Saturday, 21 January 2017

Stand Up at The Leyton Star / Comedy B East

The Leyton Star
Stand Up at The Leyton Star, 19.1.17

After hosting over forty people for Yuriko Kotani's preview last month I braced myself for a quieter night. Januaries aren't the best of months for getting people out the house and, though Nathan Cassidy is a seasoned pro when it comes to fifty minute shows, he doesn't have quite the profile of Yuriko. It was with some nerves at 7.45pm that I surveyed a largely empty room ready for the show to begin.

But I was, of course, being my usual pessimistic self and come 8.05 every seat in the room was taken and I was getting people to clap on cue to Selfie Stick. A 90% local crowd, it looks like the night is establishing itself nicely in this ever so up and coming area.

The first half acts were strong throughout - Max Fleming, Peter Latham, Matt Duwell and Maddie Campion all put in well received sets and - after arriving late - Chelsea Hart was able to mix up her opera singing and observational humour for five minutes. Last minute addition to the bill, Sarah Callaghan, also kept people laughing. What made this bill great, aside from the obvious talent, was the variety of comedy on offer. Low energy, high energy, observational, self depricating, a near equal split of men and women on both the younger and older ends of the spectrum. It's a template I intend to replicate from now on.

Nathan's second half show was amusing and thought provoking. Following the theme of being brave he indirectly cast his eye across the YOLO generation, perhaps without even realising, and included the crowd throughout. Well worth seeing should you have missed him this time.

All that remained was to thank people for coming and stare incredulously at the three young well dressed guys who'd sat in the front row throughout and donated about 53p between them. Time to start charging or at least offer reservations for a fiver.

Comedy B East, 20.1.17

Peter Merrett at Comedy B East
Edinburgh floor sleeper and all round good guy, Peter Merrett, has been busy over the past few months and has established himself two regular comedy nights under the Comedy Beast name. One is at Cafe Mode in Covent Garden. The other I found myself in tonight - an unassuming locals' pub with a nice back room about two minutes walk from Bromley By Bow tube station down a dark road.

The pub itself reminded me of Leytonstone's Plough and Harrow, where I set up my first open mic some four years ago. Not overly busy but with friendly staff and drinkers not particularly interested in comedy but happy to welcome you in. Navigating the pool table, I stepped into the well soundproofed (always a bonus) performance room and had a chat to the assembled performers. 

Come 8.30 it was clear we were going to be performing to each other plus two well wishers from the bar. Peter kicked things off by asking pretty much everyone in the room how their week had gone and then handed over to Sonia Aste, who worked through some new material in her trademark style of giving a list of topics to someone in the front row to announce and cross off as she went - somewhat like a one-woman Mock The Week. 

From there on in the performances were patchy, though less awkward than might have been predicted from the audience numbers. I closed the first half with three tracks and settled in for a second half where, in the words of the host himself, things were "pretty fucking weird". Having watched the final act stomp about the stage shouting it was time to hop back on the tube to Leyton.

The venue is great, the location less so, but with a lovely atmosphere and genuinely nice people it's well worth a punt.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Three gig round-up

Konstantin Kisen - Bear Jokes

Clash of the Tight Tens, The Castle (6.1.17)

Early January is a difficult time to run a night, never mind the first Friday of the month, but with a great line-up and some promising signs on the various social networks I headed to Aldgate with a degree of positive expectation.

By 8pm the acts were ready and a scattering of MeetUp-based audience were in the front row. Andy Onions took to the stage and was caught off guard with the arrival of significantly more people. The show had moved from informal chat to proper event at the swing of a door. Some on stage shots downed with volunteers later and he introduced the first of the eight acts.

Though as promoter I’m unlikely to say otherwise, the show ran really well with really strong sets across the board. The second half built on the first and by the time Nathan Cassidy stepped into the final spot a real air of togetherness was wafting about the room.

Promptly as if on cue, two drunk men wandered in and one started to give the kind of bemused heckles only capable of the inebriated (“What are you talking about?” two seconds in to entering the room.) Nathan took this as open season and quickly went about destroying him in the kindest ways possible. They went with it and we closed on a high – after locating it both guys even put a pound each in the bucket. If everyone put a pound in for every 5 minutes of show I might actually make a profit one day.

The Denmark Street Comedy Explosion, The Alleycat (9.1.17)

I’d been keen to do this show for ages and not even a tube strike was going to stop me getting to this gig. Two train changes and a long walk from Euston Square later I finally arrived on Denmark Street and headed down into a basement venue I last visited to watch Emily Capell and, you know, actual music.

The room was as I remembered it. A small stage and bar at one end and plenty of side-on seating along the wall. More chairs had been put out though facing the front and there were plenty of people milling about so I said hello to various acts I’d seen before and settled in for the show to begin.

MC Sam kicked off somewhat after the 8pm start time and did what he could to draw in the loud and largely uninterested group of film students who made up the bulk of the crowd and were sat around a large table at the back. After some musical comedy loop pedal based work they were warming but were still very much on the tepid side with the first act came on.

Within minutes the first act was fighting a losing battle to win over the group and things got particularly unusual when another act shouted out he should “do some material”. A verbal to-and-fro between them ensued and soon enough the set was over with little to show for it. The second act then took a more direct approach and stood on one of the empty chairs at the front as an improvised stage to take on the rapidly cooling collective.

Ten minutes on and things had got somewhat combative with words like “twat” thrown out and then apologised for. The already belligerent students walked out just in time to miss some really decent sets that followed – albeit with an audience of acts plus three thoroughly lost but friendly strangers. By the time my set rolled around in the second half I was shouting into an abyss – having shell shocked those left with a backing tracking initially broadcasting at the level of a personal attack alarm. Chelsea Hart rounded things of neatly and all that was left to do was some improvised musical composition with Sam’s loop pedal and an Uber home.

Strange night but I’d do it again.

Bear Jokes, Pub on the Park (12.1.17)

Sleet and snow isn't exactly the weather you want when running a night but I was optimistic as I brought my frostbitten fingers into the pub and put up the posters in a fumbling manner. The line-up was strong, the room looked good and the pub had enough people sheltering from the cold to provide some kind of audience if they hours of social media plugging and time spend listing amounted to nothing at all.

I opened by airing Crisis of Conscience for the first time in ages and the small but enthusiastic audience punch the air in the necessary manner. A couple who'd been dining downstairs prior to the show stayed amused the whole night whilst another couple grinned constantly whilst curled up on one of the sofas. Of all the acts, Fiona Ridgewell and Konstantin Kisen did particularly well and a a no-show from one acts ensured we finished promptly at 10pm.

Unlike previous Bear Jokes events I'm now venturing into talking to the audience between acts to some degree in preparation for an August of MCing Edinburgh Clash of the Tight-Tens. Thus far the jokes are still reserved purely for the songs but I'm certainly improving on including the audience and making them feel welcome. Even if my most astute bit of observation was that two of them were wearing scarves...