Thing of the week: Comedy

We found ourselves in London on Saturday evening. Being at a bit of a loose end, and in search of cheap entertainment, we decided to visit a comedy club. We’ve been to The Comedy Store before and really enjoyed it, but I didn’t recognise anybody on the bill this time and the ticket prices seem to have crept up a bit since the last time we visited. Looking bit further afield, I discovered Chris McCausland was headlining at a small comedy club called “The Funny Side…”, somewhere near Covent Garden. I’d heard Chris perform on a Richard Herring podcast last year, been really impressed by his “5 Petes in our pub” routine, and had made a mental note to check him out if the opportunity ever arose. Tickets were only £12.50. Sorted!

“The Funny Side of Covent Garden” is situated on an upper floor of a nice old pub called The George, on the junction of The Strand and Fleet Street. It’s maybe a bit of a stretch putting “Covent Garden” in the name, since it’s just over half a mile / 10 minutes walk from the market itself … but, hey, I’m not a local, what do I know? 🙂 … it was pretty easy to find anyway.

The club is fairly cosy, and seats about 80 (not sure where I pulled that number from — think I must’ve seen it on their website). They don’t issue physical tickets; a booking via the web site gets you added to the evening’s guest list, and your name is checked at the door. The staff were really friendly, and showed us to our seats upon arrival. There’s a bar at the back of the room (£6 for a pint of guinness and a half of coke — eek!), though you need to have your hand stamped to exit the room if you need to venture out to the toilets(!)

The stand-up night follows the standard formula of 3 acts and a compere. The night we visited was hosted by Jonny Freeman. I have to admit, I’d never heard of him before, but apparently he appears in a kids TV show about spies, and this is him looking a bit like Nick Cave and advertising Trebor mints:

He was a really, really good compere; very quick-witted, brilliant at bantering with the audience, and a natural host. I was totally impressed… impressed to a degree where you think: “we’ll probably be sitting on the sofa watching this guy on telly one day, and turn to each other and say – hey, remember that time we saw this guy in that back room of that pub, before he got hugely famous?”. Good stuff. He certainly seems destined for big things.

First act on the bill was Rhodri Rhys. His set was a bit of a mixed bag, and he probably didn’t endear himself by opening with a line about “It’s so good to be back in civilisation, I was in Middlesbrough last week…” before going on to mock the ways of simple Northerners. He then moved into self-deprecating material about the Welsh (sex with sheep. yawn.) and some semi-misogynistic stuff about the prettiness (or lack thereof) of Welsh girls. The set improved later, with some observational comedy about Dinner Parties, Mountain Climbing and Nudism festivals… but never quite hit the mark for me. Not an awful routine, by any stretch, but I guess a lot of it just wasn’t _quite_ my kind of humour.

Second on the bill was Roger Monkhouse, who was brilliant. My favourite act of the night. There seems to be precious little of him online, but here’s a snippet from YouTube:

His routine mostly covered the woes of being a middle aged male, the bleakness of the economic situation and other depressing things like that… but delivered in a disarmingly warm, likeable, and irresistibly-genial sort of way, with a healthy amount of audience interaction and quick-witted improvisation. His slot seemed to fly by — was it really as long as the other two guys?? I’m definitely going to keep my eyes open for a chance to see him again.

And finally, Chris McCausland, whose routine about “5 petes in my pub” was instrumental in convincing us to go to this particular club on this particular night… and which he rather obligingly opened his show with:

McCausland is — apparently — the only professional comedian in the UK who is blind… but while his disability is referenced in a fair bit of his material, it never feels like it’s the overbearing feature of the comedy, or like the guy is specifically trading on being “THE blind comedian”. He’s just a really good observational comedian, who also happens to be blind. He’s got an engaging, warm style of delivery, and the set was highly enjoyable. Good headliner. And the 5 Petes thing still made me laugh the second time around 🙂

Verdict: An excellent night out, and very reasonably-priced… I’ll definitely consider another visit when we’re back in the city.

Best bit: Roger Monkhouse.

Worst bit: Wooden dining chairs which felt a little bit hard after a couple of hours, and the fact that the (rather large) lady sat to my right had a buttock encroaching onto my seat for at least two thirds of the show. Awkward! :S

Official Web Site: The Funny Side of Covent Garden

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