The Jekyll and Hyde is a lousy venue to play: poor acoustics, bar noise and seating split so the audience is in two sections which can’t see or hear each other. And we were a lousy audience. James Gill, the compere, is of the ‘All-Together-Now’ audience participation school. The less we responded, the more hysterical he became. This of course had the opposite effect from what he intended.
Always Be Comedy is a platform for three ‘up-and-coming’ comics to do ten minute sets. Two of these were going nowhere. Dave Green is a lugubrious stand-up with a terminally slow delivery. His set was a surreal mess. He is intellectually quite clever, but works better on the page than the stage. Punctuated by endless pauses and played to an audience with a lot of Italians and Spaniards, it died.
Ben Morgan is billed as Gill’s partner in this venture, but had his own set on this night. He belongs to the ‘Oooh-aren’t-I-naughty?’ school. He is not nearly as edgy as he likes to think. More tedious guff about the bloody Olympics, too. If I hear the name Chris Hoy again, I swear I’ll scream. At one point, trying to set up a gag when nobody admitted to knowing anything about the subject, he said, ‘This joke isn’t going to work then.’ He still did it, and his prediction was right. That scraping sound was the noise of a comedian digging his own grave.
However, the evening was partially redeemed by the headliner, Canadian John Hastings. Hastings managed some politics, some surrealism. He was fast, polished and had an original slant. We will hear more of him.
Of course, as the line-up changes there will be other material on other nights. Anyone can have an off night. But I sincerely hope the calibre of the warm-up acts wasn’t typical.