The Comedy Bunker
Star rating: ****
Ruislip Golf Course
Thursday 17th December 2015
Greetings. Thanks for passing by to read this review. In case you’re new to this blog, before you read any further, I think there are two things you need to know about me:
1 – I was a junior trampoline champion.
2 – I was a nominee for the UK Blog Awards 2016.
Relevant? I’ll let you judge for yourself. You’ve come here for a review so let us begin.
At the Comedy Bunker’s end of year show 2015 they held an unannounced line up comprising the favourite acts of the year the regular attendees voted to come back and perform. That the gig was sold out without anyone knowing who was on the line up (bar one big clue as to the headliner) was testimony to the trust the regulars put in Phil the promoter of this long running comedy night. It had been going for 19 years at that point and so 2016 marks their 20th anniversary, making it one of London’s longest running comedy nights.
MC for the night was Mark Cram, who last performed here at their end of year show 2014. He was on good form and chatted amiably with the audience, involving them as much as he could in a funny, good humoured way. The audience were good sports too so this worked very well. Joking with ‘tall Neil’ and ‘Mr Beige Man’ proved to be a particularly hilarious way for Mark to showcase a nice line in witty ripostes that united the room in laughter.
Sometimes an audience is shy and clams up, making it hard work for comedians. Not this Ruislip audience. Mark was especially good at finding the funny in what was, in certain quarters, a bit of a weird audience. In fact, he could have pushed a little further for the humour with his probing enquiries as there was potential comedy gold to be found, for instance by delving more into some the strange family dynamics he came across. For whatever reason he chose not to.
Steve Day was superb. He engaged well with the audience and in return the sound of laughter reverberated around the room. For myself and I’m sure many present it was our first time seeing him. It’s always a real joy coming across a new voice in the comedy world. What was so enjoyable about the set was its originality. For a certain reason, which I will come to later, the way he views the world is totally different from 99.9% of all other comedians on the circuit which resulted in a hugely original and lively performance. There were gags about Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and also the local MP for Uxbridge & Ruislip which covers this club. The one about the unbearably long countdown the Mayor did during one of the 2012 Olympic torch relays was great.
There was a hilarious reference to Chris McCausland a highly rated comedian who happens to be blind. The self-deprecating lines he delivered about both of them were brilliant. Both have disabilities in fact as Steve is in fact deaf, which he did reference early on, more as a heads up to the audience that there’d be no point heckling him as it would fall on deaf ears. Literally.
Also it helpfully put into context some of the material to follow. I was impressed by the way he regularly found the funny in his being deaf as opposed to making anyone in particular the butt of his jokes for being ignorant or offensive about deafness. It wasn’t patronising or sympathy seeking from either the audience or of himself. This was a stunning set and an object lesson in stand up to any minorities – be they gay, black or female for instance and it was all the more effective and powerful for that.
Tom Lucy was another new face to many attendees. That’s because at just 18 years old he’s probably the youngest stand up comedian on the circuit. I enjoyed his performance immensely. It was refreshing, age appropriate (jokes about learning to drive for instance) and personal. He demonstrated a good deal of confidence and maturity for one so young. This was especially marked in his confident banter with the audience – something many, much older, far more experienced comedians never do. Those who prefer to stick solely to their script and loathe veering off course to talk to their audience.
Headliner for the night and back after performing at the end of 2014 show was Ricky Grover. He delivered a super set that had the venue rocking with laughter. Referencing his lively and varied career history helped him embellish a series of finely told jokes. A classic moment occurred when he was in the middle of talking about hearing voices in his head when, quite by chance, a train went roaring by (not in the room, but across the road where there is a station), thus inadvertently creating an opportunity for Ricky to come up with a brilliantly witty ad lib.
He joked about the more mundane aspects of life such as the numerous roundabouts in Ruislip and the newly introduced carrier bag charges. There was one Mourinho gag (this show was on the day the ex-Chelsea boss was sacked) but it was a bit weak and didn’t quite hit the spot. It would have been nice if others had tried to find the humour in this massive news story.
The superb yarn about using the toilet as a guest at a girlfriend’s posh house was rapturously received. I’d heard it before but it was great to hear again.
Mark Cram – 1940’s v 2015
So, have you learned anything about me in this review? Did you want or need to, to enjoy it? Maybe you recalled that I’m a trampoline champion and was a nominee at the UK Blog Awards 2016. Well only one of those is correct and regular followers of my blog or twitter account this year will know which it is. However whether or not you’re familiar with my blog or not, did knowing either of those facts make a difference to whether or not you enjoyed or disliked this review?
My guess is probably not. You’ll make up your mind based upon what I’ve written and any knowledge of the acts and whether you consider them to be funny or not. My reason for throwing that in is because at the start of the show, host Mark Cram made a deliberate point of informing the audience that he won Bedford New Comedian of the Year 2013 and was homosexual. Well one is relevant and one isn’t really, although the latter is necessary to a degree to put into context some of his material. That said I’ve never heard a comedian go on stage and boast about an award they’ve won. They tend to leave that for the promoters. He did this in 2014 and it was something of a running theme – seeing if there are any gay people in the audience. There weren’t in 2014 or in 2015. Perhaps he’ll try again in 2016 and see if he gets a different answer.
He asked if there was a reviewer in from last year. I had a hunch he was referring to me but declined to say anything as I was there to watch and review, not be the set up for one of the acts jokes. Anyway, he went on to insult said reviewer, yours truly, quoting a line from my 2014 review saying “This is Ruislip not Soho”, as a comment on the pointlessness of asking if there are any gay people in the audience in a place like Ruislip. There were none. It’s a good line and a truthful line which still stood true a year later.
He later asked if there were any lesbians in. A few women at the back put their hands up. Delighted, he asked when they came out and how it went? They replied, “Tonight”. Hilarious. Funny how a few drinks can ‘turn you the other way!’
He then went on to suggest that such views indicated the reviewer was living in the 1940’s. To which one might wonder if there was a problem with 1940’s British family values?
“The forties were a time where family, and the values it was based on, were held to a high standard, idealized by having a strong, nuclear family, with a bread-winning father and a child bearing mother. This model quickly became a social expectation, not just an ideal.*1″
Interesting choice of era. I wonder if you were to spend some time looking back on that age, you would argue that far from being worse times, that you they might consider it an age when there was a widespread belief in and commitment to British family values that served the country well.
Do you consider these values and attitudes to be a lot more robust and solid than the somewhat laissez faire, anything goes, looser morals that abound today in society? Or is a loosening of morals and family values for the better? Were not the 1940’s a period in British history when men were men and went out to war to defend Britain and the world against an invading enemy. A bit like Mark’s Royal Marine brother does now. Conscription ruled. You could not avoid joining the army and going to war without very good reason.
Mark pointed out he went through a bisexual period of his life dating women and men before settling on men as his preference. That’s fascinating too as when you consider it in the context of the nature v nurture argument of whether being homosexual is natural or a deliberate choice. His joke about this clearly indicated he had decided of his own free will to become homosexual. His choice.
Notwithstanding that diversion, when it comes to doing your job as a comedian, my point is it doesn’t much matter what your sexuality is anymore than it matters if you’re female, black, white, Asian, deaf, young or old. Unless absolutely necessary or relevant, why not just do your job and make people laugh? In fact, the only relevance of Steve Day pointing out he was deaf was to alert potential hecklers that their heckles would fall on deaf ears and therefore there’d be no two way bantering interaction between comedian and audience.
All in all this was a top quality, diverse line up of comedians that provided a superb seasonal treat to end the year. It had variety of comedic styles and delivered consistent laughs. I look forward to more of the same this year as Comedy Bunker celebrates its 20th anniversary.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
*1 – Weebley
- Excellent lecture and analysis by Professor Pat Thane on British family values over the years Happy Families? Realities of life in 20th Century Britain- lecture – 21st March 2014
- Every Little Thing He Does is Magic – Paul Daniels – 10th May 2015
- Tiemo’s Top 10 Comedian’s 2014 – review – 28th January 2015
- No Further Action – Jim Davidson – 7th July 2014 (Winner Show of the Year 2014 – See above link)