It’s safe to say that we are fully immersed into the UK comedy scene. The intimate gigs in the bars and pubs that hosted The Leicester Comedy Festival have given a whole new perspective on watching stand up comedy.
A company called Funhouse Comedy had a gig scheduled for a location local to us – Bartons PLC. A former bus depot now turned into an events venue, hosting street food, markets and comedy, was hosting a Friday night gig.
One slight issue was that these gigs sell out in double quick time. Thankfully the MC for the evening, Stevie Gray, was able to secure tickets for us at the last minute. We had met Stevie during his preview show and full show at The Leicester Comedy Festival and were both very grateful to him for securing the seats.
You can’t really miss the venue. Taking a tram to High Road-Central College in Beeston drops you right outside the fluorescent-lit building. Just in case you miss the lighting arrangement, a huge banner outside reading ‘COMEDY’ is a dead giveaway.
I was really impressed with the size of the venue. A large seating area with a range of different seats ranging from bar stools to comfy chairs. There is a fully licensed bar serving beer, cider, wine and spirits plus soft drinks all at a very fair price.
From the inside, you could never identify this as part of an old bus depot. Aside from the tributes on the wall to Thomas Barton perhaps. A simple set up of a stage, a microphone, a sound system and a simple lighting setup completes the scene.
After Stevie’s successful efforts to whip up the crowd, the first comedian of the night made his appearance. Andy White hails from nearby Birmingham and began his set with a hilarious self-deprecating view of life as a mixed race man married into a wealthy family. A first-rate Nelson Mandela impression had the audience in stitches.
Andy’s set was a complete hit and he will undoubtedly be a comic that i’ll be looking out for at future gigs. After each act a 20 minute interval was scheduled to allow people to use the toilet or head back to the bar. Samosas were also being sold at the venue for £2 each.
Second onto the stage was a comedian from Ramsbottom named Dominic Woodward. A drama teacher by day, comedian by night, Dominic began his set with some sharp lines. With his entertaining northern humour getting increasingly loud laughs from the crowd, Dominic rounded his set off with a session of ‘speed maths’.
Two members of the audience had to choose two numbers between one and ten with Dominic creating a grid on a whiteboard. A third audience member then had to time how long it took Dominic to create numbers across the grid to total the exact number made by the audience. Amazingly he managed it in under 23 seconds.
By now, the venue was rocking. The wine was flowing and the anticipation building towards the headline act. So far, the gig had been of an incredibly high standard. The freedom to be able to converse with the performers in the bar area is a nice touch, there’s a real community feel to the event.
Last on the bill, the headline act was a man with a guitar named Richard Morton. A geordie, now living in London, Richard has been around the comedy scene for over 20 years and has worked with such legends as Lee Evans.
Some of the crowd began to feel the effects of the constant trips to the bar resulting in small heckles but without malice. Richard took it confidently in his stride like a true pro. His set included adaptations of well known songs to mock ageing musicians and even the royal family. This really was like watching a master at work.
After a rapturous reception for his set, Richard left the stage for Stevie to close the show and thank the audience for what had been a superb night of comedy. I managed to grab a word with Richard and Stevie at the end of the show to congratulate them on a great event.
Funhouse is exactly that – a house of fun. Everyone had a great night and the event was a huge success. With reported sell outs at many events that Funhouse put on, it’s a huge step forward for British comedy.
At just £10 per ticket for this event, we really felt like we had got a bargain. The quality of the performances keeps surprising me at each gig and bodes incredibly well for the future of comedy in the country. A perfect alternative Friday night out.
Twitter: Andy White (@AndyJWhite)
Dominic Woodward (@dominicwoodward)
Richard Morton (@RichMortonSound)
Stevie Gray (@Stevie_Gray)