XS Malarkey Gets a Makeover: Max & Ivan, Joe Lycett

XS Malarkey has a new home this week. Okay, technically it’s the same building, but the owners have splurged £450,000 to turn the shabby Pub/Zoo into an altogether more pleasant setting.

We’ve popped down to the newly opened Bread Shed to see if it’s altered the Malarkey experience.

The short answer is; not really. Cheers for reading. See you next week! Okay, if you want a little more detail, the first thing we notice is the weird cages by the stage are mercifully no more. The bar has been tidied up and there’s some shiny new furniture, while the pitch black colour scheme remains the same.

The best bit is the new entrance to the venue, which you’ll find next door in the rather handsome Flour & Flagon pub, where it seems much of the investment has gone.

In other words, as MC Toby Hadoke reminisces, it looks a little less like “an aircraft hangar after a fire”. The aesthetic bar was set low, sure, but it’s been comfortably cleared.

Tonight’s bill befits the occasion, too. It’s always nice to start with an act we know is going to be funny, and Kate McCabe is exactly that. It must be nigh on impossible for an American comedian not to briefly reference Trump. In this instance, it segues into a great section that targets a notorious British culinary ‘favourite’. Unlike the dish in question, it’s something to savour.

Callum Oakley is a former Britain’s Got Talent contestant. His set is a lesson in not having preconceptions about that.

It’s safe to say his act has moved on since 2012. We didn’t see the show, but we’re guessing you can’t say ‘teabagging’ on primetime ITV. His early foray into show businesses has left him with plenty of humorous anecdotes that are the highpoint of his set.

You wouldn’t expect Malarkey to let a significant event slip by without a special guest and sure enough, here’s Joe Lycett. He’s got new stuff, including the now-traditional email that draws some of the night’s biggest belly laughs. These are the rewards regulars continue to get here.

Just as much of a treat awaits with the headline act; award-winning sketch duo Max and Ivan. Max is the exasperated straight man to Ivan’s energetic lunacy and they complement each other perfectly. Each punchline is way more ludicrous than anything you could possibly predict and the whole wonderful set feels so lightning quick that no one’s ready for it to end.

They aren’t using microphones tonight, so it’s unfortunate that we’re lurking at the back.

While not quiet by any means, they are occasionally drowned out by the wall of laughter and background music ahead of us, which is a shame.

With the comedy as good as it always will be, does the venue really matter that much for XS Malarkey? Probably not. We’ll admit we felt a pang of Bake Off-esque outrage when it was forced to swap Jabez Clegg for the grotty Zoo, but Malarkey’s following is such that people would turn up wherever they were told to.

The fact that you now have a nicer spot for your pre-gig pint is just a welcome cherry on the cake.

See who’s coming up at XS Malarkey on their website.

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