I had been looking forward to “An Actually Rather Good Comedy Festival” for some time, but annoyingly managed to be late. I had planned to meet Heather, Neal, Sarah and Jack, and as I got to the venue Nadia was just arriving too. I caught the end of James W Smith who seemed to be going down pretty well. It’s not often you hear fisting material before lunch time, but we dealt with it.
At the end of the first set I saw Neal so we went outside and were joined by the always awesome Lou Sanders who was compering upstairs. It’s always nice to bump into Lou (one of the most enthusiastic and so far unrecognised comedians on the circuit – remember – she will soon be a star!) We were joined by everyone I was supposed to be meeting and we went through our viewing schedules with each other
ArgComFest was held in the Kings Cross Social Club, a venue I had not heard of before but after looking at Google Streetview realised it was an old gay pub, previously known as The Golden Lion. It had only really worked for a couple of years before changing hands. It’s a pretty nice venue, though the main stage could have done with a bit more lighting, as from my position at the back of the bar, and having just come in from the bright outdoors, the first comedian was not much more than a silhouette on stage.
Neal and I followed Lou upstairs where we caught Stuart Laws. I had never come across him before, and he was immediately likeable. He clearly does a lot of compering as his style had a lot of audience interaction, skilfully done. He talked about alpha and omega males, and pointed out Cliff, a blue and black haired alternative looking type and asked him if he was the big spoon. It took me a while to work it out, and of course he was talking about who was behind and who was in front in a “spooning” situation. After helping Stuart fence him off with a coffee table I returned to my seat beside Neal. He obviously cast Neal as the big spoon, leaving me as the little one in the scenario. Later I had to be a mixing bowl on stage while another “little spoon” had to suck all the chocolate milk out of it. I liked Stuart a lot and will definitely be seeing him again, hopefully before we all go on holiday to Centre Parcs together.
I went back downstairs, as next up was Michael Legge. You might have thought I’d seen Michael enough lately at Private Hell, but as he explained at the last one, it hadn’t really worked for him as compering a gig is no way to prepare for an hour long show so this was the first chance I had. Michael is at an early point in his show, still using sheets of notes, but no one minded. We all knew we were seeing previews. The story about his journey to a gig in Manchester costing him over £200 went down really well, and the punchline about Jamelia brought the biggest laugh of the festival so far. Michael improvised a line about an “exciting watch” and wanted to remember it, so Michael, if you’re reading this, write it down.
Footlights sketch groups “Sheeps” were next on. I took a spot near the door at the bar beside Michael. I always worry about acts I have never seen before, especially sketch groups, but it didn’t take me long to get on board with their tales of how their sketch group formed and about their THUMP THUMP THUMP… what was that? Sorry, it didn’t take me long to get on THUMP THUMP THUMP. Eh? .. about their trip to Hollywood. Upstairs there was a constant banging. But James Acaster was upstairs. What the hell was going on. I told Michael I was going to investigate, climbed the stairs and and as I got to the top, it had just ended and there was a big round of applause. I went downstairs and told Michael I had told him to shut the fuck up! I’m still not sure what he was up to but for such a slight man he made such a lot of noise. In the end, for me, Sheeps had a bit of a Trap vibe to them and I’m sure they’ll be on BBC3 soon (That is not an insult by the way!)
The day was going really well, but every now and then a guy in a grey t-shirt would shout something out. I wouldn’t even call it heckling. He was just saying stuff. Rob was getting annoyed about it and we chatted about it in the break. I hadn’t actually heard anything at this time, but though I would keep a look out. He was sitting with 2 friends. But back to him later.
I have never seen Pappy’s before apart from a drunken half an hour at All Day Edinburgh a year ago. (They were drunk, I was drunk, so my memories of them weren’t that sharp). I am a big fan of Flatshare Slamdown so decided to watch them. I was originally going to see Sara Pascoe but I have seen her quite a few times before. This was Pappy’s “Last Ever Show” and they came out as old men, trying to get the sketch group back together and relating their memories to each other. I was really enjoying them, but it was very important that I take a break for a bite to eat and 2 arguments.
I went to Kings Cross station to claim my free “O2 Priority Moments” Delice de France sandwich and drink. The only rule was it had to be between 12 and 6pm. But by the time I got to the station, the guy behind the counter had added his own rule – not on a Sunday. I argued with him but to no avail. I had picked a nice brie, bacon and spinach panini and was looking forward to it. I should have just bought it, but I wanted to make a point so I went to the Burger King beside it. That would teach him. I ordered a more expensive and much more shit Chicken Royale meal (£5.99). The guy asked me what I wanted to drink. I said I was fine for a drink and he whacked the price up to £6.08! After another argument with the manager I agreed to take a drink and he gave me my 9p back. I dramatically placed my drink on the counter and left. Again, that’ll teach him.
I got back to the venue but still had some chips to eat so I chatted to the lovely bouncer outside. He seemed to be enjoying the day as he wasn’t used to doing comedy gigs and I think must have been used to rougher events and kicking a lot of people out. In fact at the start of the day Lou Sanders had been making a lot of noise upstairs and he thought something had kicked off and got halfway up the stairs to sort it out!
I caught the end of Pappy’s and found a marriage going on between one Pappy and an audience member. Back in their old men characters, a voice rang out from the audience “Poor old bastard”. Off stage, I heard the guys say “Did he say poor old bastard?” but they continued the show and it was soon over. I got chatting to Thom Tuck outside and he was growing tired of this pseudo heckler too and vowed to destroy him.
I stayed on for Thom, missing the highly recommended Claudia O’Doherty upstairs. This year, Thom’s set seems a lot more stand up based, and much looser than last year’s show about straight to DVD Disney films. He was storming out. Then the voice rang out again. Thom gave him both barrels and a normal person may have got embarrassed and shut up by then. But no. He piped up just as Thom’s set was coming to its end. Thom’s anger was pouring out of his mouth directed at this dick. We never got to see Thom put his legs behind his head as we had been promised. I do think that this guy should have been told to leave by this point as he had been trying to wreck a few sets already. I went over to him where his 2 “friends” were asking him why he was being such a cunt. It turns out they just happened to be sitting together. I asked him if he could please not say anything during the next act. he seemed genuinely bemused. “But why is no one heckling?” I told him it was because all the acts were really good, and they were putting a lot of effort into getting their shows ready for Edinburgh, and that what he was doing is very disrespectful to both the acts and the audience. We had paid money to see funny people on stage, not to hear his idiotic utterances.
Stuart Laws was compering now, and I was at the bar beside Neal, and the next act, Tony Law. “What’s better than going to your fridge and finding an extra ham in it?” he said. “I’m Jewish you arsehole” came the response. not form the original dick, but from a new one. Thankfully he soon shut up, and once I saw Tony make him laugh I knew it was going to be OK. I never get tired of seeing Tony Law. With his tales of 2 elephants walking into a bar told from both the human and elephant angles, together with some outrageous accents, he stormed it. I was sad that he didn’t bring along his horse Tuppence, but after chatting to Tony afterwards, he will be back for The Fringe. Tony was asking Jack and I for some feedback about the end of the show, but what do we know? I think our “advice” was just “the more elephants the better”
Jack and I arrived just slightly late for Bridget Christie. She is continuing to work on her War Donkey show, but sadly no donkey costume or inflatable fat suit. This was a real “proper” preview with ticks and crosses and maybes being made after every joke. And her idea for the end of the show involving childbirth, donkey breastfeeding and a man with a fart machine is going to be astonishing when it happens…
And finally, there was Colin Hoult. I know him mainly for his role in Gutted, but I have seen him once or twice before. And he stormed it. With a suitably horrific opening combined with lots of characters, including the army veteran who was writing his “Hostel” type film, where I was chosen to play Mr Giggles – giggle giggle. A guy turned up late and was picked on. He didn’t want to get involved but Colin insisted. He was in his karate expert character, and eventually he got him on stage for a martial arts lesson. I can’t say what happens next though as it would be a massive spoiler.