ARG has quickly become one of my favourite weekends of the year and I had been looking forward to this day for a long time. (You can read my blurb about ARG 2012 and ARG 2013 by clicking the links) I had spent quite sometime looking at the schedules and had quite a bit of difficulty in deciding what to see. Eventually I came up with a definitive list (subject to change on a whim) and off I went.
I started the day in Wetherspoons with one of their cheap and crappy breakfasts along with one of their cheap and surprisingly nice lattes before heading to the queue to get my wristband strapped on.
In the queue I met Sarah and Neal and we were soon joined by Twon (who had to leave pretty early cos the poor lamb was suffering with some sort of lurgy. He did promise to be there on Sunday though.). Eventually the queue started moving and I saw my first comedy moment of the day. A woman approaching the queue to see what was going on, then getting her heel stuck in the pavement and doing a lovely little dance. It was hard to stop myself laughing and I didn’t. She was nice though.
We were near the front of the queue so I headed to the bar and got served quickly. I turned round after hearing my name and it was Dom, a reasonably new Twitter friend who had trekked down from Hull. He had brought his friend Michael along, who wasn’t particularly a comedy fan. I could eventually see this due to his different reactions to the straight forward stand ups and the more left field acts.
Cariad and Paul were on first. They were an improv pairing who built a story up around many scenes, the first of which was based on a one word suggestion from the audience. Cheese. This eventually meandered through pig slaughter, poison production, and a true love story, ending up with the death of Cariad’s boy character, Meaty, and ended on Halloumi, bringing us back to where we started.
Andrew Maxwell was arguably the biggest name act of the Saturday and he didn’t disappoint. There was a serious looking security guard in the corner who Andrew spotted smiling at one of his gags and from then on kept referring back to him and how cute he looked when he smiles like a chipmunk. He spoke about Scottish independence and wasn’t scared to take the piss out of the SNP. It will be interesting to see how this goes down at Edinburgh festival.
|Adam Riches and The Great Popcorno (aka Dom)|
I had never seen Adam Riches before, but had heard lots of good things about him. I headed upstairs for the first time and found the room packed with people watching Liam Williams. I caught the tail end of his set but not enough to work out what was going on! Adam came on as Sean Bean first, and unveiled a few different characters along the way. As Sean he brought on his chair/horse and asked one of the audience members to bring their horse up too. This culminated with 4 men sitting between each others legs and playing each others hair as a musical instrument.
He was a mixologist and he pointed to Michael’s and my drink. Dom had to open his mouth and we each poured a little of our drinks into his mouth before Adam garnished it with a banana and a couple of straws. Later Dom was called up to be The Great Popcorno, which involved him lying mouth open in front of a popcorn machine. Unfortunately the machine was faulty and we never got to see its full glory.
A latecomer was brought on to the stage to be tattooed by Adam (with electric toothbrushes and crayons strapped to his hands and ended up over Adam’s knee as the “blood” spurted everywhere. Sometimes audience participation is terrifying, but Adam, who uses it a lot, knows exactly what he is doing. The whole thing is pure fun and joyous without any humiliation. Well, apart from to Adam of course!
|John Luke Roberts|
Back downstairs we saw Joel Dommett. I had seen him a couple of times before and it’s hard not to be drawn in to his cheeky smiley face. He, perhaps foolishly, gave an audience member the remote control to his confetti cannon, and freedom to choose exactly when to set it off. Now there was some peril. And did the audience member choose the right moment? Well… no not quite!
Joel’s face was also a delight when he played us some of the recordings by his old band Psirus, as well as a rap that he had written at the worrying age of 20. Psirus were partially reunited using an audience member in a boiler suit / balaclava combination as a replacement for their drummer who they don’t see eye to eye with.
I’m a big fan of The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society (ACMS) which is run by Thom Tuck and John Luke Roberts, and it was these two we went upstairs to see next. Thom’s new show touches a lot on maths and is called the square root of -1. Thom tries to speak to all the audience at this show which was rather impossible today due to the larger audience than normal. Perhaps he should restrict it to the first two rows/ Anyway we had to complete the sentence “I am…”, which then gives Thom the freedom to riff on however we choose to describe ourselves.
John Luke, with no beard and no glasses these days looks a lot younger than when I last saw him. He recreated his girlfriend splitting up with him by having the front row swear, slap and shout at him before throwing a glass of water in his face. Covering his wet face with flour he clambered amongst the audience, bemusing and scaring them all at once, before finally getting an audience member to clean his face. Then the dinosaur appeared and things got weirder! Go and see Thom and John Luke. They are a lot of fun!
|Jonny & the Baptists|
Baptists who, to me, are a cross between Tenacious D and Topping and Butch. There was a lot of UKIP material which went down well, where we learned an alternative meaning of the word “Farage” (with emphasis on the first syllable) There were also regular reprises of their short and filthy “Buckets…” song. They ended the gig to a massive round of applause with their song “Boom”.
I decided to stay downstairs for Nish Kumar, and what a show it was! I have never seen Nish be this funny before and the whole room was absolutely loving it. Again he got the security guard involved in the show and spoke about his old manager asking him not to speak about race so much in case it alienated the crowd. The show ended by… actually I won’t tell you cos I think it’s a pretty nice surprise when you see this in Edinburgh.
After meeting Dom at Wetherspoons for a massive breakfast we headed back to The Garage for another day of ARGing. We reunited with Neal inside and got a seat at the front for Rachel Parris. I have seen her a number of times and she has always been ace. I’m not particularly a musical comedy fan, but she has framed the show in Vegas and has a host of characters performing in the show. There has been a lot of thought gone into this as well as talent! She played a liberal country and western singer, a middle-class mummy’s boy “Coldplay” type, and the beautiful diva headline act which climaxed with her song “I’m amazing”
We moved upstairs and saw Lucy Beaumont. She was probably a more traditional comic who reminded me a little bit of Victoria Wood, with her world of characters (or perhaps real life friends, it was hard to decide). She comes from Hull and plays a lot on the difference between life in Hull and life down south. Lou Sanders was compering this section which is always a blast, and she regaled us with her erotic stories, and eventually her fruit and vegetable calendar she has produced to fund her Edinburgh show.
We heard Michael Legge and Robin Ince arrive before we saw them, as is often the case. I could over hear them bellowing at each other at the back of the room (the show hadn’t yet started) as a situation was developing at the bar between a very arrogant barman and a girl who was rightfully complaining that her coke was flat. “That’s how we serve it” said the idiot bar man. Anyway, Robin and Michael’s arrival cheered me up from this boring and we retook our seats. Some of the audience suggestions tonight were slightly over ripe avocados, atriums, and of course Mrs Brown’s Boys made an appearance due to O’Carroll’s defence of his Mr Wang character. I always love this show (Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire, not Mrs Brown’s Boys). It’s so remarkably silly, and I also love the idea that some people might come along because they are science geeks and have heard Robin with his other double act partner, Brian Cox, and are expecting an intellectual show, whereas instead they get an hour of constant exaggerated fury! Boys, it would be great if these could be put out as podcasts!
Many of you will listen to the brilliant Comedian’s Comedian podcast, presented by Stuart Goldsmith, where he chats in depth to comedians about their writing processes and such like. Well he was on downstairs next and the compere eventually managed to get the crowd to move to the front. I still don’t know why comedy audiences (especially proper comedy fans) still seem scared to sit at the front. Anyway he spent a lot of the time speaking about his broodiness and eventually dedicated the show to his Scottish granny who keeps going on no matter what life throws at her. We did get a little secret bit that Stuart says won’t go into his show cos it is too hacky, but he has worked out which combination of people he looks like. A mixture of a children’s TV presenter and “your brother’s friend”. Great stuff!
I headed back to ‘spoons (as all the cool kids call it) and ordered a massive roast to see me through the rest of the day. Of course it was awful, but but was cheap and big. This led me to miss most of Sara Pascoe‘s set which was a shame. I joined Dom, Neal and Michael at the back and really enjoyed the last 10 minutes anyway!
I have seen David Trent a couple of times before now doing sections of his show but as yet haven’t seen more than 20 minutes at a time so I was really looking forward to this. For those who don’t know, David is Nick Helm‘s hairy guitarist. This is a very visual show with most material being projected. He deconstructs Blurred Lines brilliantly as well as looking at the work of hype man DJ Lock from Rudimental. But the highlight for me is his commentary over Nick Griffin’s BNP cookery show. It almost didn’t need any input from David at all!
We spotted a lot of off duty comics arriving. Nick Doody (who ended up performing at ACMS later), Nick Helm, Henning Wehn and Matt Kirshen were hanging out. Dom and I ended up chatting with Helm about his upcoming TV show “Heavy Entertainment” which I have seen two recordings of. And guys it is going to be amazing!
Bridget Christie was the first comic to use the main higher stage as she believed that audiences don’t like
being lit. It wasn’t that she wanted to be far away from us. This led her to having to clamber onto it like a toddler which made for a great entrance. Her new show “An Ungrateful Woman” looks like a natural follow up to last year’s award winning show, and although still in primitive form at the moment is shaping up to be another great one. As often is the case with Bridget in preview she ad-libbed a lot of lines, and when they worked she would suddenly look delighted and take a few seconds out to scribble them in her notes. The almost throwaway line where she calls her husband a racist was one of the funniest individual lines of the weekend.
To end the night we had ACMS (The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society). This is usually hosted by John Luke Roberts and Thom Tuck but tonight Thom couldn’t make it so Jonny and the Baptists took his place. Lou came on to do her erotic stories and fruit and veg calendar material again. She asked for people’s birthday’s and read out the entry in the calendar for that month. She hadn’t pointed out it was a fruit and veg based calendar which led to some confusion though, so I felt the need to point this out (even though it was not on the list of permitted heckles)
Nick Doody did a few minutes about the perils of buying a hammer and how to transport it home if you don’t have a bag and Alex Edelman joined us for some experimental stuff. By this time, Thom arrived, resplendent in his cricket whites, fresh from the match that he had (genuinely) played. We got more short sets from Josie Long and Grainne Maguire, and soon ARGComFest 2014 was at an end.
Big thanks to James Lowey and the ARG team for putting this show on. Since it started in 2012 it has grown
from year to year. This was a nice sized venue though and hope to be back here next year.
The McH award this year goes jointly to Adam Riches and Robin Ince & Michael Legge. There is no money or trophy involved, but give yourselves a pat on the back guys! Of course we are all winners here, so don’t be downhearted if you didn’t win this esteemed award this year. Roll on 2015!