Once again I received a lovely warm welcome from all the helpful and cheery staff in this spacious and modern venue.
Normally for their Best In Stand-up events there is an a la carte menu, but on Sundays the Comedy Store make pizza! So last night the pizza menu was out, and although it doesn't offer a huge choice of toppings, the price is very reasonable and even more so if you buy a 'Meal Deal' with your ticket which also books you a reserved seat in the theatre too. There is a well stocked bar, but they don't offer hot beverages; however, I did ask if they could make me a cup of tea (as I had seen staff brewing up for themselves) and they willingly and happily obliged.
This was Easter Sunday, a day that I had thought might actually be quite quiet. How wrong I was. The stage level seating was full with even a few on the balcony, proving that comedy is big and serious business.
I don't think though that I will ever be able to reconcile myself to audience members bringing enormous jugs of beer into the auditorium and glass bottles of alcohol of all varieties, as well as just getting up and going to the bar or toilet just whenever the mood takes them regardless of what is happening on stage. Coming from a theatre background I find this behaviour most disrespectful and off-putting. However the comedians are used to this and for them I assume it must be normal and acceptable.
The other thing which, again because of my background I suspect, really irritated me was that the show didn't actually start at the advertised time, and the interval wasn't the length it was supposed to be. Time is a notional fluid. Advertised as a 7:30pm start, no-one seemed in the slightest concerned that they only decided to close the doors and dim the lights at 7:45pm, and even then some still walked out to the bar for more drinks. And the interval is advertised as 15 or 20 minutes... so even the compere couldn't decide! It was 32 minutes. I only mention this because if, like me, you live a distance away from the Comedy Store and you have to rely on public transport on a Bank Holiday, then every second counts.
However, now to the comedians themselves.
Last night saw four men take the stage; the MC - or Compere as they like to call it - and three acts. What amazed me more than anything was the similarity of all their material. There were other little bits thrown in the mix too, but basically all four talked and made jokes about two main subjects, and two sub-subjects. The first of these was getting old. All four of them mentioned their age, and how 'at a certain age' or 'when you get to my time of life' etc, and then processed to try and be funny on that premise; some with more success than others. The second was marriage and fatherhood. Again all four mentioned this topic and brought their own version of married life and / or being a dad into their set. These two main themes were peppered with liberal sprinklings of two other subjects; the first being food. Again, all four managed somehow to bring this topic up and one even made a whole routine about how fussy an eater he was. And finally, all four again made reference to a party of young Dutch men on the front row, who took the whole evening on the chin, but they really must have been a little fed up with EVERY comedian making reference to them.
What was interesting about this was that with very similar material, rather than actually laughing myself, I tried to watch and judge the audience reactions to what were basically similar jokes but told in very different ways. And the audience gave their greatest appreciation to Jason Cook; and I have to admit, he was the funniest last night.
The compere was Toby Hadoke, and sandwiched either side of Cook were Danny McLoughlin, and the headline act of the evening, Alun Cochrane.
This basically gave you a very nice mathematical equation of A+L+AN=A+L. I'll let you all puzzle over that for a minute.. Ok, enough, now I'll explain!! A is 'angry'; L is 'laid-back' and AN is 'animated'. Hadoke's style, at least last night was to get very angry with life and his lot, while McLoughlin was laid -back and soothing, leaving the end of the first act with a very animated and energetic Cook. The second half started with an even more angry rant from Hadoke before the waters calmed completely for the dead-pan style of Cochrane; who, if he had been any more laid back he'd have been on the floor. In his own words, he is not a natural ray of sunshine.
I really like the Comedy Store, and I love a good laugh - who doesn't?! - But one things puts me off venturing there, or indeed any similar venue, on a regular basis; the swearing. Watching family friendly comedy on TV is great, but nothing can compare with the live atmosphere and the ad libs of a live gig. However, I really and truly do not understand why every comedian seems to think that dropping the F-bomb and using many other swear words in their everyday speech on stage is acceptable. It simply isn't. I don't like it, and never have done. Even Alun Cochrane, whom I knew only from a couple of TV appearances, was not immune from this and as such was not anywhere near as good live. Remove the profanities and let the material stand up in its own right. A joke is funny without it, honestly!
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 27th March 2016