Well, it’s been a few drinks between gigs but we find ourselves back on the comedy trail. This time hiding away from the sunshine in one of the Northern Quarter’s newest entertainment venues – The Peer Hat. We are there for the second night of ‘The Great Comedy Snafu’. A new monthly night run by Crimes Against Hilarity.
I arrived to the venue with minutes to spare, clammy and in much need of the toilet thanks to my longer than expected jaunt from Castlefield, after enjoying a few post-work scoops in the sun before schlepping across Manchester city centre to enjoy some comedy. As I arrive one of the hosts for the evening AJ Hill announces the gig will be starting in 10 minutes, giving me time to grab a quick beer before proceedings start.
In an unusual turn, we are greeted with not one, but two comperes for the evening, with Mike Milling accompanying AJ on stage to form an unlikely double act. The pair bounce off each other like a pair of squabbling siblings, Mike often left bemused by AJ’s rambling and quirky charm in which he digressed to tell us about his brief moment of TV fame (I’m too afraid to search for #yoghurtcock to see it for myself!), his unusual work nickname and even attempting to hook an audience member up with a job at Pizza Hut.
The pair clearly have a great working chemistry and play off each other well. Their playful manner and audience interaction gets the audience on side from the off and puts everyone in good spirits before the evening’s opener, Liam Pickford.
This is our third time seeing Liam Pickford, having previously seen him at Dead Cat Comedy and Morley Cheeks. However, you feel like you could see him every night and not get bored, such is the beauty of his anarchic style.
He has the ability to draw the audience in and make them part of the show, using his casual observations that often break into long, surreal diatribes based on audience members’ attire, or a response to one of his very random questions (my Lyle & Scott shirt spawning one such tale).
His style is a mixture of unpredictable audience interaction, awkwardness and self-deprecation underpinned with glorious one-liner put downs. Basically imagine Morrissey fucked Joan Rivers and had a lovechild and you wouldn’t be far off (but it was brought up at Morrissey’s nan’s in Hulme).
After a swift break and switching gears to a Punk IPA (the bar currently has no hand pumps but a good selection of bottled beers and ales) our hosts for the evening were back and we were ready for the middle part of the evening. The section had two slots for rising stars of the North West comedy circuit; Tony Wright and Claire Keegan.
This was our third time seeing Tony Wright, although it was our first time seeing him in a non-competitive format having previously seen him at the Beat the Frog World Series final and at the Chortle Student Comedy Awards Manchester heats back in March, both of which he had given a strong showing and won the online vote for the Student Comedy Awards.
He makes a strong start with some clearly tried and tested material which lands well and gets the audience on side. There is no doubting his ability to cleverly articulate a story and captivate the audience, sharing some of the absurd situations and confrontations he has encountered.
However, on occasion his jokes punch down but not too much to deter from his warm and friendly manner. All in all it is a strong and tightly knit 10-minute set and it is clear to see why he’s pulling up trees in local and national competitions.
Next up was Claire Keegan, who like Tony has been plying her trade on the Manc circuit and starting to gain traction, having recently performed middle sections at Kill for Seat and the Laughter Locker. Her style is a mix of one-liners and awkward tales, regaling us with her letter writing battle with a neighbour, something a lot of people can relate to if they’ve lived in a house share or flat! Her act is polished and the punchlines land well and stories well timed.
Last up is Smug Roberts, a familiar face on the Mancunian circuit and made his name for notable appearances in 24 hour party people, Cold Feet and Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere. However, for this particular fan he’ll always be remembered for the legendary England song ‘Meat pie, sausage roll’ which has the honour of being part of my England tournament Spotify playlist (helping me to cope with that bi-annual disappointment!).
Smug (or Andy Wilkinson as he is also known) is one of those gifted people who can make anyone laugh with just a simple look or gesture, his expressive and cheerful face alongside his delivery ensure the audience is on side and belly laughs aplenty. His set is mainly centered around his life in the industry, his health and his family. Even after 20+ years on the circuit it is clear to see why he is still a firm favourite. There is a genuine warmth to his comedy that makes it impossible not to love him.
The Great Comedy Snafu returns to the Peer Hat on Thursday 7th September with Rob Mulholland and Hannah Platt already confirmed on the bill. Entry is £5 on the door.