There was a harsh wind blowing as we made the short trip across town to The Old Monkey pub, located on Portland street. A great ‘proper pub’ with a decent selection of beers and the added bonus of being one of the few places in the city centre you can get a pint of IPA for under £3!
The conditions may have been unkind, but ever the faith endures, comedy, my comedy! This was our first outing of 2017, taking in the delights of the Trapdoor Comedy Club.
This was our second trip to Trapdoor Comedy, albeit in different surroundings, having visited them back in November at the Railway pub in Didsbury. Alongside the Railway and the Old Monkey they also run a night at Solomons Bar Cafe in Withington, spreading the gigs over successive nights once a month.
It has a deserved reputation for well-known names on the circuit, including recent acts such as Mick Ferry (Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow), Alun Cochrane (Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks) and Barry Dodds (Stand up Britain). Now in it’s 10th year, chirpy North-East compere Tony Basnett, has made Trapdoor a veteran of the Manchester comedy scene.
I settled into my seat in the upstairs room, where by now it is standing room only at the back. The 2-minute warning comes and goes and the lights are down, the audience goes quiet anticipating what is about to happen. The theme music for wrestler Sami Zayn kicks in and the audience half-heartedly sing along. “Fuck that… start again, I’m not starting like this,” says Basnett. The music starts again and this time the crowd is in much finer voice, whooping and cheering as he makes his way to the stage. He is nothing if not a showman!
It’s clear from the off that this is no ordinary crowd and this is no ordinary comedy night. They have clearly built up a hardcore following over the last decade, so much so that one member of the audience is getting the Trapdoor Comedy logo tattooed on him! (exactly where was subject to debate).
There are a few in-jokes with the regulars, but Basnett is always keen to keep the ‘newbs’ engaged and involved, recounting tales of gigs gone by in which someone brought a prostitute to a gig and was ejected for heckling (on her birthday!), and the time he helped crowd-surf someone who is now an OBE (Janice Connolly, in her more recognisable guise as Mrs Barbara Nice). He then looked to riff with the audience although the couple in the front row were giving little back, seemingly a bit nervous but brave enough to take the front and centre seats!
The first act of the evening was Danny Pensive, the self styled ‘professional idiot’ from Sunderland with an unmistakable North-East twang (He was at pains to say he is a Mackem and not a Geordie) and jolly demeanour. The act is a mix of one-liners, childlike observations and his unique take on familiar songs and jingles. His set is delivered with great timing and wit, keeping the audience engaged and amused throughout.
After a brief interval, we were on to the second part of the evening with 3 middle acts, a mix of up-and-coming comedians and regulars trying out new material.
First up was Adam Staunton, the pint-sized Scouser with big talent. Adam is quick to state the obvious and make fun of his size, using it throughout his set to poke fun at his lack of luck with women and inability to go viral online beyond his mum viewing his YouTube videos.
Next up was Rob Mulholland, an act who we are now familiar with having seen him at the Beat the Frog World Series Final and a previous Trapdoor Comedy night. This time, he was testing out more new material for his Edinburgh Fringe show. Mulholland is a rising star and the material on the whole landed well with a crowd who were largely well acquainted with him.
The final act of the middle section was Liam Bolton, whose act consisted of a mixture of tried and tested sketches and new material. His act is largely sketch-based and he will often play two parts with great comic effect. He was definitely the most alternative act of the evening and offered great amusement, particularly with his ‘mates riding on a train’ sketch.
After another brief interlude and a debate about crisp flavours (which is becoming a common theme amongst comperes!), Tony rated the audience at a 6/10 and asked them to crank it up to 11 to welcome the headliner for the evening, former Mock the Week star, Gary Delaney.
Gary was there to ‘clear the rust off’ after Christmas before his new tour starts, and he certainly did that! His style is a mixture of Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, quick fired one-liners with a twisted edge. He might have considered himself rusty but you couldn’t tell, his delivery was quick, witty and had belly laughs aplenty. It easy to see why he has regularly featured in Dave’s Funniest joke of the Fringe finalists.