area). She was wearing a ballgown when she died.

Ralph & Joel invited the cast to the stage where 3 cards were offered and the non-detective players found out who was innocent and who was guilty. The compares left the stage and the action began.

David Reed – Mr. Bowling Alley, Viola Player, Lady Davenport
Miles Jupp – Eric (the conductor), Maude (Hot drink loving wife of Sam), Tramp who died, Ian Anderson (from Jethro Tull)
Sylvia Bishop – Sam (Owner of the Mole Collective and loving husband of Maude), Exceedingly high countered shop owner, Cello Player)
Joseph Morpurgo – The Detective Wilhelm.

What followed was an excellent story about how Lady Davenport died and how the characters were involved. We learnt about nacho cheese, we watched a man play a flute from both ends, a lady play a flute without holding it to her lips, detailed descriptions of how games of bowling went for Lady Davenport (STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! HALF-STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! and for the tenth frame STRIKE!……which gave another two bowls which went STRIKE! STRIKE!), Coffee Shops with unreasonably high counters, Maude offering hot drinks at all times – although we were lucky to be there during the installation of a soda-stream, and learning about the pricing structure of the Bowling Alley (£1 bowling during lunch, but £14000 after 3pm).

The best part was the set-up of Miles Jupp having to sing a song at a funeral. What would be more appropriate than a splendid rendition of ‘Three Lions’. Nothing. Nothing at All.


The whole show was ace from start to finish. During the big reveal/accusation at the end there was a little bit of mis-direction when a chair was accused of being the murderer….after-all a chair has 4 legs, the SAME number of legs as a bowling ball has holes! 😀

If you are based in London and fancy attending then Criminal Improv is held at The Millers on the last Monday of the month. Tickets were a reasonable price (£8) and I really do recommend it. The team do an excellent job and its good to finally see some long-form improvisation as before now I’d only seen the short-form of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Comedy Store Players, The Phil Jupitus And Friends : Improv Show and Second City. I’m even thinking of attending something like Austentatious or other performances similar to this.

Do you have a recommendation for some long-form improv I should attend? Or maybe some short-form stuff I’ll really enjoy? Let me know in the comments below. If its based in London then there is a good chance I’ll go see it.

Mark Thomas – Trespass

It was something I’d been talking about for ages but I’d not actually booked any tickets. At the last minute I checked on-line and saw there were some good tickets available for that night’s show. It was marked as a ‘relaxed performance’ and I’d never been to one of these before so I looked forward to this structure.

We arrived at the Tricycle Theatre and I was amazed by this little theatre. It wasn’t a far walk from Kilburn tube station and in the middle of the High Street. With 30 minutes before the show started I collected the tickets from the friendly box office and made my way to the bar. There were plenty of bar staff on, which meant we were served quickly and were also able to order our interval drinks. It was only when I got to my seat in the theatre I realised that they didn’t give me a receipt or anything to say how to get them.

The lights dimmed slightly and Mark Thomas took to the stage. He started by explaining that this was a relaxed performance. The reason for this was to allow people on the spectrum, or people who struggle with the standard format of shows (dark rooms, silence, the unknown), to enjoy the performance. At which point we were introduced to Jess – A lady with tourettes – by Mark. It appears he knew her already and her tourettes added a very different type of audience interaction. It was never a heckle and Mark never treated them as such (well, not really!)

The format of the show was 2 halves with a 20 minute interval and with this the show started with a sections of his book, “100 Acts of Minor Dissent”. Well it almost did. Mark needed to put his coffee down but the stool on stage didn’t appear to have a flat surface so there wasn’t a way for the coffee, the water, the book and some papers to stay on there at the same time. We all looked at the storage query Mark had and he commented that this was a serious problem for him…and a voice called from the audience.

“Change your environment to suit your requirement!”

It was Jess. The whole audience went silent. Mark smiled. We all laughed. This particular tic had summed up the solution to not only Mark’s problem but it really resonated with the whole audience. Life, like the stool, can be packed full of stuff…and sometimes you need to add things to it. You can get stressed and worry or you can take another path and ‘change your environment to suit your requirement’. Mark agreed this was the best course of action so moved some stuff around and the coffee was safely deposited down.

Mark asked members of the audience to call out numbers and he told the story about that particular act of dissent. We heard about trying to be banned from Tesco and asking people to think about the possibility of there being no monarchy. At one point one of the people in the front row was asked for a number and we were soon being told about another act of dissent. The person who asked then decided to check his phone/send a text/etc! This is a pretty bad show when at a gig, it is very bad form when you are in the front row. Its extremely rude when you having the act directly interact with you! Mark dealt with is politely, seeing as this was a ‘relaxed’ gig and on it went.

The interval came and our drinks were brought out a little late, but it did mean they hadn’t been sitting there since before the first act started!

The 2nd act came and we were treated to the ‘Trespass’ part of the show. I had additional interest in this as I had attended a Loiterers event held in St. Kathryn’s Dock last year. A secret tweet went out telling people to be at a place, at a time and then we were taken to a gig on a public bit of land right next to the thames. Mark’s 2nd half expanded on his love for public space and walk-ways and what he and his friends had done to protest (or not actually protest) about these areas.

We were treated to a great tale with Mark dressed up as Shaun The Sheep and being tackled to the ground by 4 security guards. It ended with him going back there with a group of people all with Shaun The Sheep Masks to protest the previous heavy handedness. He told us also about some land in front of RBS where he was doing a 5km walk and was hoping to get it recognised as a national trust walk – all in a 15 metre stretch of land.

The 2nd act ended with Mark explaining how councils are now trying to make their own laws by giving people fines for certain things. These included a £100 fine for being homeless, £100 for aggressive begging (begging within 5 metres of a cashpoint), and the final piece was on how Salford council have ‘banned’ swearing in an area of the city. Mark wrote to them with a list of swearwords and asked them to confirm which would be alright to say. He then read the list out. It was the best bit of theatre I’d seen in a long time. Added with the occasional punctuation from Jess, the audience laughed from the first Arsehole to the last Yank-off (although apologies if these weren’t the first and last swears!). This could have been an great end to the show as the audience was hysterical with laughter, but there was more. Mark showed us a video of a choir of people singing a round-robin of swears. Too much! My face was aching from smiling and laughing!

But wait, there’s more!

He then explained that the Daily Mail had contacted them to use the video to show how over-the-top Salford council had been. Mark played the DM loaded video however there was one crucial difference. On Youtube, they allow swearing. The Daily Mail, however, does not feel so comfortable with profanity so their video was bleeped. And seeing as the whole song was just a list of swear-words, it consisted of just Beep Beep beeep!

And with that, the show was over. Mark did some book signing and chatted to people after the show. I first saw Mark Thomas live in maybe 2006 where he did a show that had people crying (with sadness) over the dreadful act of selling arms in the world. I have seen his TV shows and I’ve read his books. I would say that he is a great live performer who informs, educates and entertains the audience without coming across as superior or ridiculous.

As I left the theatre with my signed copy of 100 Acts of Minor Dissent I reflected on the evening, the relaxed performance and his output as a performer and it is clear he is a man of principles who fights for what he believes in…if only more people were like him.

Watching A Comedy Chum – Part 3

For the last month or so I’ve had 2 of my chums signed up to the Comedy Virgin’s gig at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. It has been in my calendar for a while and I’ve been looking forward to it.

I got there plenty early and bumped into one of the guys from the comedy course I did in December. We talked about what our plans were for the future regarding comedy. He has a plan of lasting 5 minutes at the Comedy Store’s Gong Show. For him that is the measure of ‘success’ and that comedy is not a career that he is interested in. This is very different to what I’d consider success to be and it was strange to hear a view different to my own. He is planning on fine-tuning his set from the comedy show-case to give him a tight 5 for the Gong Show… I wish him the best of luck for it.

Regarding the chum’s I was attending to support, well 1 turned up and other was unfortunately ill. The guy who turned up was Chaand and he had threatened to bring 35 people to the gig! I’m not sure Comedy Virgin’s could handle that many extra people but it would have to cope. Chaand had written some new material for the gig and had it printed out, word for word, on A4 sheets of paper. He wanted to go through it to us two and we settled down to hear it.

The first thing we both noticed was Chaand’s usually excellent delivery was stilted. He was reading the words and then tripping up over them and missing bits out. Both of us advised him to write some bullet points to remind him and to have faith on him knowing the stuff he had written. 10 minutes later and he had his bullet points written out and the delivery was so much better.

We were called into the gig and took our seats. Some-how Chaand was front row and centre. He seemed very eager to get up there. The Host (Paul) did a great job warming up the room and advising of the rules. The room was PACKED and there were a few very drunk people there already who felt they needed to join in. There were also a lot of people just talking all the time which was a little unfair on the acts.

The acts came on stage thick and faster. Based on the sign-up list at the door there were well over 20 acts looking to perform so it would be a LONG night! I decided before we sat down that if Chaand was on in the first half, I’d leave at the interval. Not in the spirit of the bringer show but I felt with the support Chaand already had, one less wouldn’t be a problem. I did see one of the acts leave at the same time so I wasn’t the worst person there!

Eventually Chaand got called up to the stage and began his set. With just his small bullet points rather than reams of paper he was a lot more confident up there. I think this was a different experience for Chaand from the Comedy Showcase but he took control of the crowd well. His material was solid and he got plenty of laughs. I think he could have easily done another 3 or 4 minutes with the material I saw earlier in the evening however the strick 5 minute set time at Comedy Virgins is not to be questioned!

Hopefully Chaand will do more gigs and get further confidence in his comedy self. I also look forward to seeing him on ‘Dinner Date’ and see how he copes with the food from strangers!

Fancy listening to it? Click it below.

Watching A Comedy Chum – Part 2

Late Sunday afternoon I got a message in a group chat from one of the guys off my Comedy Showcase course. He’d been let down by a mate for a ‘bringer’ show he was taking part in and needed his +1 to be able to perform. It was a Sunday night, but more importantly I always want to help support my friends with their comedy so I agreed to be there.

The venue was ‘Comedy Virgins’ at the Cavendish Arms, in Stockwell.

I drove there but it is about a 10 minute walk from Stockwell Tube Station. From the outside there is nothing to suggest there is anything being held there. When I arrived inside, it really felt like I was in the wrong place. A pub, next to a housing estate with no signs of there being comedy on. I checked the postcode and this definitely was the right place!

I had never attended a Bringer show before but the concept is one which splits the comedy community. Some people think it is a preying on comedians to help a venue make loads on drinks; others believe it helps improve audience sizes through increasing ‘normal’ audience members and not just have the acts play to a room full of comedians waiting to perform.

My chum arrived and put his name down on the list – number 11. We weren’t sure where he would end up on the bill but 2nd half seemed to be where we thought he would perform.

The doors opened and we grabbed some seats. Not front row but on an end so he could get up easily when it was his turn. The room quickly filled and before too long the compare – Paul Langton  – took to the stage. He explained the set up of the night, how it was an extra show due to so much interest in taking part. He also explained to make it fair to everyone there were some rules.

  • 5 Minutes only
  • Don’t leave after your set
  • If you like an act, at the end of their set shout ‘buy them a drink’ as well as whooping and a hollering.

The Compare then pulled a number out of his wine-bucket tombola……The first act of the night was…..number 11 – My chum!

As the first act of the night a massive round of applause carried him from his seat to the stage. The set started strong and kept building. The audience loved the punchlines and some of the comparisons (‘Why do we have seatbelts on planes but not on buses?’). They laughed at the funny bits and chuckled when he explained his broken fingers.

The 5 minutes passed quickly and soon his set was over. The audience were going wild and when the compare got back on stage there was a loud chant of ‘buy him a drink! Buy him a drink!’ so the first act of the night also became the first act to have a drink bought for them. It did mean he would be part of the ‘clap-off’ at the end of the night for the limited edition winner’s trophy.

All the acts for the rest of the evening made me chuckle. Unknown to me, the smart looking business man with a florida tan sat next to me, was down on the list and went up to perform. 4 minutes in and he got the 1 minute warning . At which point he gave the tech-desk a nod and they started some music. The music was stripping music! The shirt came off, then the trousers….under which he had fishnets stockings and high-heels hidden in his trainers. Very different to everything else on the night but really well received!

At the end of the evening there were 8 acts on stage who all got the ‘buy them a drink!’ shout from the crowd. They were then in a clap-off in pairs. My friend was in the first pair but it was closely fought and unfortunately he was the first person to be sent back to the audience. Eventually the final two were so closely matched that they actually become JOINT WINNERS.

As I left the pub I thought about what a great evening it had been. The venue was a proper set-up for comedy and the audience really did help to keep the laughter and applause going for all the acts all evening.

I’m due back here on Wednesday to see some other friends of mine perform. 2 people this time. At least I know what to expect and I’m certainly looking forward to it.

The Unbelievable Truth – Recording – 23rd February, 2016

I managed to blag some tickets to this recording. One of my friends was running late but a bit of Derren Brown mind control and the lady gave us the extra sticker we needed for when they arrived. I’d not been to any recordings at Logan Hall before. Usually the ‘big name’ London Radio recordings are done at the Radio Theatre in Portland Place. This wasn’t far though and I joined the queue at around 5.45pm. The tickets just said Time 6:30, doors close 6:50pm but I knew from previous experience that the earlier you get there the better.

The queue grew longer and longer until about 6.45pm when they started to let people inside. We managed to get some great seats in the middle and waited for the show to start. The producer explained that 2 shows would be recorded and they started recording around 7.15-7.30pm. I knew this was going to be a long night. He also said that they had moved venues to allow more people to attend. There were 940 seats at Logan Hall and over 15000 people applied for tickets!

The guests were introduced and we were treated to;-

  • Jon Richardson
  • Henning Wehn
  • Susan Calman
  • Jack Dee

The format of the show is that one person speaks on a given subject and everything they say should be false except for 5 Unbelievable Truths. The remaining 3 people buzz in when they believe that the speaker has said one of the truths. A successful buzz in gives a point to the challenger however an incorrect challenge deducts a point. At the end of the talk any truths not found gain a point each for the speaker.

Each show started with Jon and there were some great challenges. There was as added complexity in that for some reason every time people pressed their buzzers, it would show Henning’s light on David’s desk. A second press would not repeat the issue so maybe Henning was pressing his buzzer first and then denying it for comedic effect?

Henning’s subjects seemed to allow him to be stereotypically German (mirroring his act) but Susan’s talks seemed to just turn into weird fantasy journeys with little in common with the original subject.

Both games finished with Susan Calman being the winner. It was a great experience to be part of but the format of the show isn’t that engaging and I think the whole audience was flagging as the end of the second show arrived,

Always good to be in a new venue and I do enjoy David Mitchell but I’m not sure I’d go for another recording of this.

Frank Skinner – The Man With No Show – 11/02/16

In my quest to see as many of my comedy inspirations as I can I managed to get myself a pair of tickets to see Frank Skinner at the Soho Theatre. Maybe 2 years ago I was downstairs at the Soho Theatre to see Bridget Christie doing her show, A Bic for Her. There is no allocated seating at any show I’ve been to here so I knew to get there early and try to get the best seats we can. The other problem is they really cram the seats together so you are uncomfortably close to other people there. Squeezing 4 chairs round a small table with not enough space to put your legs in front of you can make for a very uncomfortable experience and I wanted to make sure we had as much space as we needed.

I had collected my tickets earlier in the evening and told doors opened around 5 past 9. We got there at that time expecting to be directed to the main bar – where they often make people queue for entrance – but they let us stay in the foyer/ticket office and 1 minute later they opened the stairs and we were perhaps in the first 10 people into the area. I nipped past some people going to the bar and although did get front row seats, we were in the second row with an obscured view of the mic. I also had plenty of leg room. We sat at two seats on the table for 4 and the room filled up quickly.

9.30 the place had filled up but wasn’t full. No-one had taken the extra seats on our table so we didn’t feel as claustrophobic as others who really must have felt like sardines! The lights dimmed and Frank took the stage.

He explained it was a low-key show with no structure and he’d just talk on stage and to the audience and humour would come. What followed next was very unexpected!

He asked an audience member what he thought the colour of a banana was (the insides). After this answer (incorrect – banana)  asked what one guy was called. He then asked him his job and someone else from the other side of audience shouted “He’s a LINE-O! LINE-O!” Now I knew that the audience member wasn’t a member of The Thundercats but it wasn’t until Frank replied back with ‘Are you an assistant referee?’ that it turned out the shouter hidden in the darkness was correct! It turned out the guy recognised him from TV! This produced a great callback through-out the show to either the linesman or the guy who shouted out.

The topic of conversation jumped all over the place. At one point he discussed losing his virginity to a prostitute for £5 and compared that to what we were getting for our ticket entry fee. It then moved onto tube stations with lift – how it easily could have become a game show in itself. This went on for quite a few minutes as audience members tried to remember tube stations with lifts. He also covered a comedian with white teeth and why his own dentist suggested it to him, but just to make them less yellow!

Further audience interaction appeared when Frank said he went to Deal and an audience member said that his Gym Trainer saw him in Deal and took a photo of him! At this point it seemed that everyone in the audience know at least one stranger in the audience, or just Frank. As the show progressed, and people got drunker, there was more and more audience participation. Unfortunately it wasn’t all ‘Lineo!’ types chants. This was a bit tedious but most people seemed to respond well to it and join in. Having only paid a fiver I guess people thought they could act how they wanted.

The last ‘bit’ of the show involved a comparison between taking a dead fox from the road and taking it back to his flat to either make it into a hat or to fuck it. This strange segway really didn’t hit home but some people in the audience did laugh a little. The conversation then went into male fox having barbed cocks.

It was a very strange show. I think the concept appeared to be “Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned (without Baddiel)” however as an audience member I think that replacing David Baddiel with just drunk members of the public meant that the comedy didn’t flow and the conversation rarely developed. For £5 I was glad that I went and I’m glad I’ve seen Frank live in a smaller venue than where he’d normally be, like the Hammersmith Apollo.  Leaving the gig we both agreed it was a good night out for £5. We enjoyed the venue, the structure of the set (or lack of it) and the informal manner of the show . Sometimes a topic fell flat and he could just move onto something else.

I’d like to see more comedians do £5 sets in central London. Sure, it wont make them millions but recently Russel Howard, Michael Macintye and a few others have done shows in some of the smaller London venues. The tickets sell out fast but its good to see them trying stuff out and by doing it in front of a live audience they can really get a feel on how the material is being reiceved.