Sunday, 31 January 2010
Disclaimer: Both the comic and promoter of the gig are very good friends of mine. It doesn't cloud my judgement.
SOMETIMES when you are as dull as me, having seen hundreds of live comedy shows, rather than concentrating solely on the stage it's really more interesting to observe what a great comic on his game can do to a room of people.
Tonight Steve Gribbin (right), in just 25 minutes, ripped the roof off one of the best comedy clubs in the world - the Slaughterhouse in Liverpool - and he did so not with mainstream material but with a set chock full of satiric songs on politics and religion.
From the Westminster expenses scandal, to the Catholic Church's Sex Guide to a very blue, but top class gag about Iris Robinson, it was an incredible illustration of how, if you challenge people to think about something other than banal observational rubbish, they can and will.
And he had people stomping and shouting. He had two glammed-up Scouse birds near the stage bouncing in their seats in something akin to ecstasy, holding their mouths to stop themselves spitting vodka and coke over the stage. One oul lad near me spewed beer over his mate and the hardest knock I've ever seen at a comedy gig was crying with laughter like a wee fella and bruising mates' shoulders with punches signposting each punchline.
But the point is that no other art form, when done this well, has the same incendiary effect on a room full of people from disparate backgrounds as great stand-up comedy in a club.
There may be mass hysteria at rock gigs, or even some touring comedy in theatres, but most of those people are there for the band they all like or the comedian they have seen on TV. A comic playing a four man bill, has to have the material, experience and chops to rip the roof off a club like Gribbin did tonight. To do it doing political comedy makes it all the more memorable.
Now, Merseysiders are more tribal than many other British city/ region states, but when Gribbin played what he bills as the 'first ever authentic Scouse hip hop song' 'City of Culture' the room went understandably nuts. The reaction to a verse which uses the shortened slang cozzy (swimming costume) mozzy (mosquito), gozzy (cross eyed) and hozzie (hospital) was ridiculous.
Just looking at what great comedy does to a room of people is tremendously heartening - I just wonder why more people don't spend a tenner and do it more often. It really is the best night there is to be had anywhere in entertainment. You have booze (should you wish) in your hand and someone whose raison d'etre is to make you laugh your ass off - it's a no brainer.
And special mention has to be made for the efforts of the compere Neil Fitzmaurice and promoter Paula Harrington. A small cellar room like the Slaughterhouse with low ceilings and the stage inches from the front row is tailor made for a good night. But, club comedy only works when genuine care is taken in choosing bills and making sure it is run properly.
Fitzmaurice, a Phoenix Nights star/ writer and Peep Show cast member, who came up back in the day in the recent late 1990s heyday of Manchester comedy (Peter Key, Dave Spikey and Daniel Kitson) is a great home town compere. He's so charming and bullet proof as a compere he could have got the Davros economic summit rocking this weekend in Austria.
Harrington's bills, which see comics able to double up with another night nearby in the Slug and Lettuce pub, see big name club comics coming to Liverpool again. She must take some credit for curating a tremendous club and I mean curating in the most pretentious way imaginable.
But, ultimately, it really was all about Gribbin. It takes years of experience and a real eye for what works in a club to make political material 'kill' in the age of mainstream mediocrities like Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr.
Tonight, I wish a Radio 4 or Mock the Week producer had been in the audience because this is how it really should be done. It was clever, savage political comedy, true to the roots of the modern movement and which moved people to question the powers of their own urinary tracts. i.e. They nearly pissed themselves.
Knowing Steve Gribbin has not clouded my judgement - it was heartening, tremendous fun. To hear more, come back to Gobshites this Thursday to hear a two part podcast with the man himself where he talks about the art of writing comedy and listen to him play a couple of exclusive songs.