Thursday, 26 February 2009

UK Comedy Observations pt.4

On to part four. As the symbol for "four" means death in Chinese I shall be careful not to tread on the tiger's tail.

The Comedy Box is located in Bedminster, a southern adjunctive morsel of Bristol. It was a 5 minute walk along Raleigh road past the Tobacco Factory theatre. On the way there Tom had to stop for cigarettes and as we waited in line at the shop we were accosted by dishevellant man we had passed a moment ago outside, crouched in the street , furrow-browed, mumbling summat' about Britney Spears. Soon into his accostations, it became evident that he had been practicing his "crazy man" script when we first passed him by. It was an abstract rambling that related a dream about Britney Spears offering him her shoe. He was exceedingly pleased that I wasn't afraid of him and that I actually volunteered comments - we were privileged to have witnessed one of his first performances. It was a little nervous and wobbly around the edges but he did his best and the end result made me want to pat him encouragingly on the back like a child who'd just scraped out something tolerable on the violin.

We arrive at "the Box" which is located overtop a very casual and inviting student'y pub, the Hen and Chicken, good for a pint and a pizza. We were met by Steve Lount who was very accommodating and had a palpable enthusiasm for comedy, which is always a good sign. The room itself was most certainly a box, p'raps 25' x 55' with comedian’s posters decorating the walls with their blaring sameness. The room also had a moderate ceiling and no pillars so sightlines were perfect and at a glance, the sound system looked more than ample. The bar itself was set like a hole in the wall toward the back of the room and was announced only by those crowded in front. No neon beer signs, no glass-washer, in fact I don't remember even seeing a till. I am writing this several weeks after the event, and at this point I can’t recall the look of the tables and chairs, but I think that is how they would have liked it. The stage was a black ply slab and was backdropped with thick curtains, all that was necessary and nought that was not.

This was my Brit-debut as an m.c. -- also known as a host and, in the UK, a compere, which sounds to my ear, more like a dessert than a ringmaster. The same format I had observed in Norwich was observed here – the bar shut down and the house lights dropped. In fact, as the off-stage intro for the MC was given
all the lights were off and the place was so black I could barely make my way to the stage. The room was ¾ full and the crowd was enthusiastic and attentive. I engaged in some interaction, but mostly worked with material, which was received well. It felt as though the crowd found some of the more animated pieces arresting as well as amusing and there was a pervasive sense of admiration and appreciation that was coupled with the laughter and amusement aspect. If a line was particularly well tailored or clever the crowd would respond to that aspect specifically. I have experienced this in North America but not at such a palpable level. Comedy about history, science and philosophy flew well, but it was certainly not a room with an intellectual air at all, not a monocle to be seen, just 20 – 50 year olds of a relatively informal demeanor who seemed to really appreciate the art of comedy.

One of the best parts of the weekend was who I was working with, but after long and feverish negotiations I have agreed to save them for pt. 5.

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