tim key – megadate, arcola theatre

img_20180124_193715.jpgI’ve seen Tim Key a couple of times before, but he’s always been supporting, so I was pretty excited about seeing him do a whole show – but had no idea what to expect.

Poems – irreverent, slightly surreal, exceedingly funny poems – I guess that was what I was expecting. And he didn’t disappoint.

But this was so much more than that. There was an actual story, there were silent micro-films peppering it, there were costume changes, a bit of audience participation and just general good humour and real heartfelt laughs.

The Arcola Theatre is a great venue for this kind of comedy as it’s intimate but you can hide a bit if you don’t want to be picked out.

I’ve been recommending the show to all my mates, only to find out that the run has completely sold out. But I believe he’s going to be touring the show – so keep an eye out for dates – it’s a must-see!

Check this out for some typical Tim Key poetry. Or maybe this one for something a bit ‘lighter’!

(PS – the photo of the poster is a rolling projection, that went round about 15 shows…and that’s actually Tim Key about to walk past it! I wasn’t even TRYING to get that shot!)

alex horne – ‘monsieur butterfly’, pleasance theatre (islington)

Alex Horne – Monsieur Butterfly

I love Edinburgh preview shows. There are some fantastic ones which are really cheap, as they are always a ‘Work In Progress’. I’m lucky that my local pub, Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub has the fabulous Red Imp Comedy Club that plays host to many acts. But, there are shows going on all over London, and one of the busiest is the brilliant Pleasance Theatre just off of Caledonian Road. It has a twin in Edinburgh, so it’s hardly surprising.

Being so busy recently, I’ve only been able to book to see a couple of shows, but last week saw Alex Horne (minus his Horne Section this time). If you don’t listen to Radio 4, you may not yet have heard of Alex Horne. The Horne Section mixes a 5 piece lounge band with comedy. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it works in an irresistible, innocent silly way.

So, Monsieur Butterfly is more of the same but with an absence of musicians.

The show was in The Pleasance’s Stage Space, which is undeniably tiny – it can’t hold more than about 30 people. But this gave the show an intimacy which Alex Horne works really with. His amiable, easy-going inclusive nature meant that even though there was some audience participation necessary – it wasn’t as if anyone was worried that they would have been made to look stupid, the participants really felt like they were helping him out – and for the first time EVER at a comedy show, I wished that *I* had been one of the people picked! I’m usually one of those that wants to sit at the back, just in case…

I don’t want to give too much away about the actual theme of the show, as it’s a pretty ingenious idea, but suffice to say that the audience was entranced, and on absolute tenterhooks willing Alex on to a successful climax – the tension in the air was palpable. We were all rooting for him!

However, a successful climax (ooer) wasn’t the be all and end all, it was the journey. The show was peppered with little anecdotes, childhood stories and very amusing set-ups.

I see quite a lot of comedy shows, but I have to say that there was one particular moment that was SO silly that I really did worry that I was going to leak! It was extremely simple, but so well delivered, complete with audience participation, and the entire place erupted, and took ages to settle down.

At only about 50 minutes long, and just £5 at The Pleasance (playing again next Wednesday – 25th June), I really recommend that you get a ticket if you can…or catch him in Edinburgh of course!

(Edit: Have just seen that he’s also on at The Bowler Hat in St Paul’s next Friday, June 27th – but that is £15, although Time Out are currently offering half-price tickets)

beardyman, comedy cafe

Beardyman improvises 'Release The Midget'
Beardyman improvises ‘Release The Midget’

I’ve seen the brilliant Beardyman (beatboxer extraordinaire!) three or four times over the years.  I think the first time was at Lovebox when he did a fantastic medley of Groove Armada songs.

I have a real soft spot for beatboxing, but he remains my favourite.  So, when I spotted that he was doing a gig in Shoreditch where he will create a brand new album in an hour from suggestions from the audience, I was well in there!  Beatboxing and improv?  It’s like this was aimed specifically at me!

He was better than I could have imagined.  He took to the stage peddling his wares and had the crowd onside from the start.  He was engaging and FUNNY, and certainly gauged the audience right.

Aided by his ‘Beardytron5000MKII’ decks/mixer (?!) that enabled him to add many layers and textures to the brand new compositions as he went along (everything made up live on the spot), the only instrument other than his voice was an electric guitar that he used for a couple of ‘prog rock’ style tracks.

As well as that, we had songs in the style of Lionel Richie, Prince, rave, reggae (starring Rastamouse), his fantastic drum n bass, house and even a Britney Spears style pop track called Heatwave that he ended up having to break from after he caught himself dancing around and singing in a high-pitched voice.  He held his head in his hands and shouted at us for what we’d made him do.  Secretly, I think he might have enjoyed it a little.  Track names from the audience included Mousehead, Release The Midget, Strawberry Blue, Dragon Tears, Lyrical Spaceman and Chelsea Cocks.

As an additional treat, improvised graphics were expertly created by mr_hopkinson & asdescribed.net

Energy was high, beatboxing was incomparable, choons were awesome and there were huge laughs.

This was a warm-up for a show at the Edinburgh Fringe…so I highly recommend it if you’re going!

the school of night, king’s place


The School Of Night
The School Of Night

I mentioned quite recently how much I love King’s Place, and especially the improv comedy that we have seen there recently.

A couple of weeks ago we saw the fabulous ‘The School of Night‘.

All I had kind of taken from the listing was that this was going to be ‘improvised Shakespeare’. I know – I kept thinking “How on earth is improvised Shakespeare going to work AND be funny?” – I was tempted to apologise to my mate in advance for dragging him out to something so odd, but I didn’t…we only paid £9.50 after all, and everything’s an experience.

I really needn’t have worried. We were in stitches throughout. This was exceedingly clever comedy. The very first ‘act’ saw the players takng random books from the audience, and getting another audience member to pick a page to start reading from.  The player started reading, and then after a couple of minutes, the book was taken away, and they carried on narrating in the same style. You simply couldn’t tell at which point they had stopped reading and started improvising. Clever stuff!

Our Shakespeare play, formed from suggestions shouted from the audience featured ‘a famous person’, which someone gave, “Scott of the Antartic” and they laughed and said that perhaps the antartic wasn’t very Shakespearian, so could we suggest somewhere else cold and grim. “Sunderland!” was the response. And somewhere he could be? “At a factory!” And what could the factory be making? And this was my moment! I actually had my suggestion woven into an improv comedy. “JAM!!”  And would this be a comedy, historical, a tragedy?  A tragedy decided the audience!

So, King Scott of Sunderland started off in a jam factory and ended up traversing the seas to the Antartic in a tragic Shakespearian tale.

And it was wonderful, it was hilarious, and it was indeed tragic. There were bad omens, ghosts, murder and odd comedic characters that you couldn’t understand what they were going on about, but were ripe with innuendo.  Perfect!

If you have half a brain (or preferably a whole one), make sure you get to see this fabulous troupe – they will not disappoint!  They are playing various festivals and of course the Edinburgh Fringe.  I hope they come back to London soon so I can see them again, and take ALL my friends 🙂

“confessions” by the maydays, king’s place

The Maydays

King’s Place has become quite a favourite venue of mine.  Not only is it very easy for me to get to both from work and to/from home, their two halls aren’t VERY big, and therefore all seats get a good view…and if you book online and are happy to be allocated a seat on the day ALL performances are just £9.50!


Due to this, I’ve already tried a couple of new things that I may not necessarily have come across – the D’arcylicious Austentatious (who we have since seen again elsewhere) and the excellent Storytellers’ Club.  I have also been regularly going to the amazing Not So Silent Movies on a Sunday afternoon – but more on that another time.

it seems to be a place to discover great improv comedy, as we found last week when we went along to enjoy The Maydays and their ‘Confessions’ show.

Audience members are invited to write down a confession which are then all placed in a pot on the stage.  Confessions can be anything – from stealing a penny sweet when you were six to cheating with your sister’s boyfriend (I think that did actually come up as a ‘what you could have had’ at the end.)

The troupe (ably assisted by not-Richard Vranch at the piano – I think his name was Joe) then improvise either a sketch, song or combination of both ON THE SPOT! WITH HARMONIES AND EVERYTHING!!

Some confessions are naturally more comedic than others, but it’s not necessarily the confession that secures the laughter.  One person on our night had written a confession that contained exstensive emoticons and exclamation marks etc and instead of concentrating just on the confession, they wove using emoticons verbally with other expressive noises into a sketch. and it was good. and we all laughed heartily!

In the final half, they invite someone to ‘confess’ in front of the audience, giving a bit more meat and background to their confession, and they then performed a series of sketches and songs based on that one confession. I think we were particularly lucky to have a meaty confession concerning drugs being brought back through border control on a coach after working in Holland for a few months.

There was a lot of mileage in that one – but, The Maydays didn’t actually just go for all the obvious ones, and sometimes they went off at such a tangent, you could see the troupe members who weren’t performing cracking up at what was going on at some points.

And I think that summed it up – they obviously know each other well, can read each other, love what they do and are bloody good at it!

They usually appear at the Leicester Square Theatre (same as Austentatious!) but will also be at the Brighton Fringe (as that’s where they’re based).  And they run Improv Comedy Classes too – how tempting is that!?

guffaw comedy club, rose & crown, e17

Guffaw Comedy Club 070313
Guffaw Comedy Club 7th  March 13

When I heard that Arthur Smith was going to be appearing at my very very local pub a couple of months ago, I bagged me and The Man a couple of tickets immediately.

I have been to a few of the gigs put on by lovely compere Susan Murray as part of the Guffaw Comedy Club at Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub – and I have seen some great stuff, including Richard Herring TWICE!

Susan Murray was on especially sparkling good form (perhaps because it was her birthday and her parents were in the audience – although we never heard/saw any evidence of said parents, so perhaps they were made up!).

Next was Grainne Maguire – Irish (obviously), self-deprecating, unique, extremely likeable, and ‘not very rude’ as she kept pointing out.  She actually had the audience in the palm of her hand, expertly playing us until we were almost weeping with laughter – a class act!

It seemed like there was going to be an Irish invasion, as next up was Rory O’Hanlon. Unfortunately, as it is now a week ago, I can’t remember much about Rory, which is rather embarrassing – but I know that he was very amusing.

Canadian Ryan Cull made a rather brief appearance next, and as happens often with foreign acts, he pointed out the funny things about us Brits – which is always completely hilarious.  He had a ready smile, and was quite cute – and he was only on for about 15 minutes…he couldn’t go wrong really, could he?

Finally, it was time for the main attraction, the wonderful grumpy old man that IS Arthur Smith – the Night Mayor of Balham (luckily I’d recently had my shots, so couldn’t catch anything from this particular specimen from South of the river!)  I have a real soft spot for Mr Smith (ooer) – grumpy old man he may be, he’s never ‘nasty’, and he’s got that voice, that wonderful gravelly voice.  Not only do a listen to that voice almost every night when I go to bed (he does the continuity for the Comedy Zone on Radio 7…10 til midnight – yeah, OK they now call it 4Extra, but it will alwyas be Radio 7 to me!) but I was once fortunate enough to talk to the man himself on the phone – back in about 1994. Oh how gooey I went at the sound of that voice!

Arthur was a wonderful mix of observations and old favourites chucked in for the kitsch factor.

I have to say, every single one of them hit the spot and made for a fantastic evening where I sniggered, chuckled and indeed guffawed happily.

I believe Stuart Lee and Richard Herring are due to appear in the summer, so we’ll be looking out for those!

storytellers’ club, king’s place

Storytellers’ Club

Because the lovely King’s Place does a fantastic online deal, where (if you don’t mind where you sit) any performance is only £9.50, I booked up a few things at once.

Storyteller’s Club was one such booking that I made. The brainchild of compere and storyteller (comedian) Sarah Benetto, it’s really a number of stand-up turns.  There is a ‘real fire’ (a static flame-effect electric heater thing) and each comedian relays one ‘story’.

A number of well known comedians have performed as part of the club night, and when I booked, Phil Jupitus was down as one of the line-up.

Unfortunately, a month before the night, I received an email stating that Phil Jupitus wouldn’t be appearing on the night. Although initially a little disappointed, I got over it in about 30 seconds, when I reminded myself that I only paid £9.50, and that Phil Kay was still going to be on! (Plus, I got to see Phil Jupitus in fine fettle the following week in Coalition).

Sarah Bennetto was the perfect Australian host, and kicked proceedings off.  We then had New York comedian Jamie Kilstein who told the story of his coming-of-age and change of relationship with his dad. He was likeable in a boyish not-too-annoying-New-Yorker kind of way 😀

Then we had Jamie Dowdeswell who told the story of a prank by one of the patrons of his dad’s pub.  His shaggy look went with his shaggy dog’s story and he was extremely personable.

Next up was Canadian comedian Phil Nichol – he is one of those people where I recognised the name but couldn’t place him at all.  then, when he came onto the stage, I thought “Ohhhh, him!”  His story was of a Japanese tourist that once befriended him.

Finally, Phil Kay who I once saw back in about 1997 when I think he was on the TV a lot. In fact, I think I saw a TV recording of a show he was doing.  I believe he might have been naked right at the beginning!

If anything, he has become even more mad, surreal and hilarious – a little like Billy Connolly on crack. No, not crack, on acid!  Fabulous, just fabulous!

I’ll definitely look out for another Storyteller Club night – it was a brilliant night out.

richard herring, rose & crown pub, e17

What is love anyway?

We’re very lucky in Walthamstow to have a great little arty, cultural and giggy community.

This was very much in evidence last night when the 4 day Guffaw Comedy Fest (part of the Edinburgh Fringe Warm-Up season) kicked off at Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub.  Unlike the last time I was there, it was packed to the rafters.  Probably about 140 moist little bodies squeezed into the hot, humid and airless ‘theatre’ room above the pub.  Surprisingly, I managed to count about 30 people that I knew too – rather a high percentage, I feel.

The heaving audience was hardly surprising considering the draw of the headline act – the undeniably hilarious Richard Herring!

However, I must not get ahead of myself as we were first treated to a trio called Jigsaw who performed a load of sketches for us.  I had personally never heard of them before, so was a little nervous as to what they would be like…but I have to admit, I thought they were brilliant and will definitely look out for them in the future.  I particularly liked ‘Christmas With The Schrödingers’, but there really were a whole host of little gems (not the lettuces). Here’s an example of their stuff.

Everyone disappeared to the bar in the interval (probably to get anything with ice like I ordered!) and Richard Herring started putting out copies of his programme on the seats (and it’s a very good programme btw!).  I probably should have got my copy signed, but had to rush off after the show 😦  (if Richard Herring happens to read this, can he please just send me his signature and I’ll trace it onto my copy 😀 ).

The show is ‘What Is Love Anyway?’ and I can’t actually put it any better than on his own website:

So asked the insane, Welsh, poet-philosopher, Howard Jones in 1983. But in the intervening 28 years no one has dared to answer his questions?
Until now.

Comedian Richard Herring returns to Edinburgh for his 20th Fringe and 32nd show. Having sorted out religion (Christ on a Bike), politics (Hitler Moustache) and penises (Talking Cock), the star of award winning podcast As It Occurs To Me and Radio 4’s Richard Herring’s Objective seeks to define and destroy love. Before love destroys him. Again.

Is love just a chemical reaction in our brains by which our body selects potential sexual partners or is it a magical force which guides us unerringly to our soul mate, oddly usually waiting until we’re off our tits at a night club to do so?

Could a romantic gesture involving Ferrero Rocher chocolates get so out of control as to destroy the economic infrastructure of the United Kingdom?

Is the word being devalued if Richard’s dry cleaner claims to “love” all his customers, or is he actually only enamoured with Herring and too shy to tell him directly?

“What is love, anyway?” is a heart-warmingly honest and personal examination of the romantic (and not so romantic) adventures and misadventures of the UK’s most prolific comedian, as well as a genuine attempt to define this mysterious, debilitating, evil and wondrous emotion.

Richard took us on a rollercoaster of a ride, laughing at his stories of his first love, cringing at his two very differing tales of love for Julia Sawalha and emotionally tugged with his love for his gran.  It was a brilliant, brilliant show – and this is just the warm-up – imagine what it’s going to be like once he’s polished it a bit more 🙂

If you get a chance to see him, do – you definitely wont be disappointed!

And for those that never watched Fist of Fun (or were just too young for the 90s!)

guffaw comedy club, rose & crown e17

Everyone likes a laugh, don't they?

So, I have been putting off writing this review from Thursday as I really wasn’t sure where to start.

Now that I have actually started, I realise that I was a bit unprepared as we saw four acts on the night, and I only remember the names of two of them, so I can’t even do a decent review!  What a rubbish blogger I really am!

The Guffaw Comedy Club has been at the Rose & Crown Theatre Pub in Walthamstow for a while now, but I had never been.  Thursday was the last night of the current season (apart from 4 nights in July where there is a fantastic line-up including Richard Herring) and so I was convinced to go along.

The two girls that I went with had been to every show bar one, and said that it had generally been good, and that the headline acts were always really good.  I hadn’t been upstairs into the theatre since they ripped out the bar – it makes a huge difference to the room.  And the removal of the overly sticky carpet has been a vast improvement too.  About 14 years ago, I used to do bar work over the R&C and I used to HATE having to work in the upstairs bar when there were functions!

Susan Murray is the compere/organiser for these shows and even though she’s been moaning about having a cold on Twitter, she seemed on great form  🙂  So, the first guy (whose name I don’t remember) came on.  He is actually from Walthamstow Village and I found him very amusing and personable.  I liked him!

Next was another one whose name I can’t remember.  He started off good, lost it a little in the middle I think, and then ended well with a song on his ukelele about stalking, which he sang to one of the girls I was with and which I found pretty funny.  He was right, dark, disturbing lyrics just become adorable ditties when you accompany them on a ukelele!

Then came Michael Kossew (see, I remembered a name!).  He actually started off really really well – a sketch about the verb ‘to Michael’ someone, which was really funny.  Then at some stage in the proceedings, he just seemed to get very very inappropriate.

Now, this is hard to explain.  I am not easy to shock.  I am not some kind of virginal ‘laydee’.  BUT, I think it can be very uncomfortable in such an intimate setting to be, well…intimate!  This is a pretty small room, and there were no more than about 20 in the audience, so, if you find something a little uncomfortable then there is nowhere to hide.  It’s all very in your face!   I am NOT a prude, but I almost felt like I was being forced to be.  He’d done really well, and then he said “Have I got time to tell one more story?”…and if he hadn’t, I would’ve thought he was brilliant!

So, that was a little uncomfortable and then we had the headline act – Ian Cognito.

Now, I hadn’t heard of him before, and I had NO idea what to expect (as I said before, I only went along at the last minute, so hadn’t really thoguht about who was on!).  The problem that I had with Ian isn’t that he wasn’t funny because some of his jokes were absolutely hilarious and I couldn’t help but laugh.

It was his delivery.  To put it quite bluntly, I felt a little scared!  He is sweary (which I can take), but he is also very shouty – and quite vitriolic.  Again, I can imagine that this would be fine in a large setting.  In fact, if this had been at a small theatre with an audience of a couple of hundred or so, I probably would’ve thought he was hysterical!

But it wasn’t.  It was a small room above a pub with an audience of around 20.  And he scared me!  He shouted, he went red in the face, he punched things and I was worried he was going to chuck his pint at us!

In reviews I’ve read of him since, he gets compared to the likes of Bill Hicks – and I can see that.  i just don’t want it completely in my face!

Talking to some others after, I think he split everyone pretty much boys/girls.  The guys seemed to absolutely love him and couldn’t understand why the girls hadn’t as much.  That was a new experience for me!

It was certainly an interesting night though – and it wont put me off going when the season starts again in October.  Comedy is so individual, so personal – and the girls have been to loads of nights that they thought were great…so, hey – who knows what we’ll get next time?!

(Well, actually, I know I’ll get Richard Herring…)

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