This was my first visit to The Comedy Store in Manchester to see stand-up and what a joy it was. From the outside it looks very unassuming apart from the famous logo dominating it frontage, yet the moment you step through the door it becomes Tardis like with a large 500 seat auditorium and upstairs and downstairs bar areas. I was there to watch King Gong where the idea of the show is for members of the public to have their 5 minutes of fame on the famous Comedy Store stage delivering up to 5 minutes of material.

Sounds easy? Well not quite. Our compere for the evening Paul Thorne handed out 3 over sized red cards to various members of the audience on the front row. Their job was to gauge the reaction of the near capacity audience during each performance and when they could take no more raise the card. Three red cards and you’re off! If anyone lasts five minutes without being red carded then they are invited to the final later in the evening.

28 people last night entered the comedic gladiatorial arena to do battle and they ranged from the sublime to the quite honestly ridiculous. We had a comedy magician (Magic Matt) who was neither, Edward dressed up for the occasion in a full dinner jacket and bow tie, Russell, a ventriloquist whose mouth moved more than his puppets, Ross who turned up in his coat and rucksack, seemingly passing through on a walking holiday and a camp pirate going by the name of George! These were the less prepared of the night and all lasted a matter of a couple of minutes at the very most before being sent back to their seats after seeing triple red.

There was however some quality up on the stage. Peter complete with guitar, sang a song about his girlfriend and antici………pation in a masterclass of delay tactics to try and get the clock to five minutes. Adam, seemingly having had one too many lemonades at the bar launched into an angry yet passionate rant about a multitude of things whilst dealing expertly with an over exuberant heckler from the back of the room. Liverpudlian Michael braved the Manchester audience and was eventually welcomed with open arms. We also saw Graham who told us he suffered from cerebral palsy, Scottish Monty Burns who loudly addressed the crown as well as picking on various members of the audience and a dead-pan Simon, who looking like a bespectacled computer geek just out of puberty. All six of these made it to the final.

The aforementioned final consisted of each of the six finalists performing a one minute joke off. Most made their time although a few (who shall remain nameless) didn’t even make the 60 second mark. From that the audience decided the top two via applause, cheers and whoops with the two loudest going through to the final clap-off. Our final two this evening were Simon and Adam, who in my opinion were the wrong two. I would have chosen Monty and Adam, but the masses had the vote, not me on my own.

In the final clap-off Adam was crowned the winner of the night and took away £50 in prize money, an open-spot at The Comedy Store on a future night and probably most importantly a glitter encrusted golden crown (knocked up by the office staff in a spare 3 minutes). Again I did not agree with the result with Simon in my view winning hands down on the night. His delivery and ability to make the audience laugh just by standing there was genius, Simon you were robbed!

Holding the whole night together was compere and host Paul Thorne who was nothing short of superb. Never was there any doubt who was in charge and his razor sharp wit ensured hecklers and other ‘loud’ patrons were dealt with swiftly and at times brutally. His short routines at the start of each half were well crafted and on the money.

King Gong was like nothing I have seen before and quite frankly I cannot wait to go back again. With an entrance fee from just £6.00 you will not see a better night’s comedy for that price. Sure, some of the jokes were very near to the knuckle but the vocal audience soon helped those on stage find the level.

I must finish by complimenting The Comedy Store staff. From the moment I walked in to collect my tickets, to the meal I had prior to the performance, to being seated in our reserved seats and being checked on at the interval to see everything was OK was a breath of fresh air. Customer service and courtesy doesn’t cost anything to provide and to be on the receiving end of it in bucket loads last night certainly made a great night even greater.

Reviewer: Paul Downham

Reviewed: 7th February 2016